The 4th Hole at Cloudcroft

Jewel, can you see the green? My mother was about 15 yards from the tee box, serving as my look-out. The course was in Cloudcroft, New Mexico (elevation 8660 ft) and it was 1978. We had a time-share at a lodge there in the small village set in the Lincoln National Forest. Cloudcroft had a population then of about 400 and was the kind of place where the local bowling alley had 3 lanes and kids working as “pin-setters.” We played golf in the summer and in the winter my family went to snow mobile the same snow-covered course. We didn’t have anyone in the immediate family coördinated enough to ski. This blog will serve as an example of the skill set that we did possess…and tended to display every time we ventured from the lodge. It was a comedy of errors, but it was a true American family vacation.

“Yes, I can see the green,” my mother replied. This was the most hilly course I had ever seen in my brief golfing career. I had picked up the sport when my father worked at a local country club as a chef and after five years was still miserably inept. A “birdie” was something that flew in the sky for me, not having a score that was one under the allotted shots for the hole. My shots usually went right or left, rarely hitting the green until I was almost at double digits. I had taken lessons and given it many hours, but golf was not for me. At this point I was playing just to do something with my mother…and to watch her relish in beating my ass every single time we played. Jewel was “highly” competitive in any sport or game she played. It was not in her nature to throw a game to a lesser player. It was not in her nature to win without a parting shot to me about her superiority! I had a mother that talked trash!! She was “spotting” my shot because we were at the 4th hole, a par 3. You hit your tee shot and it would literally disappear down the hillside. My shot was surprisingly not bad and benefited with an extremely long roll. My mother hit second and she sliced it right into a tree line that was parallel to the cart path, about the same 120 yards down the slope. There was no one playing close behind us that day and I will be forever grateful for that fact. We got into our golf cart and proceeded to creep very slowing down the steep decline of the beautiful and dramatic par 3.

I stopped the cart, initiating the emergency brake by double tapping the brake pedal. My mother chose her club and walked into the rough to try to see if she had a shot to the green. I stepped out of the cart to get my next club choice from my bag…..and that is when the golf cart started to roll! I ran around and jumped back into the cart, frantically pumping the brake as the cart increased speed and went flying down the hill! I turned quickly to see my mother running down the path in hot pursuit, waiving her nine-iron at me and screaming, “pump it, pump it!!” Ahead of me I had a street that was dividing hole 4 from hole 5…with crossing motor vehicle traffic. A very sturdy wooden fence served as the barrier for the course and the public roadway. My first inclination was very rapidly becoming my ONLY option….the sand-trap!! My speed was increasing as I made my decision and jerked the cart off the path, on a direct line to the sand-trap! It elevated as I went off of the path and I was now airborne! The cart crashed down into the sand-trap with an awful thud, golf bags and golf clubs flying everywhere! Of course with no seat belt, I became a human missile flying out the front of the cart.

I hit the green head first, tucked, and rolled….missing the cup by 2 feet! I was laying on my back as my mother came huffing and puffing to stand directly over me, with this commentary, “Is that how I taught you to drive!?” The golf course manager was not real happy when they had to send men to hole 4 to pull the “dug-in” cart out of the sand-trap. My mother and I both correctly interpreted the looks we were receiving from all the other inhabitants of the course that day….all who happened to be men. Until, that is, they checked the brakes on the cart and noticed the cable had snapped and I was deemed innocent of the hillside stunt. Later, as my mother and I sat in the lodge restaurant and enjoyed an iced tea, I looked at her…was she actually going to say something to soothe my bruised ego?? That familiar, competitive smirk came across her face, and my mother said, “Julie, you may never be the golfer I am, but today…..for the first time…you reached the green in two!”

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