The bonding game at MysticalGolf in South Carolina
How often does a parent get to spend four uninterrupted days playing golf with a grownup son who is running a business and father of three? In the “Top 10” best life experiences? You bet. Whereas just getting ready to tee up requires a certain process on my part— stretching, hot shower, drugs (you know the drill) son Mike just needs to wake up and show up.
Thanks to Claude Pardue, owner of a trio of fine courses that make up MysticalGolf in South Carolina, that’s exactly what I got to do. Pardue invited golf writers and a guest to play a three-day best ball tournament. Mike and I are the only mother-son team in the field and after playing three years our expectations are realistic: have fun, don’t kill each other and don’t finish last.
Mike is a good athlete, runs daily and spends quality time in the gym. He hasn’t played much golf lately but hits huge when he catches it. I’m bringing muscle to the table for sure.
The first morning, we drive up to the first tee of the Witch, swamp on right, swamp on left with nasty-looking trees draped in moss.” You get a mulligan here,” laughs Pardue who is there to greet his golfing guests. We used it. Could have used a few more with carries over marshes to small greens and wild shots into the trees. Let’s just say, ham and eggs were not on the menu.
On the second hole, Mike is in the woods. No big deal except for a small tree that gets in the way of his back swing. The ball comes flying out and so does Mike holding his 6-iron snapped clean in half — his first golf trophy.
On the next hole as he did his practice swings, I did the mom thing. “Perfect,” I said in a calming tone.
“Now I just have to get a ball in the way,” he mutters. And he did carrying the hazard. Holing out he says, “This was a good hole. I didn’t lose a ball and I didn’t break a club.” And so it went.
I like the Witch. Designed by Dan Maples (like the other two), Witch is perfect for a round around Halloween. Even the clubhouse has a roof shaped like a witch hat and a logo of a witch riding a broom. Still this is not a gimmicky track. It’s a solid course and if you keep the ball in the fairway, you can score. Or you can lose a lot of balls. We’d brought plenty.
That night Pardue had invited his guests to “One” at the Alabama Theatre where country meets Radio City Rockettes. Despite the fact that Mike’s last concert was an I-Heart Rock Festival, this nod to the oldies with some show tunes thrown, in was good for the soul, right up to a rousing Branson-like finale of “God Bless America” and falling streamers.
The next day it was off to play the Wizard where the clubhouse looms out of the landscape as a ruined castle. “It has no second story,” says Pardue. “I just wanted something people would remember.” And as usual, Pardue and his staff were on hand to make sure everything rolled out smoothly.
The course was in great shape and with more open space to play with, Mike’s game was starting to settle down while mine continued at its typical boring bogie pace. Wizard is fun to play with a lot of different elements like mounding, pot bunkers, large greens and three beautiful finishing holes going around and over water.
“My goal is to finish the hole,” said Mike as he teed up at #17 to an island green. He did. High fives.
The final morning was gray, drizzly. Grumblings were overheard at breakfast. Seemed some were heading home. “What do you want to do?” asked Mike.
“Up to you,” I said thinking he would want to get back to Charlotte, his family and his business.
“I’m game,” he said making my mommy bones happy. I was thrilled he wanted to stay and play. Man O’ War is a beautiful course wrapped around a 100-acre lake that gobbles up errant shots. (Claude had told us his divers recently pulled out 32,000 balls in two days).
In the clubhouse golfers were milling around, drinking coffee and picking out their free logo shirts. No one was putting on rain gear. We ran into good friends, a golfing couple from Scottsdale, Arizona. “We’re playing,” they said. “Want to join us?”
“Why not,” said Mike. “I either have to drive in the rain or play in the rain. I’d rather play golf.” We motored around the course in three hours as the skies gradually cleared. We had a blast.
Did we finish last? Close. But we did finish at the top of the ratings for four great days of mother-son bonding. “I always look forward to coming down here. It’s one of my yearly highlights,” said Mike. “And I still have some balls left.” Can it get any better!
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