Bobby Jones Home to Memories

On Government


Part 1 of 3

Some of my fondest memories from about ages 11 through 15 take place at Bobby Jones Golf Club. A couple friends and I each paid the $3 junior golfer green fee to play the "executive" course. Thanks to the generosity of our parents who subsidized the remainder of that already subsidized rate and drove us to and from the course, golf was part of our adolescence. 

Too young to rent carts, we towed our off-brand and used clubs across Circus Boulevard and set out from the intermediate tee box at the first hole. The executive course is less than 20 percent of the complex, but it felt vast enough draw us back as often as we could go. Sometimes we waited for our rides at the "19th hole," totally unsophisticated and probably arousing suspicion as we simulated impending adulthood in the well-worn Tavern. Dissecting and digesting our minor triumphs and travails over ToastChee crackers and Cokes, we were absorbing themes that became more demanding as we matured. While golf looks staid, it is immensely variable. You can prepare diligently, but lacking a sense of humor will do you in. All is ephemeral: you might hit a hole in one on one hole and hit into the water hazard on the next. These aren't bad lessons for pubescent boys or persons of any age to learn and relearn, and out in fresh air at that. 

The putter and canvas bag that my late grandfather—who began golfing as a young man in Louisville and, after fighting in the Pacific during WWII, found peace and camaraderie playing on mostly modest courses in Sarasota starting in the 1940s—gave to initiate me into the sport are idle, covered in dust. A newspaper clipping from when my late uncle won his flight at the city championship at Bobby Jones lies under glass on a dresser at my late grandmother's home. I have repurposed a tee pouch into a coin pouch. 

Golf is losing ground in popularity to other pastimes. Too expensive and too elitist and too much of a strain on the environment, some say. I am part of that decline, and okay with it; I get my slow and challenging recreational sociability from yoga and hiking, which are less expensive and more sustainable than golf, if not always less time-consuming or more accessible. I hold onto the memories I have of Bobby Jones—like the time me and a classmate played with our Japanese exchange teacher, Mr. Toyodome, on the American course—but envision its future as something altogether different than what it has become.

Ryan Thompson studied environmental history at University of Florida and lives in north Florida. He can be contacted at

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