Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hole 3b, "The Tail of the Whale"

In the summer of 1979, my friend Mike and I goofed around on a golf course on the island of Moloka'i. By goofed around, I mean driving our golf cart most anywhere we wanted, though I don't think we vandalized any greens by doing doughnuts (which would make a better story, so maybe I should remember it that way). We also hit golf balls without regards to the rules of the game, the holes or anything else.

We could do that because we had the place completely to ourselves. Thirty years ago, Moloka'i wasn't often visited by tourists, which may still be true, for all I know. So we played a kind of bizarro golf in which hitting balls into sand- and water traps was a good thing. Neither of us were interested in playing real golf in that warm, tropical spot.

I still don't have any interest in playing golf, tropical or otherwise, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to try to hit a ball into the sea at hole 3b at one of the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses on Punta Mita. After visiting some properties one morning, we went to see the golf course, which is exceedingly lush in the controlled way tropical golf courses can be, without being overgrown. To get to 3b, we drove five or six golf carts along a golf-cart road through the course. I was the driver in my cart, with a woman from Toronto as my passenger. It may have been the first time I'd driven a golf cart since 1979, though I wouldn't swear to it.

This is a map of 3b, next to the tee. The plaque along with the map says (in Spanish and English): "Hole 3B. 'Tail of the Whale.' You are about to play the world's only natural island green. Course designer Jack Nicklaus describes 3B as, 'probably the best par 3 I've ever designed.' We trust 3B will be a hole you'll never forget."

This is what 3b looks like from the tee. It was low tide when we were there, so it was possible to walk to the green. During high tide, we were told, it really is an offshore island.

Golfers have the option of playing 3a for scoring, and then playing 3b for grins. There were no golfers in our group except one of our guides, who managed to hit the ball almost to the island. But it went into the sea. My ambition was to get it at least into the water, and for my swing I had a driver nearly as big as my foot. But I'm no golfer, not even a bad one, and my ball didn't even get wet.

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