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Revolutionizing Tee Time: GolfSnake App Offers Seamless Reservations for Denver Golfers

The director of Dallas-based Frontier Investment Management’s Denver office, Bruce Kendrick describes himself as “not a good golfer, but an avid golfer.” 

Kendrick likes to hit the links a couple of times a week, but he has been hampered by a general lack of availability in the Denver area since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“It was really hard to get tee times then, and it’s only gotten worse,” he says. “You have to try to schedule something like a week in advance or two weeks in advance.” And booking a foursome has been “virtually impossible.” 

Enter Denver-based GolfSnake. Kendrick started using the new website to find tee times at the end of the 2022 season. “It saves a lot of time and effort,” he says. “Now it’s just on my phone, and boom, boom, boom.” 

GolfSnake founder and King Cobra (yes, that’s his real title) Chris Glode is a serial entrepreneur and a diehard golfer. GolfSnake merges the two pursuits. 

“In the Denver market uniquely with population growth and everything else, the demand for golf tee times completely outstripped the supply,” Glode says. “You would think there’d be a de facto OpenTable kind of aggregator that would bring all of the tee times into one place.” 

But there wasn’t such an aggregator, so Glode built one himself. Launched in August 2022, GolfSnake now offers a scrolling list of available tee times at more than 50 courses in the metro area on its website and iPhone app. Tee times are updated every five minutes. 

Competitors like NBCUniversal’s GolfNow are focused on selling tools to the courses, Glode says, while GolfSnake is golfer-centric. “We have at least three to four times as many tee times on the site as GolfNow does,” he notes.

“Your biggest obstacle is finding something that people will use and keep using over time, so I’m trying to tackle that first. If we can tackle that, we can figure out some different ways to try and make money from it.” Monetization could come in the form of commissions from the courses or, more likely, tools for the end users. 

After Denver, Glode is looking to scale GolfSnake into other states and countries, starting with Minneapolis-St. Paul. “With the shorter season [in Minnesota], the golf courses are packed and they definitely have this problem,” he says. 

Glode says he intends to keep bootstrapping GolfSnake as he grows into new markets and builds new tools. “One of the things I’ve learned through many startup failures is the expectations that come with raising money,” he says. “Until I’m sure that this can be something that can actually be a business, I’ve tried to do it as scrappy as much as I can.”

 

Eric Perterson headshotDenver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer’s Colorado, Frommer’s Montana & Wyoming, Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver’s Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]

How Colorado’s Golf Heroes are Tackling Staffing Shortages, Inflation and Record Traffic to Keep Courses Lush Despite Challenges

First, they had to grow grass despite a drought. Then, they worked through a pandemic. Now, they’re facing staffing shortages and inflation, with record numbers of feet trampling their work every day.

“It’s absolutely amazing to me the condition golf courses are in,” says Colorado Golf Association Executive Director Ed Mate. “I think about how hard it is to maintain my lawn, which is three inches of rough, with nobody walking on it or taking big, gouging divots out of it, no carts driving across it. And I can’t keep it green or even healthy. And these guys and gals are able to keep acres and acres of maintained turf pristine, despite people attacking it all the time.”

READ: 6 Indoor Golfing Spaces to Book Your Tee Time in 2023

The state’s golf heroes these days aren’t the players breaking par but the superintendents and maintenance workers who are on the job long before the golfers tee off. Golf courses all around the state were in impeccable condition last summer and well into the fall, until the late-December snowstorm that shut everyone down through January and promises an equally lush 2023.

Denver Golf Director of Agronomy Pam Smith says the pandemic’s early days gave the crews a lesson in what could be.

“We were shut down for six weeks and had the maintenance staff reporting, so we had the luxury of doing a lot of deferred maintenance, aerification and fertility,” Smith says. “And the lack of traffic had the courses in probably the best shape they’ve ever been in.”

READ: Inside Colorado’s Post-Pandemic Golf Goldrush

After that, says Smith, three seasons of increasingly nonstop, dawn-to-dark traffic raised new challenges: “How do we work while people are playing golf? How do we get our jobs done?”

