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A Hazy Morning in L.A.

Beer cans on grass

Light / Dark

At half-past one in the morning, I called it a night. Some 27 hours earlier, I’d woken up on the other side of the country; now I was drunk and exhausted. I had traveled from Boston to L.A. to visit my friend Cory, a non-golfer who nonetheless respects my odd pursuits. Like scheduling an 8 a.m. tee time at Rancho Park Golf Course—the scruffy, collars-optional Billy Bell muni that has hosted 17 L.A. Opens—the morning after the first night of a long, sure-to-be-debaucherous weekend. 

We were drinking after his friend’s rock show, and I had reached the stage of buying ill-advised whiskey shots and asking Cory if he thought they’d let me play guitar with them. (He thought not.) He stayed out, so I took a solo Uber to his place, buried his keys behind a bush in his yard and somehow set an alarm. 

En route to the course the next morning, I had time to reflect. Golf’s great pull is that it is many things to many people. A cauldron of tournament pressure, a boozy buddies’ round, a sunset nine—all can provide immeasurable enjoyment. As an only child and irrepressible extrovert, I relish my rounds with my friends and dad, but also cherish the rare reflection time gained during a solo loop.

I also experience the same emotional cocktail of discovery, excitement and belonging at a new golf course that others do at a new coffeehouse or bookstore. The game’s unspoken rituals and rhythms, ingrained in golfers everywhere, provide comfort and familiarity. All of the above had compelled me to book the tee time, yet failed to cure my righteous cottonmouth.

Forty dollars, a banana and a set of dented rental Stratas later, I met my group: a 65-year-old single-digit handicapper and two tiny Asian girls with fluorescent outfits, perfect swings and a hovering father. 

I hit a low, screaming fade off the tee—a ball flight that would become as familiar to me as the pounding behind my eyeballs. We were off.

The girls were 7 and 11, and they were incredible. Judging by their swings, their spines were 85 percent Silly Putty. Dodge Ram 1500s offer less torque. The younger one sulked after her tee shot found the wrong side of the first fairway. I surreptitiously filmed the 11-year-old’s swing to show some friends, and I still have it so I know who to root for when she makes the LPGA.

The old guy used me like a verbal speed bag, debriefing me on his and Rancho’s history. My interest piqued early, but after a few holes of watching two children and this bowling pin in New Balances split fairways while I trudged into the trees, my conversational well ran dry. He finally became somewhat comforting—a personal podcaster making pars to my doubles. One memorable yarn: His best round at Rancho was a 69, shot on a greens fee paid for by an apologetic duffer who had beaned the dude in his bald pate with a wayward drive a few days prior.

In between attempts to keep the ball on the planet, gulps of water and awkward bump-and-run shots off unfamiliar grass (Kikuyu?), I experienced the kind of spiritual awakening one has after more cocktails than hours of sleep. In the immortal words of Trooper, we’re here for a good time, not a long time. And as I made that five-hour hike across the hills and dales of Rancho Park, approaching devilish sunken greens and picking left-field conifers to start my Strata-induced banana balls off, it struck me that sleep is overrated, experiences are to be savored and golf cures all hangovers.