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Shell Shocked: The Par-Five Hole and the Alligator

By Staff | May 19, 2011

It’s hard enough trying to hit a golf ball without having to worry about alligators nipping at your toes.

My friend Ed and I were about to play a round of golf not too long ago at the Dunes when several golfers warned us about lurking alligators on some of the front holes. Being an ardent environmentalist I scoffed at the idea that alligators could affect my game.

In fact, I told Ed that if I spotted an alligator while attempting a chip shot I would hole the ball in one shot. He reminded me that I had made similar boasts in the past. “Do you remember when that anhinga was sunning itself on the fairway on the fifth hole and you said you could easily loft the ball over it?”

“Ed, don’t remind me, please,” I said. He started laughing. “Your ball was so close to that bird that he gave you the dirtiest look I’ve ever seen from a bird. He was amazed that a golf ball missed his beak by two inches.”

I said that was before I discovered a hitch in my swing. Ed said that the hitch in my swing might have started an Audubon Society demonstration right on the golf course. It was a close call.

“Do you really think I’m going to hit an alligator with one of my shots? He’d have to be awfully close,” I said.

And then we got in the golf cart and headed for the first hole.

Everything was going well. We made it through the first five holes with no environmental incidents. I didn’t hit any wildlife and my balls managed to stay straight and true – until we got to the sixth hole.

We had hit four shots into the middle of the fairway of a five-par hole and knew that we were both in for a quadruple bogey. Both of us are severely handicapped golfers. But we were having a lot of laughs and it was a beautiful day. Fortunately, there was no one behind us so we didn’t have to rush our game.

“Don’t move, there he is,” said Ed. “DON’T MOVE.”

“There who is?” I asked, not getting the drift of Ed’s meaning.

And then I saw it- a twelve-foot alligator lying right near the ball Ed had just hit. We were just getting out of the golf cart and the gator was a mere five feet away. It hadn’t moved.

“We have a dilemma,” Ed said. “Do we give up on that ball or play tough?”

“What do you mean ‘play tough’?” I asked incredulously. “Are you suggesting that you intend to amble up to that critter and hit the ball?”

Ed was serious. “I want to see if that alligator will prevent me from hitting that ball. I just need to be about two feet from him to get my swing in. If he lunges at me I can use my seven iron to hit him in the snout. But if he just sits there and lets me hit the ball I’ve got a story to tell my grandkids.”

“Ed,” I said. “Do you ever want to see your grandkids again? Then let’s get back in the cart and move on. Let sleeping dogs lie – or alligators as the case may be.”

But Ed had gotten it into his head that this was not only a golf game, but a basic test between man and beast. Naturally, he was rooting for man.

Without another word, Ed sauntered within two feet of the alligator and prepared to use his seven iron to try to reach the green. That was his first mistake. He should have used a driver. But fortunately, that was his only mistake. I can only imagine what was going through Ed’s mind. He had done some skydiving and mountain climbing. He must have thought that if he managed to survive those manly tests surely he could stand up to a twelve-foot alligator.

I held my breath. Ed approached his ball and was two feet away from the alligator. He lined up his shot, took a practice swing, while he eyed the alligator and then proceeded to hit the ball. I guess Ed wasn’t totally nerveless because his shot veered way off to the right and into a cluster of bushes. He then casually ambled away from the alligator and back to the cart.

The alligator never moved. It held its ground but never attacked. Maybe it was watching Ed’s shot to see if he hit it straight and true toward the green. Or maybe it was inwardly laughing at Ed’s wayward shot. Whatever the case, I sighed with relief. “Are you happy now that you avoided getting your legs bitten off? Was it worth the risk?”

Ed gave me a puzzled look. “It was the alligator that took the risk, not me. By not moving it avoided having to have a nose job. No one interferes with me when I’m trying to make par.”

I scratched my head and gave Ed an admiring look.

“Ed, my friend, I admire your courage and nerve. As for me, I’d rather take my chance with hitting a ball out of a bunker. Making par is less important to me than not being swallowed by an alligator. All I would contend with in a bunker is a lot of sand and not a giant row of razor sharp teeth.”

Ed and I continued to wage a friendly argument over the whys and wherefores of tempting an alligator until we got to the next hole. It was then that we both realized that another huge alligator was sunning itself in the teeing off area. We looked at each other and decided not to tempt fate. We got in our golf cart and skipped that hole altogether.