Mitch Savage, superintendent at CGA-owned and operated CommonGround, credits his board with coming to the rescue with new machinery. “From there,” he says, “it was really about getting creative. A small example might be mowing a new walkway through a little native area where you’re not as worried about people beating down a nicely maintained turf area. We look for ways to help people and carts maneuver their way through the golf course without sacrificing the golf course.”

CommonGround incorporates maintenance blocks twice a month, clearing the tee sheet for three or four hours first thing in the morning so that crews can accomplish things without golfers in the way. Denver’s municipal courses, expected to bring in revenue while also providing their communities with recreational opportunities, don’t have that luxury.  

“So we have the philosophy that we want to get out ahead of golfers, get our greens mowed, cups cut,” Smith says. “Each golf course is different in how they do it, but we throw a lot of labor at those early morning jobs to get out and ahead of golfers.”

Which is not so easy with Denver golfers teeing off on both the front and back nines at sunrise.

“We’re starting maybe a half-hour or hour in the dark,” Smith says. “And that is extremely challenging and sometimes even dangerous for our staff to be operating mowing equipment in the dark. If you have a hydraulic leak, you sometimes don’t know it and it can lead to turf damage … It takes a special person to work maintenance these days for those reasons.”

Meet Kelly Huff: Colorado’s Unconventional Golf Instructor with a TrackMan Advantage

With staffing shortages continuing for businesses around the state, even golf course jobs — which may come with perks like free golf, flexible days and great scenery – are vacant. “You could say 50 percent of our on-call positions go unfilled at any given time at any golf course,” says Smith.

She’s working on restructuring job categories to attract more applicants. Savage has maintained his workforce with a “just say yes” approach to inquiries. “If somebody expresses an interest but says, ‘Well, I really only want to work a few days a week,’ I don’t even bat an eye. I just say, yeah, come on in and fill out an application and we’ll figure things out.”

As these superstars of Colorado golf continue to figure out how to keep courses covered in lush, mowed grass, there’s one thing we golfers can do to show some love: When they’re in the way of the next shot, give them a friendly wave instead of the stinkeye.

“We’re trying to be like Navy Seals out there,” says Savage. “We just want to get in and get our job done and get out, without being seen.”

DENVER GOLF ROUNDS AND REVENUE

2020

374,476  

$10,187,141

2021

405,414

$10,257,205

2022 

414,497 

$11,324,118

 

Susan Fornoff has covered golf for the San Francisco Chronicle, regional golf associations and her own GottaGoGolf.com. She is a member of the Overland Park Golf Course and Links at Highlands Ranch women’s clubs. This is her seventh Executive Golf Guide for ColoradoBiz.

Inside Colorado’s Post-Pandemic Golf Goldrush

At South Broadway Country Club, Kelly Huff is preparing to franchise his five-year-old business combining TrackMan bays, instruction and a cocktail bar. Joe Lynch and Winston Manley are so jazzed with the inaugural year of The Local Drive in RiNo, they’re set for expanding this year into Longmont and beyond. And still to open in Lowry, developers of the Hangar Club have drawn up plans for a whopping 10 bays in Colorado’s biggest entry to golf’s new indoor phenomenon, the golf lounge.

The well-documented, post-pandemic golf rush seems to have evolved into a gold rush for entrepreneurs eager to capitalize on Colorado’s long, cold winters.

READ: Golf Course Real Estate Makes a Comeback in the Mountains

“Indoor golf is evolving,” says Lynch, a former hotel executive. “It’s more approachable now for golfers to come in and be introduced to it. A lot of places that have been built for the golfer were not as inviting. They’re more dungeon-esque and male-dominated. We’re designed for social networking.”

What’s happening in Colorado mirrors statistics released by the National Golf Foundation in January showing that off-course golf engagement, measured at 27.9 million, has surpassed participation on green grass courses, 25.6 million. Those stats, both rising annually over the last three years, encompass driving ranges, entertainment venues like Topgolf, and any businesses with simulators.

