A Round With Willie

After years of on and off effort and frustration, I finally got my early ’80’s vintage turntable working again. It had developed a nasty buzzing sound and the cartridge mounting mechanism was broken. A repair shop got rid of the buzz with a few new solder joints, but no parts could be found for the cartridge mount. After a long and unsuccessful search for a new turntable at reasonable cost and near the same quality as my old one, I gave up and improvised a new cartridge mount. Twist ties can do marvelous things.

I could now explore my old vinyl LP collection again, and I stumbled on Willie Nelson’s Stardust and Red Headed Stranger albums. This led me to remembering Willie’s love for golf, and I recalled a rumor that he became devoted to the game while living not very far from here, at Lost Valley Golf Club near Bandera, Texas. So I checked out the rumor, and it appears to be true.

Lost Valley has been on and off the market while I’ve lived here, but it’s stayed open through it all. A developer almost bought the course with plans to improve it and put in home sites, but arranging for utilities for the home sites was apparently too expensive. Golf at Lost Valley is close to my idea of the game those ancient Scottish shepherds played on the links. It’s a wide open playing field with the improvements essential for hitting the ball toward and into the hole. If you fall in love with golf here, you’ve fallen in love with the game itself, not its trappings.

View across the third green and several fairways toward the lodge buildings

I wonder how many of us first came to love golf on a course like Lost Valley. Most of the courses I played as a teenager were cut from the natural setting with minimal earth moving and landscape artistry. Bunkers were relatively rare, and deep bunkers with towering lips were unheard of. If the course was in a forested area, it was narrow and tree-lined. If there was abundant water in the area, you had water hazards. The grasses in the fairway were often the natural grasses of the area, with bermuda brought in for around the greens and the tees. The geography and vegetation wasn’t imported. Somebody might have planted an ornamental tree at the edge of the fairway to mark 150 yards from the green, but that was it for yardage help.

I’ve been checking out the courses I played years ago, looking at the web, maps, and gazetteers. Some courses have disappeared, covered up by shopping malls or housing developments. Others have remodeled and upgraded, sometimes with new and fancier names. But I’ve found one where I can recognize the hole map on the website, although they’ve added nine holes to the original nine. The pictures look familiar, the conditions look a bit improved but still pretty natural, and the prices look like they’ve resisted the urge to get too uppity. I could get there in three or four hours.

I think I’ll try to make it back to my own Lost Valley sometime soon. I just hope I don’t hit it into the trees on the right side of number one fairway. That was my typical opening drive way back when, and I bet the trees are even bigger now.

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