A peculiarly satisfying spring break - and 217 golf balls


April 15, 2007|By JANET GILBERT

A lot of families around here come back from their spring breaks with deep tans.

We have 217 golf balls.

This column is either going to depict my family as inventive and charmingly oriented toward simple pleasures; or expose us as hopelessly peculiar.

We went to a golf resort in West Virginia to meet my husband's parents, who are from Indianapolis. None of us plays golf, but we have met there over the years because it is about halfway between our respective homes.

But early April is an iffy time to travel to West Virginia, or, I suppose, anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic region. The weather could be springlike, so we needed to pack shorts and a light jacket. Of course, there was an equal chance that winter might still be in full swing in the mountains, so that meant we needed our sweaters, winter coats, gloves and hats.

"Let's not forget the sunscreen!" I called to my spouse.

"Got it - right here with the ice scraper," he said.

So we pretty much packed up every article of clothing and gear we owned, bathing suits and long underwear, tennis rackets and snow boots, for a week in a cabin in West Virginia. Frankly, we could have used a second cabin to lodge our luggage.

We did have an initial day or two of sunshine - but for the rest of the week, it was windy and cold, with a dusting of snow.

Turns out, this is perfect weather for golf-ball hunting.

"Who's with me?" my husband called.

Only our dog, Moose, looked particularly eager. But then again, he is a mix of 72 percent particularly eager and 28 percent vehemently enthusiastic. You could announce "Who wants to clean bluefish with me in the front hall closet?" and he would be at your side, wagging his tail furiously.

Moose bounded to the door. The children followed.

"Are you coming?" my husband asked me.

Intrigued by the prospect of finding lots and lots of things I would probably never use, I leapt into action. But this is because I am a mix of 67 percent zealous and 33 percent animated.

Of course, there was an element of danger - I'm not sure it is permissible to pick up golf balls from the edges of the rough, in the hillsides and stream banks on a course when it is closed. A highly motivated greens official might get into his cart and brave the 20-degree wind chill factor and snow gusts to admonish us.

On the other hand, there were no signs telling us not to pick up old golf balls. But I think that's because your average resort guest is not expecting a night round of golf-ball hunting after a day on the links.

Still, we in Janet's World decided that somebody had to do it. First, we developed a strategy, assessing where - if you were a really horrendous golfer - you would drive your ball from the tee to completely miss the green. This was not difficult for us.

Next, we worked on spotting techniques. Most of the golf balls were white and many were driven into the sides of hills and creek beds, so that only a portion would be visible. This was made more challenging by the dusting of snow.

"Ball!" we shouted excitedly each time we came upon one. And where there was one, there were usually several more. I came to view our nightly work as a sort of public service - without us, surely there would be distracting errant golf-ball moguls dotting these otherwise flawless courses.

And so, our spring break turned out to be like an endless Easter egg hunt on 1,700 acres normally off-limits to nongolfers. My husband was by far the best at it, which gave me an idea.

Needless to say, I'm planning our next spring break at an abandoned diamond mine.

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