The Joy Is in the Hunt
I'm not a golfer but I love hunting for golf balls. It's become a family tradition at our annual timeshare in Sky Valley Georgia.
I was first exposed to the sport of golf ball hunting more than 25 years ago when Lori invited me to spend the week up there with her parents and grandparents. We'd walk the mountain course as the sun was going down. Lori's dad was pretty intense about the sport. He played the course and supposedly lost quite a few balls. He seemed determined to get a few back.
He was a good mentor. He'd tell me where the most likely places one should look and where it was probably a waste of time. After you're looking for 30 minutes and you begin to think that you're never going to find anything, out of the corner of your eye you see some white, Could it be????
"Yes, I found one!!!!!"
I felt like the guy who first found gold in California. "There's balls in them thar' woods!!!"
It doesn't seem to happen to everyone, but I got addicted. It wasn't just going out on a nice walk to enjoy the sunset anymore. It was a new game. Search and acquire as many golf balls before the daylight faded away. With limited time, one had to cover ground quickly and had to choose the places most likely to have balls.
You begin thinking about each hole. Where would a bad golfer slice or hook their shots? Overlay that with the places that most golfers wouldn't bother to go because it seemed too inaccessible. But sometimes you'd have to throw away the logic and go counter-intuitive. Many times I was told that it was highly unlikely to find a ball in a certain area and I ended up finding several.
You get golf ball vision. Your eyes begin to get tuned in to anything round and anything white. Sometimes you luck out and a ball will just be sitting there in plain sight. You wonder what the story was. Why couldn't the golfer find his ball?
But to find the most balls, you have to explore more off the beaten path. The first evening, I got too close to the edge of a muddy area, sunk down about a foot into the mud and my sneaker got sucked right off my foot.
The sport has it's dangers which adds an exciting dimension to it, snakes and hornets and a lot of mosquitoes.
The biggest haul I ever made was after I caddied for Benjamin last year. It was the first time I had ever been on the course during actual play. There was a par three that had the tee way up on top of a hill and the green way down below, surrounded by a heavily wooded hillside. I could just imagine all of the balls that got hit into the tree tops around the green and falling down onto the steep wooded hillside.
When we got down to the green, as Benjamin was putting, I was finding a way to get into the heavy brush and woods without sliding down the hill. Once I worked my way through the thickets where mere mortals would never think of going, I discovered golf ball heaven. It was the land that golfers forgot. Balls just laying there for the taking.
I quickly gathered up about 20 balls in the few minutes that Benjamin finished his hole. Since there were other golfers behind us, we decided to come back at sunset.
After dinner, Benjamin and I went on our secret mission to the golf ball gold mine. In all of 15 minutes, we pulled out over a hundred balls. Usually it's a big deal if we get 10 or 20 between all of us.
But it's funny. Finding all of those balls made it kind of boring. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
I feel like I have reached the pinnacle of the sport and I'm ready to retire. Now, maybe I can enjoy the leisurely walks in the evening again without feeling compelled to find a lot of balls. Finding just one ball satisfies me now.
Like many things in life, the joy is in the hunt.