Of Running and Golf Courses
By Gordon Cherr
Let’s face up to it, finally. It is time to acknowledge what each and every one of us, as runners, has known to be true since the dawn of time. Golf courses are not there for golfers. Golf courses are there for runners. Plain and simple. It has always been thus.
We didn’t have golf courses where I grew up. But my first high school away cross country meet was on a golf course, and I thought that we were racing in heaven. I was hooked right then and there, soft grass underfoot, few holes to trip over, good shade on the hottest days, no cars. It was nearly perfect except for the golfers, a miserable breed if there ever was one. Nothing has changed that much for me since then and I have made it my personal obligation to run on every golf course I can, perhaps as much to antagonize golfers as for the run, itself.
Having lived all over this town, I have run every golf course around Tallahassee innumerable times. Each has its own special quirks. Capital City Country Club is a short loop, very hilly and has exceptionally narrow fairways. Knowing the capacity of golfers who normally play the Capital City course (the real hackers), you are just as safe running in the center of the fairway as out of bounds or even out on the street for that matter. I mean, I do try to stay out of the way, but if I’m creeping up the big hill on No. 9, you are just going to have to wait for me to get up to the top. That is one fine hill. Carla Boravika made it to the Olympic Trials one year, training her buns off on No. 9.
Golfers hate it if they have to wait a measly 30-45 seconds to delay their shot, and most at CCCC have no qualms about exchanging “pleasantries” with you as you amble on past. So, CCCC is notable both for its good hills and good conversation. I most respect those golfers who simply ignore you, say nothing and then blast one past your ear, having such little regard for human life. But such is the lot of the golfer and the runner, given those rare times where and when they intersect.
Hilaman Golf Course is just off of Blairstone Road. Pretty much deserted during working hours, it is a good place to take an early afternoon run, especially if you dress out at the YMCA on Apalachee Parkway. It also has some large hills on each side of the golf course to the north and south and you can get a pretty terrific workout at Hilaman. That part of the golf course is sort of like a big bowl and if you start at one end, up high, you can sprint or stride a fast downhill, then bust going up to the opposite side to the top. Then turn around, and repeat the process. After 3-4 repetitions you’ll be ready to call it a day.
I snuck out of work one clear autumn day (I was working at Twin Towers, across the street) for an afternoon run. As I was running behind the green at No. 14, there was a lone golfer high up on the elevated fairway. He didn’t see me, but I saw him, and he hit this incredible shot that seemed to arc into the blue sky, then bounce and bounce and roll forever and finally it rolled right into the cup. Clunk! He stood transfixed for a moment and then began to look around frantically, for anyone who could validate what he had just accomplished. What could be worse then holing that shot and having no witnesses? There wasn’t one soul around to congratulate him. I then rounded out from behind the green and we made eye contact from about 150 yards. He was looking at me hard as I continued up the hill towards him. He didn’t move a muscle. When I got to within earshot I said “That was one hell of a shot” and he got so excited that he started to jump up and down, saying “Thank God” over and over.
So, not all golfers are so bad. Not like the one that was playing through or trying to play through the several thousand spectators during the National Cross Country Championships being run at the FSU golf course one year. What a dweeb. But I have seen many great races at the FSU golf course and I recall as clearly as yesterday, the younger of the Shea sisters from UNC, Mary, winning the Collegiate Nationals there one year, blasting up the last nasty hill to the finish, about one inch ahead of her nearest competitor (whose name escapes me at the moment), the two of them locked together for what seemed eternity for nearly 200 yards, no one willing to concede anything to the other until they flung themselves across the finish line, then collapsing before hundreds of delirious fans and runners from all over the country.
Probably the most picturesque and best kept golf course around here is Golden Eagle. But a word to the wise. Money talks and security will chase you out there, so go early in the morning before those rich fat cats, smoking those stinky cigars, come out in their golf carts. Actually, it isn’t too bad to get chased by security guards at Golden Eagle. First, they normally can’t catch you anyway, and second, when they do, they never get out of their carts. In fact, antagonizing the security guys is almost as much fun as antagonizing the golfers that play Golden Eagle. And mooning them is a very effective strategy in my experience. But don’t make this mistake at any golf courses near Disney World, especially at Lake Buena Vista. Those guys are very serious and they know how to tackle in the open field.
My personal favorite golf course around here for running is Killearn. No one will chase you, and it is deserted in the early weekday hours until about 8 AM. The course is kept up immaculately, although lately some of the course seems to have been overrun by dozens of Canada geese. They have disgusting bowel habits and no manners whatsoever. Worse yet, they will stand their ground and even attack you if you get too close. (Maybe this is an answer to the security guard problem?) Everyone living on the golf course in Killearn has a little dog that barks incessantly. As you run past one backyard, the barking spreads to the next, for blocks on end. It is very amusing. My advice here is to run at or before sunrise because if you are up, everyone else should be up too. Little yapping dogs take care of that admirably.