How to make the most of a buddy trip ruined by Mother Nature

November 2, 2019

“Well, it’s pretty open out there,” the pro shop attendant deadpanned. He meant well, but his joke didn’t hit with this group, not with this rain and not with our pessimism. On paper, months earlier, everything was great. Scottsdale! February! Golf! What could go wrong? Four guys meeting in the Arizona desert, a three-day boondoggle to escape the frigid February cold seemed like a great idea. And it was, until those days actually arrived.

We lucked out on Day 1, but the next day’s forecast for our tee time at Troon North’s Pinnacle course — GOLF’s 25th-best public track and the da Vinci of our trip — was aligned with some brutal conditions. Hoping for the storms to miss us, we scanned for updates hourly, but it was bad news every time. There was no use in changing our tee time either — the weather was typhoon-like all day—and switching our flight the next day was not an option. So what do you do when Mother Nature stomps all over a bucket-list round? You embrace it! Oh, and bring layers.

We arrived at Pinnacle early, dressed as if we were about to play the Scottish Open. We grabbed a bite in the clubhouse and made sure we had the essentials — rain gear, rain gloves, towels and extra socks. Our forecaddie couldn’t for the life of him fathom why he was stuck with us, the only group that insisted on toughing out the weather. (He got a good tip.) Shoes squeaked and rain puddled as we stepped to the tee. Frankly, we had no idea what we were getting into. It was 55 degrees and the wind blew between 10-12 mph — breakfast balls, in these conditions, were served without ordering.

The wind whipped and the fog blanketed greens and the rain came down in every direction imaginable. Our umbrellas flipped inside-out, as if we were nervous wrecks walking down the street in a romantic comedy. Our hats, too heavy and too cold to even wear, lasted just a few holes. Blocks went farther right than they did forward. I wish I could show you pictures, but for most of the round our phones were wrapped in towels and stuffed in our bags for safe keeping.

But after the 5th hole we decided to make a change. We played a two-man scramble — at a Top 100 course! — the rest of the round. While everyone wants to play their own ball and see what they can shoot at a bucket-list venue, there’s nothing worse than battling your shanks and the weather.

And you know what? We. Had. A. Blast. Instead of getting frustrated, we laughed at our comically-awful misfortune. We shrugged when the wind gusted our shots into mammoth rocks, and we celebrated when we won holes with — gulp — bogeys. Because we weren’t keeping individual scores, the grind was lifted, and it was beautifully freeing. We fist-pumped, traded barbs, argued over presses and, later, recounted it all over drinks. It was everything you’d want in a round with buddies. We even got lucky and escaped the rain for a handful of holes around the turn, only for the skies to open up and pour on us on the 18th, just for one last final memory.

About a year later, a friend from the trip texted the rest of us a photograph of a simulator bay with a desert course sparking under blue skies. “Troon North today,” it read. Another replied: “Looks like you don’t even need a rain jacket.”

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