Kempf - Golf is a four letter word

Thursday, April 15, 2004

For years I thought an "eagle" was a national symbol of freedom and a "birdie" was something resulting from poor car-driving habits. I now realize these terms are part of an incantation which has cast a spell over kings and commoners for more than 600 years.

Those bound by the spell spend thousands and give hours of their life to chase a microscopic white ball over hill and valley in search of the perfect score. Those in the deepest clutches of this sport give up family roots, homes, even businesses to relocate to a place where the weather is better in the hope of achieving that perfect number.

As the weather warms, I see my own staff look at the blue skies, yearning to be with their first love. You know, the dirty four-letter word: g o l f. Before you use this article to train your new puppy or place me on your golf hit list, hear me out. In my younger years I had taken a shot at this insanity; however, I was one of the lucky ones who escaped this addiction.

During the early years of marriage, young newlyweds are under the delusion you are to be joined at the hip for life -- doing all things with your spouse. Well, golf shattered this dream within moments when my beloved husband of a few months said those three magic words: "Wanna play golf?"

We lived in my home town in Oregon. I still wonder how this sport survives in a state where people don't tan but instead rust, and when the sun comes out people think it's a UFO. But it was the one day when the glowing ball of gas made its annual appearance. As the game began, I learned quickly you can hit the ball the same way 10 times and get 10 different results. By the third hole, which was a par 3, I was on my 14th swing when I noticed golf begin its evil work.

As other members of the golf cult asked to "play through," which is basically saying "Get out my way you lousy player," those in my group suddenly hung their heads in shame -- and I was shunned. By the fifth hole, I discovered there are "sacred" balls in a side pocket of the bag, and if you hit four or five of them into a pond, you are politely asked to go back to the clubhouse and wait for the real golfers to finish.

It was there and then I determined golf was my enemy. Regardless, many of my clients, staff and friends are so highly addicted that I've been forced to help send them for regular "fixes." Here are my top five places for golf addicts to get help:

1. Hawaii

The 50th state is the No.1 destination. Perfect weather, spectacular terrain and the travel is affordable. We have a new charter product to Hawaii that offers free stops in Las Vegas, another golf mecca.

Ask your agent about the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort and Wailea Golf Club. This is the best island in the world, and the cult leader's name, Robert Trent Jones, is spoken everywhere.

2. Puerto Vallarta

Guess what? We have non-stop flights that in a few short hours will put you in the coastal village of Puerto Vallarta, once a hangout for John Wayne and Richard Burton. The El Tigre Course at Paradise Village serves the Sierra Madre Mountains in the backdrop of the 7,239-yard track.

3. Dominican Republic.

Yep, you guessed it. There is often non-stop flights to the golfer's dream. Casa De Camp Resort has been ranked in the top 25 of the world for over 30 years. The new Dye Fore Course ranges along bluffs 300 feet above the Chavon River.

4. Jamaica

Non-stop flights are often offered, and you can tee-off in less than four hours from leaving St. Louis. You must go the Tryall Club Jamaica or the Wynham Rose Hall. Layouts climb from the ocean to the 19th century greathouse. There is even an ancient sugar mill next to the tee.

5. Scotland

St. Andrews Bay Resort is a pilgrimage each follower must make once in their lifetime. I have often heard these poor souls say that once they reach the legendary "Old Course" they can die happy. Most clients are shocked when they hear how low and affordable travel to both Scotland and Ireland can be.

Carolyn Kempf is president of Elite Travel Inc. in Cape Girardeau. ( 334-1234 or www.elitetravelinc.com)

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