By Kristen Williams
The Golf Chick
Since it’s snowing here tonight for the first time since 1989, I thought it a fitting time to tell you about my snowshoe golf experience. That’s right. I said snowshoe golf. What else do you do when there’s 4 feet of snow on the golf course?
Earlier this month, I went to McCall, Idaho to see my sister. It was during the town’s famous Winter Carnival, when tourists pour in and make the tiny town burst. There are all sorts of things to see and do – live music, incredible snow sculptures, comedy, hockey, theater (my sister was the lead in this year’s play), snow bike race, snowmobiling, casino night, even a “monster dog pull.” [Side note: McCall is an extremely dog friendly town, which I love. Businesses have ads in the phone book to showcase the “shop dog.”] But what was I most excited about? Of course it was the snowshoe golf!
I had never heard of such a thing but thought it sounded like terrific fun. They set the snowshoe golf course up at the city course – McCall Golf Club (which, during the winter, transforms into an outdoor winter sports venue for sledding, cross country skiing, and more – and of course dogs are welcome).
They charge $20, and all net proceeds goes to local charities. For your 20 clams, you also get a souvenir cap. You can bring your own snowshoes or use some of theirs. They give you a couple tennis balls, a styrofoam cup, offer you a club or two (why two?) if you didn’t bring your own, and set you on your way. The cup is used to pack snow to make a tee, kinda like they used to do with dirt before tees were invented (bonus trivia tidbit for you). I went with my awesome fraunt (friend/aunt) Jo, who is a local and an all around winter sports fiend! Yep, she even curls. So after a quick stop at the bar for bloody Marys, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed to the first tee. Jo had never played golf before and I had never used snowshoes before. Good pair.
Surprise! It’s hard to hit a tennis ball with a golf club off the snow!
Guess what? You don’t want to hit down on the ball. Doh! That was a struggle for me the whole round. You want to try to hit the middle of the back of the tennis ball with the edge of the club. I think I had a 6 iron. Seems to me a hybrid/utility club might be more suited to this game. Most of my tee shots were decent but beyond that, it was rough out there. We were looking for the beverage cart to refresh our drinks after the first hole. I mentioned that to the group we caught up with on the next tee and they called in our order and let us play through. JJ himself delivered our refills on the next hole. What service!
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The nine-hole course is set up to direct the snowshoe traffic away from the regular tees and greens. According to the “course architect,” James Johnson, the ball distance is about 1/3, so they set up the holes in feet rather than yards. This year they had 3 par 3’s (100 – 125′), 3 par 4’s (275 – 350′), and 3 par 5’s (400-475′). Par is 36. The actual holes are buckets dug into the snow with flags next to them. In case you want to set something like this up at your course, JJ says they try to make it interesting by routing fairways through natural paths through trees and placing greens next to trees and hazards, and using contours. They also use the plowed paths as “water” hazards – play the ball as it lies without grounding club, or take a drop and add a stroke. (Or toss it out and forget it was ever in there, like we did.) One day they had a tournament and the low score was 41. I’m guessing that guy has done this before. I think I shot in the high 60s!
Does it look like I had any fun? I made a promise to Jo that I would come back next year for some more. Looking forward to it already! I’ve got more photos from the trip up on Facebook if you’re interested.
Here is a video from a couple years ago put together by one of the event’s former sponsors. Enjoy! www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFb6pa8FGCI
Kristen Williams is a freelance writer with a serious golf obsession. Her site, The Golf Chick, a journal of her golf thoughts, is one of the longest-running female-written golf blogs. Copyright Kristen Williams.
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