READ: Topgolf Eyes Growth Beyond the Front Range

There are already too many Colorado bars featuring simulators to count. TrackMan, the Doppler radar powered device best known for its traction with PGA Tour telecasts and players, lists seven locations between RiNo and Littleton’s Superfly Golf Lounge. And there are also at least three alternative technologies in play.

X-Golf has its own proprietary technology in 75-and-counting U.S. locations. Represented in Denver at Landmark in Greenwood Village, X-Golf shuns cushy seating areas and sleek design touches to create an appeal more along the lines of a macho sports bar than a co-ed lounge. Topgolf also has a proprietary system, Toptracer, on a scale with its large outdoor facilities.

Uneekor Eye XO was the choice of newcomer Stick and Feather, which opened five big, bright bays under three chandeliers in the York Street Yards in 2022 but was still awaiting its liquor permits in 2023; the young owners have had to jump through some hoops, including installing a pizza kitchen. 

Their Korean technology has also been in play at Optimum Golf. The golf minds behind the old Park Hill Golf Course launched Optimum as an indoor golf center without permits for liquor; they offer lessons, host events and run leagues, plus the bay-by-the-hour model that is proving profitable in the lounges.

Insider Tips

Each technology has a bit of a learning curve, though TrackMan fans say it is a quick study for anyone who already plays golf. But as with golf, there’s a certain culture surrounding golf lounge accessibility. Here’s how it works:

  • For somewhere around $50 an hour, depending on day of the week and time, you can book simulator time in advance online. This will give you sole possession of a bay with all the fixings: mat, golf ball dispenser and big screen. You can bring friends (kids too); as with golf, foursomes are preferred but, unlike with golf, even more can play.
  • Generally, you’ll bring your own clubs, though some facilities have free clubs handy, and some offer rentals. 
  • You’ll decide whether you want to practice your golf swing, thus accessing all sorts of measurements, or play a target game, or play a particular golf course. (Pebble Beach and TPC-Colorado ranked at the top of the state’s TrackMan stats this winter.)
  • If you’re playing a round, various formats are accessible, including a scramble where each player tries each shot. Don’t be shy about asking the staff for guidance. Even the bartender has tech training, and, says South Broadway Country Club founder Kelly Huff, “We definitely do not suggest tight, tree-lined courses when it’s a brand-new golfer, because being in the trees on a simulator is not very fun.”
  • Rule of thumb is that 18 holes take one player an hour, two players two hours, and so on. Of course, accomplished players should take less time to play. Setting a wide gimme range on putts moves things along; most players find simulator putting wastes time – except, of course, at those golf lounges like Urban Golf, which specialize in minigolf.

Drinks are optional, though who could resist a Green Jacket at the Crow’s Nest or, at SBCC, a concoction named after the player who most famously crashed and burned in a British Open, the Van de Velde? 

Food is often not even on the menu, probably because it’s surely better enjoyed before or after simulator time. Think about the last time you went to Topgolf. Not only did you pay hourly for your time at a table with a hitting bay, you bought food and drink you were expected to consume during that same window of time. Kind of like dining at Dazzle while playing your trumpet rather than listening to a quartet.

“Topgolf has a phenomenal concept,” says Local Drive’s Lynch. “And their world is evolving too, to indoors, with Swing Suites like at Tom’s Watch Bar. Even at that, it’s still very much oriented to people who want to go play for fun. Not what you see here or at South Broadway.”

READ: A Musing on Golf’s Pace of Play Dilemma

Practice and Profit

Mostly what you see in the golf lounges transforms after work, from quiet nondrinkers working on their games in ones or twos by day to lively parties of four or more playing for fun in the evenings and especially on weekends. Lessons, tournaments and membership packages draw the early crowd, while the later crowd is fair game for leagues and seminars served with cocktails—“Whiskey and Wedges,” for instance, an easy sell at The Local Drive.

The appeal to both audiences pays for those simulators quickly. A TrackMan that costs $26,000 has made its money back in 520 hours, as little as two months at a lounge booking bays 10 hours a day. After that there’s just a $2,000 annual software maintenance fee. Especially without kitchen overhead, says Manley, “Margins are good.”

