In an excerpt from his upcoming book “American Story,” NBC’s award-winning Bob Dotson visits a very unusual golf course in Kodiak, Alaska, where par is 70 — for one hole.
I make it a practice always to follow a chuckle to its source.
In Kodiak, Alaska, I heard laughter echoing down Pillar Mountain. Two duffers were ice-picking their way up the snow-covered cliffs, carrying golf clubs. For these avid sportsmen, no course was too far away.
“A fine shot, sir,” one of the duffers cried. “A fine shot!” They stumbled on in the snow. Pebble Beach, it ain’t, but it is a golf tournament—one hole, par seventy. That’s right: One hole, par seventy.
“Oh, did you hear that clunk in the bushes?” Pogo Good shouted as his ball disappeared down a ravine. His partner struggled to find footing. “Are you ready? Fire away there, Scrim. Fore!”
The classic began during a cold lull in the fishing season. Scrimshaw Matthew bet Pogo Good and the boys he could beat them in a game of golf. Same rules as for the Masters would apply—sort of.
“Nice shot,” Scrimshaw observed as Pogo’s ball landed six inches inside a snowdrift. “Beauty!” He pulled out an ice ax. “Now we dig.”
Players are allowed, without penalty, to dig out golf balls that land in snowdrifts. They can then tamp down the snow to make a level playing surface and hit the ball again. Each of the forty-four golfers had a caddy and a spotter who stood a couple of hundred yards up range to track shots.
“Right over your head. You see it?” Pogo asked as another ball took off.
“I heard it land,” said Scrimshaw . “It could’ve landed anywhere.”
There was nothing fair about that fairway. On the right was the “Ravine of Doom.” Shank one over its side, and it would take a howitzer to get you out. There are bushes, sleeping bears, ice fields, and cliffs for nearly a mile. The course is practically fourteen hundred feet straight up from the valley floor to the “green.”
“Body block. Body block!” Pogo shouted to his spotter as another ball careened back down the mountain. The spotter dove on it to stop it from rolling. (That’s a legal move.)
“We had a ball take off,” Scrimshaw recalled. “It probably went a mile. Kept going and going and going. It was gone,” he chuckled. “Two-stroke penalty.”
Rick Lindholm, the only two-time winner, was the man to beat that day.
“All right,” Lindholm said as he took a perfect swing, looking as smug as a Presbyterian with four aces. “Another good one.”
Pogo, who was busy plucking his ball from a snowy tree branch, asked “Is that a bird’s nest?”
Scrimshaw Matthews shot a twenty-two, but Rick Lindholm was white-hot. He finished five thousand yards—par seventy—in nineteen. Meanwhile, Pogo Good was sliding down the ravine in search of his ball.
“Okay” he huffed. “What we’re going to try to do is to get out of the bushes.” Before, he meant, they woke up the bears.
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things, Copyright © Bob Dotson, 2013
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