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The worst golf course I ever loved

Evergreen is a terrible golf course.

It's as flat as a mug of day-old root beer, the fairways are just a rumor, the sand traps get raked about as often as the course is watered -- almost never -- and the greens are so bad that it's sometimes a tough call whether to putt or weed-whack.

It's the worst course I ever loved.

The closure of the course in northwest Amherst has been rumored for 10 years and is finally going to happen so a developer can put in some houses.

Which is appropriate, because as golf courses go, Evergreen is about as interesting as aluminum siding.

One summer a few years back, it hadn't rained in so long that the pond protecting the green on No. 7 -- one of the only actual hazards on the course -- had completely dried up. As you walked over the grass bridge in the middle, you could see hundreds of balls in the mud where the water should have been.

That's Evergreen in a nutshell: ridiculous, but memorable.

I can't prove this, but I believe that Evergreen attracts more slow players than any other course in Western New York. It once took me three hours to play nine holes behind a foursome, with carts, whose combined ages probably exceeded 300. Of course, like most golfers you meet at Evergreen, they were the nicest guys you could imagine.

Weather was never much of a concern at Evergreen. Seeing the flags in the holes in February could have been a sign of spring. It could have been a sign that it might not snow much more that day. It could have been a practical joke. Either way, you could always count on seeing at least one golfer out there.

One year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when every other course had closed for the season, we got one of those unexpectedly gorgeous autumn days. Evergreen was still open. I drove past it and could barely see past all the cars and smiling golfers in the parking lot.

Evergreen was the first "real" golf course I ever played. My grandfather took me when he thought I was ready. (I wasn't.) It was called Creekside back then. When my son, Nathan, said he wanted to try golf, I took him there. He was about the same age I was when I first set foot on the course. There must have been a lot of dandelions on the course that day because my eyes wouldn't stop watering. Stupid allergies.

Evergreen is also where my son first expressed disdain for golfers who cheat. Oddly, this is the same kid who once claimed a score of 9 on the par-5 fourth hole, when I stopped counting his strokes at 14 and he was still about 100 yards from the green. It was the first of many times he decided that he hated golf and that he needed new clubs. I was so proud.

I took him there one afternoon when he was 13. Kids 11 and under paid a lower greens fee. The starter asked him how old he was, and Nathan told him the truth. The starter gave him a look.

"Thirteen, huh? You look 11 to me," he said and charged my son the lower rate.

During late June, when the sun is up by 5:30 a.m., I once took a ride over there to get in a quick round before work. (You could play Evergreen in an hour by yourself, if you got there first, and hurried.) No one was there. The starter showed up at about 6 and asked how long I had been waiting. I said a half-hour.

"Jeez," he said. "Next time, just start playing. You can pay when you're finished."

That's Evergreen for you. Ugly course. Boring holes. Absent upkeep. Slow golfers. Unenforced rules. Renegade employees. A 9-hole nightmare that suffers by comparison with most cow pastures.

I miss it already.


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