He stopped short of his ball and got out of the cart. Frankie had taken a few clubs and climbed on the back with Steve and Lou. There was a large distance between their three balls and his. He had hit far enough to the left that he knew that though his ball was the longest, he would be away. He walked over behind his ball, checking his lie. When he looked up and sighted around the bend, some things became clear.
He knew he should have seen it when he started the round. The eighteenth green finished near the first tee, at right angles to it, and beyond the green, which he could now see, was the clubhouse. When he began, he had been too intent on getting involved with the three, and he had not looked around much. In the middle of the fairway, about two hundred and fifty yards from where he was and another hundred or so from the green, was a massive, domed mound of earth. It spanned the entire fairway, was pretty close to being circular, and there must have been a distance of at least a hundred feet from the flat of the fairway to its highest point. If it was the same on its far side as it was on this one, its diameter would be a good seventy-five yards.
There was rough growing on it that looked from this distance something like Eastern hog cranberry. The rough looked thick, but it was very even, probably kept that way by a grounds-keeper, and the evenness accentuated the symmetry of the mound. It did not look like any natural upheaval of land; it looked distinctly manmade.
On top of the mound, bright in its colors and at the dead center, was the largest totem pole Allen had ever seen. The pole rose a good thirty feet up in the air. Its painted shaft was three times the size of a telephone pole, and it had six brightly painted faces, with hawknoses, scowls, smiles, and appendages to their sides (ears or wings) that stood out yards away from it. On the very top, and not like any totem pole he had ever seen, was a larger than life-size figure of an Indian, dressed rather simply in a fringed outfit, a band with one feather in it around his head. He was standing very straight and still, arms at his sides, in his left hand what looked from this distance like a small tomahawk.
In the other was a quiver of arrows, and there was a bow hanging from the shoulder.
Allen shifted his eyes to the side of the mound and over it to where he could see part of the green with the clubhouse beyond it. Then he looked back at the stolid figure. Though the mound protected the green, the figure did not seem to be
standing there for that purpose. It was as if he were apart from any concern. If he had some interest in events having to do with playing the hole, that interest was directed back to the potential of tee shots reaching the bend. He was high up and as such seemed apart from developing clusters of relationship that might occur below him. In this sense, the figure had a strange and distant austerity about him. He looked, also, extremely funny, like something from a miniature golf course designed for giants. On impulse, Allen yelled across to the others and pointed.
“Look at that!” he said. He saw Frankie nod. Steve just looked over at him. Lou was busy in his bag, and he acted as if he did not hear.
He felt he wanted to just stand there for a while, to just take the thing in, to fit it into the day, but he knew he did not have time for this. He looked over to check the rationale behind Steve's shot. The three of them had trees to go over, but the trees were lower near the bend than the ones that had obscured them from the tee. There was, in fact, a kind of passage of low trees that one could get a three â or a four-iron over from where they were. A fairly good shot over the trees would fly the right side of the mound, and he judged that such a shot would bring the player to within seventy-five yards of the green, out in the open, with an easy wedge into it. If-and this was about the worst that could happen-the shot came up short, there was sufficient room between the edge of the mound and the right rough that the player could come down there and be left with no more than a hundred or a hundred and twenty yards in, again with an open shot. He, on the other hand, had trouble.
By playing to the left, for what he thought was the clear line in, he had made the hole play very long. He was almost three hundred yards out from the tee, but he had over three hundred left to the green-well over it, he guessed. From his angle, he did not have the play the others had to the right of the mound. He thought he could reach the side, but if he did, the ball could well jump down or roll into the trees. They were thick there, and he
could get hung up badly. If he played to the left of the mound, a longer shot, he would surely wind up in the trees on that side of the fairway. He could see the white out-of-bounds stakes, pretty close in on that side, and he could not think to risk that shot either.
He looked over and saw that Steve was getting impatient. He was taking abbreviated practice swings with a three-iron, stopping that every few swings, putting his hands on his hips. Allen decided to prolong it a bit. He took a three-wood out of his bag, took a couple of practice swings, then walked back and sighted his line. Then he shook his head and started to walk over to where the other three were standing. It was a long walk, and he took his time. Steve took a short and vicious little swing with his club as Allen walked up to them.
“About this obstruction out there, what are the rulings?” he asked, looking from Lou to Steve.
“What do you mean?” Steve said, looking down at his club head, chipping at the top of the grass.
“I could mean, what's gonna happen if I hit it.”
“You'll probably lose,” Steve said, still chipping away.
“But what I mean is, is it in bounds, and what's the ruling if I hit that cute pole?” Steve looked up sharply, obviously angered at his use of words.
“Up to the redskin on the topâthat's King Philip; that's an authentic copy of a Pima pole; that's a real Indian burial site under thereâIf you hit the pole, you play it where it drops, as long as it falls in bounds. The mound is a natural obstruction; it's played as rough. You play the ball where it lands. Rub of the green. You got that?”
“Got it,” Allen said, smiling into Steve's anger, and walked back across the fairway to his ball. He had made his decision before coming over to them, but he wanted to get everything articulated before he hit. He did not much like hearing that it was a burial site. He did not think the Pimas had been Mound Builders, nor did he think they had used poles. He was not sure, though.
He did think he remembered that King Philip had something to do with events not out here but back East.
He had taken the three-wood out so that Steve would see it and anticipate his shot. When he got back to the cart, he replaced the wood and took out a three-iron. He stepped up and addressed the ball, and he felt the rush coming as he locked in. The ball was a Golden Ram, the highly compressed one. He liked to play it because it felt like a stone when he hit it. It was especially good for chipping. He saw that the ball had come to rest in the grass so that only the
of the letters on it were showing. He felt his chest begin to hum as he saw the crisp gold lettering on the dimpled white surface of the sphere that sat like a found egg in its grassy nest of green at his feet. He lay the silver of the club head down carefully to the right of the ball, the face with its straight horizontal etched lines and its slight pitch.
