Marolt: Golf is the new reindeer game

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

It’s the holidays again, and that means lots of time to spend with relatives and other nice presents. Often the celebrations occur in familiarly exotic places like yours or your spouse’s hometown. Our family is on the complicated alternating-year schedule. Although set up to be simply formulaic, I always seem to be off-guard packing the car to head to Midland, Texas, for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, depending on whether or not the current year is divisible by two. It seems rather random.

At any rate, the turkey was delicious this year or, at the very least, not nearly as dry as last year, which my late great- uncle Steve was fond of joking at the end of every Thanksgiving dinner as long as anyone could remember, and it might have served him right if one year somebody prepared for him a savory meal of turkey goo swimming in watery gravy and cranberry gazpacho. Turkey can get only so moist.

And yet, the holidays are not all about the meals, in spite of the most interesting gossip and bickering occurring during those times when we are reminded at the beginning just how blessed we are. It’s what we do to aid the digestion process where the memories we try so hard to make are re-framed with hard, knotty oak instead of the more expensive but often hokey-looking veneer of rose or cherrywood.

When in the mountains, our tradition is skiing. It is here I set the pace and lay down the unwritten rules for a relaxing family outing. If not, I am adroit at feigning confusion and getting separated from the group to take a few runs alone. So expert am I at this stunt, if I may call it that, because it is, that on my return to the herd I can usually drum up a little sympathy from most.

The tables are turned in Texas, so to speak, so that when we push our chairs back we are facing in the direction of the golf course. If you ask me, four hours, 98 swings, give or take, and 18 long fairways to crisscross is overkill for proper digestion, but south of the Red River, this is not my call.

Our stomachs might have been more soothed with parsley sprigs this year. The day was stunningly bright, which is usually good, except that the course, which is perfectly lush for July pro golf tournaments, turns a uniform cream color when dormant in November that serves as perfect camouflage for golf balls. We lost balls in nearly every fairway. They were easier to find in the deep rough, where I hit most of mine.

My in-laws’ eyes aren’t what they used to be. To make matters worse, my son, Max, was recovering from a case of pink eye and had to use a three-prescription-old pair of glasses instead of his contacts. That left me and my scratched prescription sunglasses to track all balls for the foursome and then lead the hitters to their next shots.

It’s tough business watching tiny white balls tracing paths through hazy glare and memorizing their landing spots. I’d lead one person to their ball and while I was going for the next, the first person would hit theirs again. “I never saw it,” they’d yell to my back. I must have said, “you need to be patient and wait until I can look,” about 300 times. Herding excited golfers, wishing for eyes in the back of my head, needing 10 minutes to myself for a cigarette break; I felt like the last preschool teacher to call in sick on a powder day.

Compounding the problem were my left-leaning politics, expressed contentment in living north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and my Toyota Prius. In Texas, this trifecta basically qualifies me to be a woman, and in the Lone Star State women generally aren’t allowed to drive golf carts if there is any man present to do it for them. As if in a staged bonding exercise I was left to shout orders over and over again to may-as-well-be blindfolded drivers like, “A little left … no, too much, now straight … A little more … too far … go back 15 feet … watch out for the tree … right there!” By the end of the round I was as hoarse as a Green Bay football coach in January, but could talk faster than a seized drug boat auctioneer in Miami.

So, let the holidays begin! I hope all of your surprises truly do surprise you and you find happiness and joy in places you never expected — like at a country club in Midland, Texas.

Roger Marolt is happy to be back in a place where he can plan a family ski outing. Contact him at