February 27, 2009
On February 20 I competed in the Frozen Friday tournament at Bayside Golf Club near Fenwick Island, co-sponsored by the Delaware State Golf Association and the Delaware Women’s Golf Association.
They weren’t kidding about the frozen part.
This was without a doubt the coldest round of golf I have ever played.
I tried to dress for it, but was only partially successful. I wore a long-sleeve tee shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, a sweater vest, and a long-sleeve wind shirt. Over all that I wore a wool jacket, and topped it off with a fully lined golf cap and ear muffs. I also donned my skiing gloves faithfully between each shot, and sometimes during each putt.
Swinging with all that on made me look a lot like Ralph’s little brother Randy in The Christmas Story, when he fell on the snow and couldn’t get back up without a lot of help. I then began taking the wool jacket off for the few seconds needed to make a swing, and my scores began to improve significantly.
It was stupid fun, in other words.
The tournament series runs from mid-December through March, on a wide-ranging mix of private and public courses throughout the state. It is open to all golfers, and no handicaps are required. To determine the winners, each tournament uses the Callaway scoring system, which subtracts a defined number of hole scores from the total, depending on the gross score. In addition, no scores greater than double par are posted–such as a 10 on a par 5. The winners and several others earn gift certificates from the host course.
Bob Crowther is the PGA head golf professional at Bayside. He came to the position after several years’ service at Cripple Creek Country Club near Ocean View.
“The DSGA runs these Frozen Friday’s each year,” he said. “It’s a good way to get people down here who may not have visited us yet. It’s been very well received. This is the first time for Bayside. We had 74 people signed up, and 54 played, which is pretty good considering how cold and windy it was today,” Crowther explained.
“Bayside opened up in 2005, and Golf Digest named us as one of the top 10 new courses in 2006. We’ve been ranked in the top 3 in the state every year since then,” he said with a smile.
Even under winter conditions, it was easy to see why the course is so highly rated.
The flow of the design sits lightly on the combination of woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. Like many other Jack Nicklaus designs, the holes present some significant challenges, especially in and around the greens. The fairways were tight, and the greens were fast but true.
Which is not to say that scoring was impossible, even with wind chills in the low twenties.
On the par-4 18th hole, for example, my drive hooked left and bounced into the adjacent pond. After taking a stroke penalty and a drop near where it entered the water, my next shot scuttled off toward the right and into some deep rough, next to a wooden bridge, about 85 yards from the hole. A sand wedge shot landed in a greenside bunker. As I stood in the bunker, I was too short to see the green. I popped the next shot out of the sand, and it bounced and rolled right into the cup.
That, for me, is a routine bogey—on a Nicklaus-designed golf course.
Our last hole of the day, the seventh, is a relatively short par 3. The strong wind behind us knocked my eight-iron shot down, and kept it from reaching the green. I made my par putt, but it was clearly wind-aided. Golf balls don’t normally drift uphill as they slow down, without a little help.
Eleanor Soltner of Lewes won the women’s division. Some local golf writer won the men’s division, thanks to the miracle of Callaway scoring and a pair of timely 10s on two par 5s.
Registration for each Friday is open until the Wednesday before. To register you can call the DSGA at 302-234-3365.