As he shifted his feet and got set, he looked into the geometry of the grass, a few blades touching the ball, the rest growing in the direction he would hit. He would caress a little of the grass on his way to the ball, but he would not bruise it, and it would affect nothing. In front of the ball, about two inches from it, was where his small carpet of divot would be cut cleanly and lifted. He would see sky as the ball left him, then he would see the fine carpet rise up, then he would see the ball again about fifty yards from him, flying, then the carpet would re-enter his vision as it reached its peak of flight, then it would drop out of his field as it fell to the ground.
He addressed the ball with the club shaft held by its grip at a level with his crotch. He held it as firmly and safely as he would have held himself there in other circumstances. Then he moved his hands slightly to the left, bringing them over the ball, angling the club shaft slightly so that the head was behind the ball, his hands over it, and when he came through it and hit it the whip at impact would give it backspin, the letters of its name spinning toward him as it left the club face, and it would stop close to where it landed.
Then he was ready, relaxed, still, and set. He made of his head the fixed center of his body, picturing a plumb line hung from a point below the fossa containing his pituitary gland in the center of his skull, standing in space and ending at his crotch, with the line held still by the weight of his scrotum. The club head and the glint of the shaft left his field of vision; his left hip turned inward slightly, his right back, but his head remained still in the pivot. He reached the top of his backswing, and the shaft paused for a fraction in time before starting down. As it moved into its arc, he could feel in discrete increments the growing weight of the club head as the centrifugal force increased. His body compensated, the plumb line swinging fractions to the left as his hip moved, toward the potential line of flight. Then the shaft and the club head entered his vision again, moving toward the waiting ball. The ball swelled out and hardened as the head approached it. Then there was the click and the bite of the blade cutting the back of the divot. The ball lifted, the divot rose, his head began to turn on its axis; he saw the ball and the totem pole, large and imposing and silly in the sun, then the divot came up, showing its green side, then it floated away. When it was gone, the ball was at the top of its arc. It stopped there, and then it started its gradual decline. When it hit, it stirred nothing, it simply disappeared into the top of the mound, six feet to the right of the pole.
He sighed. Then he inhaled. Then he lowered his club from where he had brought it to rest on his left shoulder after finishing his swing. He walked up a few feet and picked up the pelt of divot. He came back and fitted it into the space from which he had cut it. He stepped on it and tapped its edges down with the head of his club, folding the edges of grass together. Then he walked back to the cart and replaced his club in the bag. He stood beside the cart and looked over at the others.
“Are you all right?” Frankie called over to him. All three were looking at him. From where they were they could not see where his shot had landed; they had no vision of the mound top and the pole.
Frankie addressed his shot then and hit it. From where Allen was he could see it come down. As he. expected, it came to rest to the right of the mound, between its base and the rough, an open shot to the green. Frankie looked over at him. He made a circle with his thumb and index finger, raised and shook it in the air.
Lou's ball came to rest somewhere in front of the mound; it was obvious from the trajectory and force of his hit that it was well out and safe. Lou looked over at Allen quickly, but before he could give any sign, he looked as quickly away. Steve hit the best shot of the three. He was to the right of Lou, well out in the fairway beyond the mound and visible from where Allen stood. Steve gave him no glance at all, letting him know that he knew where his shot had gone and did not need any confirmation.
When they came around the turn in their carts, the mound loomed even larger than it had appeared from the openness of the fairway before the turn. It was monstrous, and the totem pole, he thought, must have been a good six feet in circumference. Looking up at it from the base of the mound, it stood against the clouds in the sky. They stopped their carts short of Frankie's ball.
“Am I away?” Frankie asked Allen.
“Depends upon height,” he laughed, “but maybe so.” The other two refused any hint of curiosity, and when Frankie looked over at them, they did not look back. “I'll hit then,” he said.
He used a seven-iron, hit his usually low, short iron shot, but he hit it too firmly. It landed on his side of the flagstick over the small trap, but it had a lot of roll in it, and it crossed the green and moved well into the rough on the other side.
“Shit,” he said, and rammed his club back into his bag.
Allen reached to his bag and selected a nine-iron; then he put it back and took out an eight. He put that club back and unbelted his entire bag from the cart. He slung it over his shoulder and started up the slope of the mound. When he got to the top, he slung his bag from his shoulder and rested it in the grass.
At its crest, the mound was still curving; and he could see that the massive totem pole had been set directly in its navel. He glanced
down to where the others were waiting. He was about twenty yards to the right of the pole, and the three below him could see most of him. At the same time that he was about to suggest that one or more of them come up, he saw Steve bend over and talk sharply and briefly to Lou. He guessed the reason. Steve thought he might be partly out of sight when he found his ball, and he did not want him improving his lie. Lou jumped from the cart and trotted up the mound, slowing to a walk when he was about halfway up. This was the first time he and Lou had been alone, and he decided to use that. He knew that any prolonged talk between them up there would get to Steve.
“Hey, Lou,” he said, “good view from up here, huh?”
“Right,” Lou said, then quickly, “where's your ball?”
“Somewhere over there,” he said, waving vaguely with his arm but keeping his eyes on Lou, and then looking past him to where Steve was sitting in the cart watching. He reached down and got a club out of his bag, a five-iron, and toyed with the grass at his feet while he talked. He figured Steve might think his ball was where they stood. He would surely wonder what he was doing with the club. He took a practice swing, not touching the ground.