My husband, Byron, and I were lucky enough to grow up playing golf at the Briar Hill Golf Course in the mid 1970s. We recently read a quote from professional golfer, Annika Sorenstam, about the benefits of golf for children and teenagers: “It teaches patience, focus, determination, and how to listen to instructions.” We are not sure that golf strengthened any of those traits for us, but as we reminisced about our days at Briar Hill, we had a lot of laughs remembering all of the fun we had there.
My grandparents, Ed and Betty Slaughterbeck, lived across from Briar Hill and they kept a gas-powered golf cart in the garage for us to borrow. The best thing about that golf cart was its ability to backfire on demand when the driver rapidly accelerated. As you might imagine, a significant amount of effort was spent trying to perfectly time the acceleration so the backfire happened during another golfer’s backswing. It rarely worked but when it did, we laughed uncontrollably.
Another highlight of our time spent at Briar Hill was golfing with our younger brothers, Garry Brown and Gary Slaughterbeck. One time we saw a huge snapping turtle in the pond on Number Six and, for some reason that we can no longer remember, we caught it. We used our golf clubs to pull it out of the pond. Its shell was as big as a bushel basket. We examined the turtle and luckily released it with no damage to either the turtle or the golfers. With nearly forty years of hindsight, it no longer seems like a good idea to grab a snapping turtle with only a pitching wedge and golf cleats.
Byron and I chuckled a lot about golf clubs that we saw launched in anger at Briar Hill. I remember one round where a fellow golfer threw his putter in the pond at Number Eight. We both remembered a three-wood hanging over the tee box at Number Seven for several days before it fell from the tree. No names are being shared here to protect the innocent, but you know who you are.
Golf is a sport with many specific rules of etiquette. In our recollections, a group of teenagers at Briar Hill during a fun round of golf didn’t usually follow those rules. We are still smiling about Jim Tatham’s ability to tell a detailed story without hesitation during his own golf swing. We also think Adam Sandler might owe us royalties for the Happy Gilmore running golf swing that we performed nearly forty years ago. And who could forget the tee shots using a putter?
We also reminisced about some of the kind older golfers we knew at Briar Hill: Lowell Sewell, Kenny Judd, Ken and Peg Adams, Don Miller, Bruce Hillard, Ed Wheeler, and more. One time, a golfer in my foursome used way too much club for his approach shot on Number Nine. Luckily, Slim Longfellow was sitting in a rocker on the back porch of the clubhouse after completing his own round of golf. The approach shot was headed directly for the large plate glass window on the back porch and Slim calmly reached up and snagged the ball barehanded while still sitting in the rocker. When I later told my Grandpa Ed what had happened, he said that Slim had always been a good baseball player. I’m sure that he was a good fielder!
As teenagers, Briar Hill Golf Club was a great place for us to spend our free time. For the cost of a season membership, we had endless hours of entertainment. We were outside in the fresh air. We became acquainted with older adults who golfed there. We spent quality time with our younger brothers. Byron and I even went on many dates at Briar Hill. Best of all, we had a lot of good clean fun there and even forty years later when we were talking about this article, we laughed for several days about amusing Briar Hill memories. Interestingly, not once did we discuss what score we shot or where we placed in a tournament. In the end, it’s not about how well we golfed but about how fully we enjoyed the golfing experience. It seems like we were both winners in that category.