By: Andrew Penner
After 12 shooters (I wasn’t actually counting), three pathetic attempts to pick up the blonde barkeep, and a couple of seriously off-colour jokes, I came to the conclusion that I really did like Barry way more when he was gunned. That’s not to say that our five semi-sober rounds of golf together (two other good buddies rounded out the foursome) on the island of Kauai were not enjoyable. They were. It’s just that, well, boys’ golf junkets have a way of stripping (poor word choice) us of all our righteousness and exposing (there I go again) us for who we really are as men. I mean, boys.
Yes, indeed, just like daisies in a fresh spring meadow, little kittens playing with yarn, or quiet riverside picnics with your granny, boys’ golf junkets are one of the most touching and tender things in life. Such soul-stirring and sensitive discourse we share together! And there is always so much character growth, cultural edification, attention to personal grooming, abstinence…Ya right. And chickens have lips.
First, let’s get the logistics out of the way: the decision to go to Kauai was an easy one. A last-minute seat sale and the realization that five of the best courses in Hawaii are found there, made this tropical oasis – dubbed “The Garden Isle” – ripe for the picking. Carved along the turquoise seas and parading through lush jungle, the golf on Kauai kicks, well, ass.
Courses such as Poipu Bay, Pukea, and Kauai Lagoons are tropical treats that golf pundits have salivated over for years. To top it off, ALL of the top courses on the island have recently undergone extensive renovations or redesigns. For example, at the Nicklaus-designed Kauai Lagoons course the legendary Moana (Ocean) Nine went under the knife and, thanks to a brand new ocean side hole, now boasts the longest continuous stretch of seaside golf in all of Hawaii. It’s over a half mile of cliff-hugging golf that will be seared on half (apparently that’s all us men use) your brain for a long time. That is, as long as you don’t fall off the cliff, in which case neither side of your brain will work.
Unquestionably, the seaside show at Poipu Bay, where Phil Mickelson once shot 59, is just as good. Holes 15 through 17 cruise high on the bluff above the churning sea and deadly views are yours every second of the way. The view from behind the 16th green might be the sweetest seaside sight in all of golf.
The other two courses we played were Makai, an outstanding Robert Trent Jones Jr. Course, and Princeville. A wild rumba through the jungle, Princeville is regarded as the best – and certainly the most difficult – course on Kauai. Not surprisingly, we all found ingenious ways to shoot a million on this gorgeous, although infinitely evil, track. (More on the bloodshed later.)
However, as good as the golf on Kauai was, the banter, the cajoling, the juvenile attempts to get into each other’s “kitchens,” turned out to be just as memorable. No, by some miraculous act of God, there were no on-course fisticuffs, (see “Happy Gilmore”), no tigers being stolen and brought into the hotel room, (see “The Hangover”), and no unexpected dynamite explosions in someone’s back swing (see “Caddyshack). However, there was some chatter. Yes, indeed, there was chatter.
In fact, I don’t believe I have ever encountered more mouthy maliciousness, shameless shenanigans, and classless conniving than what I experienced in Kauai. Rodney Dangerfield, rest in peace, would have been proud.
As it turned out, Barry’s initial strategy (“I will beat you at all costs”), had a few minor deficiencies. For starters, everyone else on the trip – the two other hackers were Rob and Mark, two guys I’ve gone on junkets with before and always had a riot with – had no preconceived notions of “winning” in any capacity other than having a good time. And, make no mistake, this was not denied.
However, after the opening round at Makai, it became apparent that Barry, the newcomer to the group, was not the “what happens on the golf course, stays on the golf course” type. After getting a thorough beating (he lost the first day’s individual Stabbleford game by a whopping twelve points), he became somewhat mute and melancholic at dinner. Awwwkward. Feigning a sore back, or something, he hit the sack early and didn’t partake of any late-night single-malt sipping, an obligatory event that should complete the day on every good and proper guy’s golf trip in the free world.
After the first few holes on the second round at Princeville, it became obvious that Barry wasn’t going to take any subsequent beatings very quietly. And, after the ninth hole, where he expressed a somewhat vitriolic and juvenile form of mockery at watching Rob (my partner for the day) make a shank-filled 10 – I knew it was time to start hitting back. Rob – a long-time friend and one of the guys that stood up for me at my wedding – was more than willing to start dishing out a few body blows. It’s funny what a “10” will do to a guy.
As earlier mentioned, Princeville is one mean brute of a course. Interestingly, it had recently been closed to “soften” many of the trouble spots where the jungle had encroached and things were just too nasty. However, given the collective skill that was represented (our four handicaps added up to 70 – in other words, we stunk), it didn’t take long for the bags to empty of ammo.
On the 14th, Barry, God bless him, ran out of balls after pumping three straight banana balls into monkey land. It was then that Rob, sensing an opportunity for payback, got his retribution. “I guess that means the match is over, Barry. Sorry about your luck, pal.” He then tossed him a pink Starflite and quipped, “Here, you can use this one for practice.” It was a beautiful moment. So good, in fact, that I spewed beer all over my shirt.
Barry, face lobster-red and tail between his legs, muttered a few indistinguishable syllables and put the pink ball in play with his seven-iron. He then hit the “mute” button again for a couple of holes. We had them by the twig and berries. Victory was ours.
Thankfully, the pink ball episode was the TSN Turning Point of the week. After eating his humble pie for a couple of holes, Barry flicked on a switch and became a different person. He realized that there is, indeed, freedom in surrender. Driving down the 17th fairway, yet another ball-gobbling hole at Princeville, Barry hoisted his white golf towel high above his cart and looked back with a big grin. His fight was over, his pride gone, and his stock went up immensely in all our eyes.
The rest of the week was mind-numbingly good. A more pleasant brand of over-the-top and infantile behavior prevailed. And the remaining rounds at Kauai Lagoons, Pukea, and PoipuBay, especially, were stupendous examples of bad golf made ludicrously enjoyable. At one point, Mark, the “mother hen” of the group who made sure things didn’t go completely off the rails, was laughing so hard he fell out of the cart.
And, unquestionably, Barry jumping naked off the pier in Hanalai Bay was the final sign that all was well in the world. The date for next year’s junket is already set.
Andrew Penner is a freelance writer and professional photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. You can visit him at www.andrewpenner.com