The beauty of golf is more than the score

  • Bill Buley/The Garden Island

    Ducklings and mom close in on a golf ball on the 12th fairway at Wailua Golf Course on Sunay.

  • Bill Buley/The Garden Island

    A Moscovy duck and her ducklings follow a duffer at Wailua Golf Course

Golf can be a maddening, aggravating game.

A drive that bounces off a tree, a fairway iron that hits more dirt than ball, a wedge that sends sand flying while the ball doesn’t leave the bunker, or a putt that rolls well past the hole even though you barely tapped it, are a regular part of the game for weekend duffers like me.

Yet, on Sunday, I discovered a relaxing, even enjoyable side of golf that had eluded me. I won’t kid you. Had I been keeping score, I would have shot a 60 or so. I had a few too many of those types of shots described in the previous paragraph.

That said, I had a good day.

Since my wife is off island to take care of some things back home, I decided Sunday, about 3:30 p.m, it was a good time to give golf a try for the first time since January, when I played with my son-in-law. It gave me a chance to try the golf push cart I bought last year for $40. This cart, for me, was a game-changer.

If you’ve played the back nine at Wailua Golf Course a little later in the day, as the sun is setting but it’s still light enough to be out there, it’s wonderfully peaceful. There is something quite invigorating about being alone with the trees and wildlife and blue skies. The back nine of this course are a reward.

As I wound my way through the course, mostly alone, I found myself feeling quite fortunate to be where I was. In Hawaii. On Kauai. Playing golf. Walking down beautiful green fairways, surrounded by towering trees. Enjoying spectacular oceanviews from the tee of the 17th hole – and one day I will land a shot on the green there instead of well over to the left near the trees. It was a few hours of realizing that being out here on a gorgeous evening was close to priceless, a most excellent return on the $10 it cost me to play.

But it was the 12th hole, I enjoyed the most. And that’s not because I crushed a drive, ripped a five-iron, played a perfect pitch or drained a 25-foot putt. It was something far more important.

Allow me to explain.

I hooked my drive and it rolled close to a lagoon. I arrived at the ball and looked ahead. There, I saw several white Moscovy ducks. They appeared to be quite at home and paid me little attention. As I watched them, I noticed several small, yellow fuzzballs moving around. Ducklings. No way could I take a chance of hitting them. I was more likely to pound a grounder than catch air. So, I picked up the ball, and walked past the protective mom and her babies, and dropped the ball on the fairway.

Not far enough.

The ducklings charged after me and proceeded to surround the ball. Perhaps they thought I was there to feed them. The mom, meanwhile, stayed in the middle of her brood, crouched and low to the ground, ready to defend.

I figured they would leave, so I waited.

They stayed.

They settled next to the ball and seemed to stare back and fourth from the ball to me.

Not wanting to upset the mom, I kind of stay behind the golf bag and casually bent down to pick up the ball, then resumed walking up the fairway another 10-15 yards, and dropped the ball again.

The ducklings followed. Nine of them. Back again.

The mom eyed me. Reinforcements, two Muscovy adults, wandered up and took up surveillance. I feared attack was imminent. Slowly, carefully, I picked up the ball and pushed the cart away. Far away, this time. When I looked back, the ducklings were zig-zagging the other direction, their mom still on guard duty.

It was a brief, magical encounter.

The rest of the day was marked by more chunks and clunks and sighs.

But on the 18th hole, my last chance, I took a deep breath, reminded myself how fortunate I was to be out there — and I absolutely ripped my best drive of the day, a thing of beauty, split the fairway. Really, I doubt I could hit a better drive.

It doesn’t matter that two shots later the ball sat in the sand trap when my pitching wedge pretty much went sideways instead of forward.

Good days on the golf course usually mean you had a few birdies, a few pars, a low score.

On Sunday evening, on the back nine of Wailua Golf Course, I had a good day.

Just by being there.

•••

Bill Buley is the editor-in-chief of The Garden Island newspaper. He can be reached at bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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