Golfing in Duluth

From the Enger course Facebook page.

I was talking sports, violence, and masculinity with friends and as we rattled through sports that made me, at least, uncomfortable, I went for the one I know I like — golf. No one gets hurt (football) or damaged (running). Yes, there are stories of obsessive coaches doing immense damage to their charges, but I imagine those coaches would have abused anyway — the sport of golf just normalized the behavior.

Maybe golf is what we need, what I need. Golf may be a good walk, ruined, to some, but I could stand a good walk.

It’s been years since I golfed. I was quite good at a par three course in Milwaukee, right on the lakefront, more or less. I loved bringing friends, because a poor golfer on a par three is still able to have fun. (The distance between holes is always under a hundred yards, so realistically, you can throw the golf ball the distance required. Even the worst strike gets you part of the way there, and the holes play fast.) At $9 for eighteen holes, it was the best Saturday afternoon with my uncle, my grandmother, my friends.

I only know two courses in Duluth, and I drove out to Enger yesterday to see what I could see to restart this hobby.

I forget how intentionally beautiful golf courses can be — the silence of the course is nearly overwhelming, except for the fountain that splashes water in a charming display. It’s a kind of white noise that starts and ends the course, which is a deeper silence.

Across from the fountain are benches for lunch, where I expect golfers await their tee time and chat with friends before or after a round. To be honest, I wish I’d brought a book and just sat in the overcast day to read while the fountain soothed me.

View of the Enger clubhouse, from its Facebook page

Inside the clubhouse, a bar and grill offered some tasty-looking treats. (I say “looking” because I’ve restricted my meat consumption to two days a week, a soft step toward an ethical decision to minimize the impacts my everyday choices have on other people. So the “burger, beer and fries” deal will be savored another day.)

I wish that communities understood clubhouses as community centers, instead of as services for golfers. The clubhouse is charming, even if it’s not easily accessible, and I’d love to be able to tell friends “let’s meet for a cold one after work” there instead of struggling to park in Canal Park.

Another Enger image from the Facebook page

I rented seventy-five balls and headed across the street to the driving range with a nine-iron. I like the lift of the nine-iron — the angle of the face of the club just picks the ball up, into the air. It doesn’t go as far as a wood, of course, but there is a grace to watching it climb, then fall. When you hit a golf ball with an iron, you aren’t scooping the ball into the air. Physics becomes flight.

After about an hour rediscovering my muscle memory, and adjusting my moves to account for my weight gain, I had rediscovered why I liked golf. I don’t enjoy hammering the ball toward the green. I project myself inside the ball — that is me, climbing into the air, become flight.

I’m looking for the hive-mind of PDD, help deciding which courses could welcome someone who is better with the nine-iron than the driver, and so may be a bit slow on the long holes. (Is there a par three within an hour of Duluth?) What golf courses are good values? And what about a place to just hammer on the range and then read a book with a drink? What do you recommend?

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