There’s more money to be made with corporate meetings and events, and Lynch and Manley have added income with a traveling TrackMan, a hit at former Nuggets star Dikembe Mutombo’s birthday party last year.

Of course, there’s one problem with this business model: Spring is here. Stick and Feather can open its rollup doors to the patio, but who’s going to play even those big, gorgeous simulators when there’s a tee time open at Fossil Trace?

South Broadway Country Club has survived five years of changing seasons, and Huff says, “The longer three- or four-hour simulator rentals do go down a bit. People will come in more to look at their numbers and work on their game. It becomes a little more of a game-improvement facility, and I definitely teach more in the summer. It’s not as much of a ‘I can’t get outside and play, I need to play Pebble Beach right now’ facility.”

Huff is packaging everything he’s learned into a playbook for franchises. Whatever the season, he’s convinced that he could be on to the new Starbucks.

“I don’t think indoor golf is going away, and I think it’s just going to keep getting more realistic,” he says. “I don’t really know what that entails, but I’m excited to see it.”

 

Susan Fornoff has covered golf for the San Francisco Chronicle, regional golf associations and her own GottaGoGolf.com. She is a member of the Overland Park Golf Course and Links at Highlands Ranch women’s clubs. This is her seventh Executive Golf Guide for ColoradoBiz.

Your 2021 Executive Golf Guide

Golf,course,fairway,in,colorful,morning,light

On the lovely almost-spring 2020 day when the governor of Colorado ordered, “Stay home,” most of the state’s golf courses shut down. After all, how could they keep players and staff safe in a pandemic, when everyone was supposed to stay home?

Oh, but, “FORE!,” said the state’s half a million golfers. The game is played outdoors at safe-distance tee-time intervals. With a recent rule change, players don’t even have to move the flagstick when they putt. Most cart-riders can walk, if they really have to. We’ll bring our own water. Please, please, please, we’re going crazy. Can’t we play?

With the advocacy of the Colorado Golf Coalition and advice from health experts including 2019 U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier Dr. Owen Ellis, the answer quickly became, “Please do.” And the game that annually reports flat participation suddenly experienced an overall rise of 20% in rounds and revenue. Nationally, it’s estimated that 500,000 newbies took up the game. Locally, well, let’s just say “be careful what you wish for.”

“All of a sudden, you couldn’t play an emergency nine,” says Castle Rock attorney Juliet Miner, who recorded 164 rounds last year in a state with only a 265-day season. “You couldn’t get on in the afternoon. You couldn’t get a weekend time if you didn’t plan ahead. You had to be very industrious.”

The Denver municipal golf courses closed in March and reopened in May to capacity for the rest of the season, said City and County Director of Golf Scott Rethlake: Rounds were up 25% across the board. The Broadmoor Golf Club closed in March and did not open until July; yet, rounds passed 2019 full-season totals. At Colorado Golf Association’s CommonGround Golf Course, rounds increased by a third and, on the family-friendly par-3 course, revenue soared by 112%.

“The pandemic,” said CGA executive director Ed Mate, “was golf’s stimulus plan. No one saw this one coming. Now the question is: Can we keep it up, or is this just going to be a blip and we retreat back to business as usual?”

Young,boy,while,playing,golf,on,a,background,of,green

Early panic eases

The courses that opened after only a day or two included the independently owned public courses, like Littleton’s Deer Creek and Longmont’s Saddleback, and private operations. At first, carts were not allowed because of the touch points – and good luck buying a pushcart, with demand high and manufacturing stalled. Also eliminated: water coolers, bunker rakes, sand bottles, ball washers. Superintendents raised the lip on the cup so that golf balls ricocheted back to players. Payment had to be made in advance with a credit card, with agreement to a long list of precautions. Clubhouses, ranges, practice areas and instruction closed. Tee-time intervals expanded to keep groups separated, especially at the start and finish.

