A man steps to the tee at his local club and notices a funeral precession passing on a nearby road. He pauses and removes his hat in silence.
Wow, a playing partner says, that is really respectful.
Its the least I could do, the man says. We were married for 20 years.
SEA ISLAND, Ga. ' The golf widow is dead, and Sea Island Resort killed her.
No, its not the seaside resorts posh accommodations or legendary spa that cured the greatest threat to domestic bliss since the invent of Monday Night Football. Sea Islands tonic is much more banal than that.
The fix is an intoxicating mix of flora and fauna, and some of the best seaside scenery east of the Mississippi. If better halves are uninterested in golf, the swaying moss and sweeping views are formidable stand-ins.
On this spit of Georgia coast, the ride begins at the sprawling clubhouse estate, a modern remake of a southern classic ' Gone with the Wind meets Waldorf Astoria. The 40-room Lodge at Sea Island features 24-hour butler service and whiplash views of the Atlantic and St. Simons Sound, while the Cloister redo is a Bucket List special, that is to say a must-stay at least once in a lucky lifetime. But for pure atmosphere, and views, the newly opened Beach Club, located just across the textured street from Cloister, is a one-stop shop for relaxation.
However, it is the Sea Island practice range, with unfettered views of the Atlantic Ocean and St. Simons Sound, where the experience for the golf obsessed begins. They call it The Hang, a sprawling practice area thats at the heart of the golf experience.
On a cool, windy March afternoon the unhurried warm-up begins. Mac Barnhardt, CEO of Crown Sports Managements and unofficial tour guide, eases his way through a pile of practice balls. In the next stall, PGA Tour regular Paul Claxton chips away at the mysteries of the game, while perennial top-100 teacher Todd Anderson pauses between lessons to say hello. In order they stop to offer advice, swing tips and punch lines. They cant help themselves.
You need to drive your legs into the shot, offers Claxton.
Barnhardts advice is simpler, almost spiritual by comparison: Just feel it. After you coil, just let it go. And Anderson, simply offers a quick once over and amused nod.
It is the Sea Island way, not directed at a particular visitor, simply anyone who is lucky enough to wander out.
Its one of the few places someone can come and get a lesson and have an established Tour player just down a few stalls from you hitting balls and have the player come over and suggest to the teacher to do this or do that, Barnhardt says.
If the thought seems overwhelming, consider the scene when Sea Islands Hang is overrun with Tour types. Davis Love III ' the 20-time Tour winner whose father, Davis Jr., was the long-time director of instruction at Sea Island ' is a regular, as is Lucas Glover, Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson. Its a cast that reads like a weekly Tour tee sheet, and a regular happening in this corner of coastal Georgia.
The convergence is not by chance, but a well-orchestrated dream of Bill Jones III, the CEO of Sea Island Company and the grandson of Sea Island co-founder A.W. Jones Sr. The plan was simple: combine the best of golf instruction, fitness and sports psychology in an idyllic setting and wait for something special to happen.
It was kind of organic, but there was always a plan to create the best golfing experience. Not many places can you go out and learn golf, Barnhardt says. Not many places can you start with an hour with (director of fitness) Randy Myers and then an hour with Todd Anderson and then an hour with Dr. Mo (sports psychologist Morris Pickens) and than an hour with Mike Taylor to work on your short game.
Each spring, Jones vision is taken to the extreme when a handful of Tour types begin their run-up to the Masters at nearby Frederica Golf Club. In 2007, Johnson did his Augusta National prep work on Fredericas juiced-up putting surfaces ' officials dial up the layouts greens to 14 on the Stimpmeter to simulate those at the Masters ' and honed his short game on the sprawling practice range. A green jacket followed.
Last year, Snedeker joined the Frederica fateful and took eventual champion Trevor Immelman to the wire.
I remember (2007) the greens were like 14 at Frederica and Davis (Love) couldnt get a putt to the hole the first two days at Augusta National, Barnhardt says.
Tour types tend to gravitate to the private Frederica layout, but it creates an interesting question. Which of Sea Islands three layouts ' an embarrassment of golf riches that includes Seaside, Frederica and storied Ocean Forest, perhaps the best American trifecta not named Bandon ' would pass the if you could only play one before you died test?
If I was going to play every day, Frederica, Snedeker says after an extended pause. But if I could only play once, it would be Seaside. Every hole is cool, but the wind can come up and it can be brutal, whereas Frederica is a little more protected.
Luckily, with a kind request and an accommodating member one doesnt have to make that decision. That, to, may be the genius behind Jones plan. Whats not as clear is whether Jones vision was designed to entertain the golf widow, as well as the golfer, or if the diversions are simply beneficial happenstance.
Eighteen holes and an extended session on the practice range into an uninterrupted day, it doesnt really matter.
Where else can you take your wife and not have her call and ask, Where are you? Barnhardt said. She will forget you.
The golf widow is dead, and Sea Island killed her.