Friday, May 23, 2008

Hillandale: The Bastard Child of Golf

During the days of my youth intermittently spent earning my education at Furman University, I would, from time to time, spend a few hours on a diversion designed to take my mind off the rigors of academia. When these rare opportunities appeared (on average only five or six days of the week), there arose the need for an activity with which my friends and I could amuse ourselves. A short trip from campus, hidden behind the Polo Club Apartment complex, lay the perfect site for us to frolic. I speak of a golf course, not your regular set of eighteen holes, but rather a duffer's nightmare that went by the name of Hillandale.
Legend has it that in the early 1980s "Sports Illustrated" Magazine ran an article detailing the worst of the thousands of courses that dot our golf-crazed nation. According to the tale, Hillandale topped their list. As one who has visited the place more than a few times I cannot imagine an abomination foul enough to compete with Greenville's least finest public links. My friends and I, who had previously been teetotalers, were driven to alcoholism by the mere thought of teeing off on the first hole (that is sort of a lie but it helps with the story so what the hell). What about this bastard child of golf could drive such sober youth to imbibe the demon rum and cast themselves into the darkest pits of hell?


There were several features of Hillandale that caused it to stand out when compared to other courses.
1. Fairways. Actually, I should have titled this one "lack of fairways" because, in essence, there were none. The holes consisted of a tee box and a green. The lack of a fairway often made it difficult to figure out just which green you were aiming for at the time. On my first couple of sojourns there I took a couple of shots before realizing I was hitting towards the wrong flag. Most courses of this type would be termed a "cow pasture." Only an extremely intrepid bovine could have survived on the combination of dead grass and dirt that occupied the majority of Hillandale's acres.
2. Dress code. They did have a strict dress code, which was mainly enforced by a sign in front of the clubhouse, which read "Please put on shirt when approaching clubhouse." What a bunch of snobs.
3. Golf carts. These high-quality driving machines were the envy of German and Japanese auto engineers. Well maybe not them, but anyone who has ever driven in a demolition derby would be extremely jealous. Most carts had a roof that was only attached to two of the four posts, allowing it to flap up and down like a grounded chicken, unable to take off to the skies. The suspension gave you the feeling of being in one of those pimp-mobiles without all the fancy hydraulics as you raced through the pothole filled course. Fortunately the detached ceiling did give way when you bounced your head on it. Sadly, there were no spinners on the hubcaps.
4. Urine in the hole. In reality, I think one of my fraternity brothers was to blame for that - and I didn't pick the ball up anyway. Thanks for being in a hurry Rhea!
5. Electricity/one-of-a-kind holes. Although you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at the toothless rednecks surrounding the clubhouse, there were power lines in the vicinity of the golf course. Actually, the lines ran through the very middle of a couple holes. On one occasion my friend Karl crushed an iron that was doomed to sail way past the green - that is until it hit the power line directly above the green and plunged into the ground only feet from the flag. Number ten stated as you approached that if you hit the huge electrical tower in the middle of the "fairway," you would receive one stroke relief. The very next hole, a par three, allowed you to leave the course and grab a beer or two at the adjoining bar before resuming your game.
Number two, though, was my favorite of all. The green on this hole was designed by some mad putt-putt course designing genius who thought it would be a good idea to have a hole so steep that any ball that hit it would immediately roll back down the hill and off the green. Next, I would grab my putter and hit the ball, watching it go up the mountain and then return to my feet. This process would repeat until I made a miracle shot or gave up in frustration. For those of you who do not play golf, watching your ball roll right back towards you after a good shot is like having an aadvark pick ants off your genitalia. There might as well be a clown mouth around the hole prepared to taunt every one of your misses. At least you could smash your putter through his plastic eyeball like a Spartan's vengeful javelin.
6. Greenskeeping. I really never could argue that the good folks at Hillandale weren't trying to keep their greens in good condition. After all, on several visits the evidence was right before my eyes. On these occasions, I would approach the green, only to realize that the sprinklers were currently active. Now a little water might seem to be enough of a problem, but at Hillandale they kicked the craptacularity up a notch. These sprinklers were not embedded in the ground like at most normal golf courses, but rather run from hoses, which were splayed across the middle of the green. My caddy/inebriated friend recommended that I chip the ball over the hose. He pointed out that even if I took a chunk out of the green there would be little overall damage to the quality of the course. Hard to argue with that logic.
7. Crazy old man. The Hillandale clubhouse featured a proprietor aged somewhere around 80 years or so who also happened to be missing the majority of his teeth. He would yell at my friends and I at the end of every round we played for driving our golf carts like madmen. As if the vehicles could sustained any loss in overall performance (see #3). Usually he would promise to never allow us back on his beloved course. Fortunately, senility kept him from ever carrying out his threat. By the time we returned to play the next time, he had absolutely no idea who we were.
8. Styrofoam covered holes. To be honest, that was Josh's fault - what an awesome drunk he was back in the day. We would just feed him some drinks, sit back, and let the good times roll. The "fairway" looked like it had been hit by some freak snowstorm.
9. Loony in Revolutionary War garb killing Tiger Woods. Okay so that didn't happen at Hillandale. Sadly, I couldn't find any pictures of the place - so if you have some please send them on - but who are am I kidding, you were in no state to operate a camera during any of your visits to the bastard child of golf.

Tragically, Hillandale closed down a few years back. No longer do those of us who like golf combined with a heavy dose of libations have a place to go where we can avoid the back of a police car. Maybe, if we are lucky, some good man or woman will have the intrepid spirit required to build its equal. Dare to dream - we can rebuild it, we have the lack of technology.


Robert Mera said...

i like the new look of your blog! PS: I start work in Asheville next week. I'll be there next weekend too.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Hillandale, my only foray into the golfing world, if you want to call it that.
I have fond memories of that one hole where I shot par after drinking something like 20 beers.
It was a charming course indeed and it's a tragedy that it had to close down/get condemned.
I was a little pissed about having to wear a shirt there, but the golf cart races helped me forget about it. And the 20 beers were also of some assistance.
And speaking of those classic carts, the old toothless man you speak of yelled at us for our reckless racing shenanigans when I played with you back in the day.
His dialect sounded a little like broken redneck english, laced with a generous amount of spittle.
Yup, I'll never forget my first and only Hillandale experience and I will cherish it forever. Now all I have are memories.
And by the way that picture of the Revolutionary War guy killing Tiger Woods is hilarious.


Alastair McCandless said...

Well said Colin! That was a pretty good day from what I remember, which, granted, is only a little.

Anonymous said...

4. Urine in the hole.

Yeah, that was my bad.

5. That "adjoining bar" was my apartment.

7. Crazy old man

One time he actually PAID Chris to leave the course...priceless.

8. Styrofoam covered holes.

Um, yeah, my bad (again)...he deserved it. That was also the hole where I chased the Vietnamese kids...I'm not proud. Hard to tell the incocent from the VC. It happens.