Denver Country Club had to bar guests to accommodate increased member participation (from 23,000 rounds in the fiscal year ending in September 2019 to 31,000 in September 2020). It suspended its caddie program, encouraging walking and boosting pushcart rental revenue.

“We expanded our intervals from 10 minutes to 15 minutes and then back to 12 minutes in mid-May,” said Steve David, the director of golf at 580-member DCC. “I pushed that for the safety of the staff, who were seeing 200 people in a day with six groups an hour, then four, then finally five. The members loved it. The tee sheet got so full, we didn’t have places for guests. Kids, families, men, women – everybody had more time on their hands.”

By mid-May, municipal districts had opened their courses, and initial, drastic disinfecting and distancing measures began to ease. Well-spaced driving ranges dispensed buckets of balls. Instructors returned to their stations, masked and distanced. Superintendents replaced that raised cup with a pool noodle that elevated the height of the ball in the cup, or maybe with the E-Z Lift system, a lever that allows players to pop the ball out of the hole with their putters.

Carts became available for single riders, or same-household riders. At the Ridge at Castle Pines, perhaps the most unwalkable public course in the metro region, clear, roll-down partitions were installed in the middle of golf carts so pals from different households could ride together.

Courses upgraded their reservation systems to minimize pro shop visits. “That was a kick in the pants, for golf shops to come into the 21st century and improve their apps,” Mate said.

And as experts learned more about virus transmission, courses made room for more players by closing the gap on intervals.

There was, after all, much more than 6 feet between foursomes. And demand was skyrocketing.

Rear,view,of,two,senior,golf,players,walking,together,in

The long fairway view

Caretakers of the courses started to worry. More players than ever, with sometimes four golf carts per foursome, were trampling the grass in a drought. “In a perfect world,” Mate said, “you see your revenue per round going up and your total rounds staying flat, because that way you’re not stressing the course.”

Rethlake and the Denver courses innovated in the offseason (Nov. 15-March 15 here) with split-tee starts. So players would tee off for two hours at holes 1 and 10, and then change sides. The strategy maximized the shorter prime-time window and mitigated delays.

“It really helped with frost delays, because we didn’t have early, early starts,” Rethlake said. “And we were able to get twice as many people off between 9 and 11, the peak time in the winter. Our guests loved it.”

Exactly who those guests were remains a point of speculation among industry experts. The Broadmoor has returned to its full-service levels, ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Broadmoor Invitation July 25-29, and to welcome corporate groups returning to business as (almost) usual. But last year, Director of Golf Russ Miller saw a reversal from the usual 70% corporate/30% leisure golf crowd to 90% leisure.

“Husband and wife, or four buddies – men and women,” he noted. “It was extremely busy, and it caught us by surprise. I saw people enjoying the game more than before, maybe because we took it for granted for so long.”

Were they newbies? At the Broadmoor, with its storied championship courses strictly for members and guests, probably not. But even on the municipal level, Rethlake theorizes: “There were a few new people who came to the sport, but mostly it was just people who were already playing golf, but were playing more often because they had nothing else to do.”

David agrees. “I think this really shows you the correlation between time and participation. When people have time, the game is very popular. I don’t think (the problem) is the game, the expense of the game, not even the time it takes to play it. It’s those other elements in life that keep us so busy that I think the game suffers.”

If David is right, it should be easier now to score that “emergency nine.” But this spring, courses were still packed. Two private clubs, Woodmoor and Perry Park, created new afternoon memberships geared to younger, telecommuting players. If you wanted to play

Denver’s new City Park course, you needed to set your alarm for midnight, two weeks before the day you want to play.

One Sunday morning at Denver’s Kennedy Golf Course, newbie Doc Phillippe joined a threesome of avid golfers. He and his girlfriend used to go to bluegrass concerts on weekends. After Del McCoury’s March 27, 2020 concert at the Gothic Theatre was cancelled, he took a golf lesson and was hooked.

“I think golf is maybe a little cheaper,” he said, smiling. “I just love it. We just got back from a trip to Mesquite and St. George. I won’t be giving it up.”

