Rochester’s winter months seem to have finally ended. The skirts, sandals and shorts have reappeared, and we have had more than a few beautiful days. How can one be sure that spring is here to stay and that it will not snow tomorrow, as it did on Sunday? One need only look past the Frisbee players who have been outside for weeks, even months, to see the sport (or competitive athletic activity) that signifies the official arrival of spring at UR: Campus golf.
“It’s that coveted thing you wait for as winter passes,” Sigma Alpha Mu brother and senior Brian Hanson said.
Campus golf, like real golf, provides a fun way to enjoy the beautiful weather and relax with friends. A round of campus golf, however, is accessible to anyone with any level of experience or inexperience, unlike a round of real golf, which may be embarrassing or impossible to complete for a first-timer. To play a round, one only needs a tennis ball, a seven-iron, eight-iron or nine-iron and a few other players; no tee time is required.
“The worst golfer can go out and play campus golf and not look like a complete fool,” senior Samuel Selonick said.
Having the fundamental skills, while not necessarily required to make a legendary campus golfer, definitely provides an advantage to players with real golfing experience, many of the campus golfers acknowledged. Knowing how to swing, which may seem to be a requirement, is actually less important than one may think because the game uses a tennis ball, not a golf ball.
Campus golf dates back to the mid-1990s when some fraternity brothers grabbed golf clubs and tennis balls, created courses unique to their houses and created an innovative, new game. At that point, the course maps were not drawn, which created an oral tradition, with brothers passing the knowledge of the courses from generation to generation. Since then, the houses have mapped their courses, though they keep the maps secret.
Most of the courses start on the Fraternity Quad, where the first cup is the flag pole. From there, depending on the fraternity, the course may either go across Wilson Quad to the Residential Quad or across Wilson Quad and Susan B. Anthony Halls. Both Sigma Chi and SAM have holes on the Academic Quad, a signature hole, which they both acknowledged was one of the hardest holes to play because of its yardage and all of the people who sit there.
Do not be fooled into thinking that campus golf eschews all formality because it encourages and celebrates pseudo-old man, country club fashion. The sport follows the same fundamental rule of its more conservative cousin, Play it as it lies, though adherence to the rule varies from house to house. Under SC rules, if a player hits a ball onto concrete, he may move the ball to the nearest patch of grass as long as he does not move the ball closer to the cup. SAM rules regarding cement are a bit more complicated. If a player hits onto a cement walkway in front of Wilson Commons, he has landed in an imaginary water hazard and must take a one-stroke penalty.
Despite campus golf’s current popularity, the sport was not always as popular as it is now, the players said. Part of its recent success may be attributed to the Sigma Chi-Phi Kappa Tau Campus Golf Tournament, UR campus golf’s equivalent of the Masters Tournament. In late April, 100 players, many of whom have spent the last few weeks practicing, descend upon UR’s fabled links to test their skills against some of the best and worst players on campus. The tournament may not award a snazzy green jacket to its victor, as the Masters Tournament does, but it does give prizes for the lowest score, best costume and other accomplishments. Last year, someone played in a banana suit.
Most of the golfers who interviewed for this article, regardless of fraternity house, agreed that nothing interferes with the game more than friendly people. Those people who enjoy sitting on the grass on the quads, though they may not realize it, are sitting in the middle of the fairway, sometimes even the green, and many of them tend to throw balls back when they see them rolling. This interruption of play frustrates regular players, though they acknowledged that freshmen and sophomores are usually the ones who return the balls because they are not familiar with the game.
Next time there is a beautiful day, why not get a foursome together and whack some balls on one of UR’s golf courses? If you would prefer to just lay in the grass, however, have some respect for the athletes who are trying to play around you and leave the ball where it lies.
Fleming is a member of the class of 2010.