Thanksgiving at Desert Mountain

I walked out onto the back patio of my cottage in shorts and a golf shirt. The concrete was warm under my bare feet, the Arizona sun warm on my legs. It was seventy degrees, windless and twenty percent humidity.

I could see across the thick desert scrub to the fairway 150 yards away; close enough to enjoy, far enough away not to be a nuisance. I stepped up on the built-in bench on the railing and could see all the way down the valley to the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium thirty-three miles away as the crow flies. With its big white dome, it always looks like some sort of flying saucer sitting out there. 

And then I could see the mountain ridges way out on the horizon. Later, extending a Google Map line between the house and the stadium, the most likely mountains on that line were fifty miles away.

I had just completed a call with my agent on the East Coast. We had been swapping phone calls for a week; he joked that with all the “Bill Rand’s” on his call sheet, it looked like I was a bill collector.

I intended to speak to him about my manuscript, Going For It: A Spiritual Adventure on the Champions Tour, about my nine-year effort to qualify on the Champions Tour; the book market and his enthusiasm had changed and I needed to see what was possible from where we were.

I expected a thirty minute call — he’s a great guy to talk to — and we spent an hour and fifteen minutes. He had come up with another idea of extending one of my blog posts to a book-length treatment using conversations with Tour pros just to get a published book under my belt.

I was interested in the idea, but that would be two more years away. So instead I convinced him that I could re-write the first fifty pages of the manuscript to get the narrative rolling immediately instead of wading through the intellectual underpinnings of my quest that made it so distinctive. He liked the idea and said that he would help.

The concrete under my feet added to the warmth in my heart.

I only had time for a quick lunch; I had my second lesson with our Director of Instruction who’s helping me tighten up my swing.

I drove the five minutes to our Renegade course, site of our new, five-bay, high-tech, Golf Performance Center. I grabbed a cart and headed down to the back of the range to the Center and the new short game area.

I grabbed my wedges and hit a dozen lazy lob wedges to get some feel going in my body and about two dozen sand shots to see if the old skills were adapting to the new swing. As I have so often said when people have complemented my short game, “If I didn’t have a short game, I’d have no game at all!”

Then I spent a high quality hour comparing what my coach was telling me, with what my body was telling me and what the four-axis camera system was showing us. The pictures don’t lie and I had to give up doing it my way. It was oddly liberating; I was moving on, moving away from stuck.

Afterward, I went up to the top of the range to test my self-sufficiency: ten 7-irons, twelve 5-woods and two dozen drivers as pure as I’ve ever hit. It was exhilarating that what we’d done in the hour before seemed to be translating to the real world.

That was particularly important because I’m on the first tee of our Chiricahua course at 9:48 for a Thanksgiving morning round. And as of this writing, I’m a single in a sea of foursomes giving me plenty of time for extra practice shots…and to take in the sweeping, spectacular views from up against the beginning sweep of the mountains. It’s the course the members take all of their guests to on their first visit.

A bobcat came out of the desert, strolled across the tee pad like a tame house cat, backed up to a pyramid of range balls and sprayed them. I’d never seen that before. It was so close and tame, I didn’t even think to roll my camera.

It strolled off the back of the tee pad and up onto the fringe of the large practice putting green. And then the drama began…which I began narrating for the Easterners who had never seen such a thing. A rabbit had suddenly appeared on the other side of the green and the bobcat immediately began an intense, completely absorbed stalking of dinner.

“I don’t know why, but watch. The bobcat will give itself away way too soon and the rabbit will get away. He’ll stay in his creeping stalk until he gets about halfway to the rabbit and then he’ll make a headlong charge. He’s not as fast as the rabbit and it’ll bolt into the desert bushes.” And that’s what happened.

On the way to the parking lot, I looped back by the Center and told my coach’s assistant to tell him that he was a genius.

The clubs in the car and the cart returned, I headed to our Sonoran Fitness Center with my gym bag.

I animated the oversized “lope-along” elliptical machine for about twenty-five minutes, did some pull ups and lat dips and did some quality stretching of my hamstrings, quads and calves. My headset kept me abreast of the day’s news on the televisions.

After a luxuriating hot shower, I headed home to the cottage and walked into the great room just as the sunset was turning crimson. My wife kissed me, fawned over me and fed me.

We watched a DVR of one of our favorite shows, she fell asleep on the couch and I began writing.

I am thankful for my blessed life…every day, not just on Thanksgiving.

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2 Responses to Thanksgiving at Desert Mountain

  1. Jed Fisher says:

    Great story Bill!

    I remember playing Desert Mountain on X-mas morning in 1996 when I had first moved to AZ. I played with some mini-tour pro’s and we had the course to ourselves. I remember rolling in an eagle putt on the back nine for several skins and a few thousand dollars. It remains one of my favorite Christmas days of all time. Ah the single life of a young aspiring golfer!

    Now 16 years later, married with 4 kids and another due in a few weeks this X-mas will prove to be special on a whole new level. I cannot wait to hold my baby Silas in my arms and usher in a new year. I no longer play golf due to multiple bouts of Melanoma over the last few years but the memories of my first X-mas round at Desert Mountain remain vivid in my mind. That place is magical!

    Great write up as usual Bill!

  2. Ron Sanders says:

    Great to hear you’re making progress in both your book and game. You are blessed with many skills that you work very hard. You’re a perfect example “as you shall sow, so shall you reap”

    Happy holidays from the Sanders’ wishing we were with you and all my friends at the Mountain