Littleton freelance writer Susan Fornoff is a member of the Broken Tee Women’s Saturday Golf Club and publisher of GottaGoGolf.com.

Play 19!

As golf courses reopen their bars and restaurants, here are some beloved apres-round destinations.

Afternoon,tea,at,our,golf,resort

During the pandemic, golfers said goodbye on the 18th green. They missed the comradely ritual of sitting down and commiserating, or boasting, about their rounds over a cold beer and some nachos, or maybe a martini and a steak, at Colorado’s many wonderfully situated 19th holes.

According to those in the know, Castle Pines Golf Club has the best in the state, with stunning views of the course, Castle Rock, and even, in the distance, Pikes Peak. Alas, it’s the “men’s grille,” which eliminates half the population. And Castle Pines admits only members and guests, which eliminates significantly more of the population.

Never fear, we’ve got plenty of accessible 19th holes you can play. Here are a few options, all of them within 60 miles of Denver.

City Park Golf Course, Denver: You’re going to want to bring your out-of-town visitors here to play one of the newest designs in the country and then enjoy the stunning view from the sleek new clubhouse. If you can’t get a tee time, take them to the zoo and then come across the street for the Friday prime rib special.

The Ridge at Castle Pines North: Snag one of the Adirondack chairs on the lawn outside Park Place on a Friday afternoon, and you’ll find yourself part of the gallery just above the 18th green, in position to applaud and good-naturedly heckle finishing foursomes. Or, just enjoy the distant views – especially when the summer storms make their way into Castle Rock.

Fossil Trace Golf Course, Golden: The Denver area’s top daily fee course invites guests to talk business over lunch or dinner at Schnepf’s, the restaurant that doubles as the 19th hole here. Plant your foursome on the patio and you can take in the foothills eye candy views or wager on whether finishers will carry the water to the 18th green.

Bear Dance Golf Club, Larkspur: From the renovated deck overlooking the practice range, players will want to linger over delicious food and signature cocktails. But Bear Dance doesn’t stop at the traditional: The pub has a golf simulator, so those who want to play another 18 can do so in Topgolf style.

Pole Creek Golf Club, Tabernash: As if the patio view of the Continental Divide isn’t draw enough, Bistro 28 fills tables with locals who know it serves some of the county’s most acclaimed dishes, at lunch and especially at dinner. For a sample, try to time your round to finish around 3 and enjoy the happy hour specials.

The Club at Flying Horse, Colorado Springs: The fancy Tuscan décor at the Steakhouse, in the clubhouse at the Weiskopf course, might make your sweaty foursome feel a bit unworthy, but happy hour in the lounge is not to be missed by anyone who loves their food and drink almost as much as their golf. Maybe the Air Force Academy will grace you with a show in the skies.

The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs: Guests who play the courses will want to soak up the history and views from the Grille. The Heritage Hall entry is lined with photos and mementos from the days of Donald Ross, Babe Zaharias and other golf notables. Inside, the tartan carpet gives the Grille a Scottish pub feel. But outside is where you’ll want to be, watching the tricky putts on 18 East and the changing skies around Cheyenne Mountain. The wonderful fire pit might keep you here after the sun sets, thanking your lucky stars for a stay at this luxurious resort.

Newbies and Noise

Avid Colorado golfers greeted last year’s influx of newbies with a mix of delight and irritation, referring to them as the “blue jean people,” “noisy people,” “fun people” or “self-absorbed millennials,” depending on whom you talk to.

If there’s any culture clash, it’s over those Bluetooth speakers that sometimes even come standard on a golf cart. When their music is not your music, what do you say?

“I would say the right answer to, ‘Would you mind if I play music?” is ‘NO, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t,’” says the Colorado Golf Association’s unapologetically traditional executive director, Ed Mate. “I guess that sounds stark, like the old ‘get off my lawn ’guy. So maybe: ‘No, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t because I really like the quiet.’”

It’s easier if the question is asked. It’s harder if someone in your group simply cranks up the volume, and now you have to be the one to politely ask them to stop.

You could always get help. Broadmoor golf director Russ Miller hears Texans ’tunes from three holes away and asks them to turn them off. But if there’s a conflict among guests, he’ll split up the group. “If you stick together, it’s not going to be a fuzzy feeling between the four of you.”

Golf is back, is that a good thing?

Oh happy day! We can golf again, Coloradans!

Because for a while, see, while the plague was at its most determined, they’d closed down the courses. Every God-forsaken one. Including that expanse of fescue and torment known as Kennedy, where on the Creekside Hole No. 3 you inevitably come into contact with a familiar tower of doom encasing a vacant soul. A tree. But not just any tree. A tree with ill intent and sour disposition and many, many branches. If Jay Cutler was 90 feet tall and had roots and woke up on a Monday surlier than usual, this is what he’d look like. That tree. It survived the coronavirus, apparently, and is still here.

If you golf in Denver, you know this tree: It lurks in the foreground, maybe 100 yards from the back tees and it is ON THE RIGHT. Not that I slice. Who said I slice? I don’t slice, you slice.

Anyway, we’re golfing again, so you get to do battle with this monstrosity and a hundred other deviously placed obstacles punctuating our Front Range golf courses, all of them devoid of empathy and not particularly caring that you’re still enduring this horrible health crisis because a wiser person would not have come back at all but now that you have: Hehe, deal with it.

Golf in Colorado now is weird, but we press on. The friendly interior bar at Wellshire is unavailable. Instead, you step outside to the patio to order a beverage, which is served politely by a kind person wearing a mask. At Foothills in Lakewood, the clubhouse is roped off, doors shut. But a makeshift card table bedecked with scorecards and one of those tablet credit card readers does the trick well enough. An amiable gent offers the rules of play, has you swipe the card, and off you go.

When you do tee off, you notice something else: golfers. Other misguided individuals who only weeks before were shielded from all of this. On the tee box and deeper onto the course, the mask thing becomes optional; the thinking being that so long as you maintain your distance you’re highly unlikely to sprout contaminated droplets in the range of your partner. Which seems plausible given that everybody else in your foursome seems to fairly consistently play the ball somewhere within the prescribed strip of fairway whilst you tend to roam a bit, veering a good 50 yards away from the intended target area, so it’s not like you’re ever really within shouting distance anyway.

Still, what exactly is the point here? Quarantined at home, we were protected from this nonsense. It’s true there were moments when we considered embroidering the cat out of sheer restlessness, but those temptations passed. What we were being guarded from, though we scarcely realized it, was not just “sustained community transmission” but that gut-wrenching sorrow of strolling up to a bunker to notice your white ball perched centimeters from the jutting lip of the thing, making impossible any idea of escape.

Now we’re back, we Colorado golfers, unlike (at this writing) professional baseball players or indoor pickup basketball jocks or the Colorado Avalanche or just about anybody else who makes sports a regular part of their lives. Golf, benevolently or not, has returned.

And so here at Kennedy, on a first outing since the reopening, we meet our maker once again. I step up and jab the tee into the ground with an advancing inner anguish that means the shot is already doomed, because: golf. Yet there is no alternative path. They make you play No. 3 in order to play No. 4, and so on.

So: Shoulders tensed, legs locked like concrete pillars, a thousand unspoken swing thoughts ricocheting, I go through the progression. Low and slow on the coil. Turn the shoulder. Lock the head as steadily as I would if Jennifer Lopez were cradling me close while cooing my middle name (my thoughts tend to wander during the backswing). Turn the hips and bring the club head downward.

And then: bliss. The ball explodes from the tee, levitating into an orbit that exhibits the most delicious hint of a draw, the ideal shape for navigating the most persnickety of pathways. It is, finally, joyously, impossibly, the shot of a lifetime, the rarefied moment of glory, the perfect exhibit of … actually, it’s none of this. It is a lazy meandering pooch of a drive that drifts, attracted by magnetic force and general unfairness toward the beast itself. Even before I even hear it, I know it’s coming: the knock of ball against branch, the belittling “thwock” that signals misery. And tells us we’re golfing in Colorado again.