So, the Golf Guys, our regular group of players who continue to attempt to master the game, recently returned from our annual Carolina mountain golf trip.

Happy to report there were no injuries. That’s always the first goal. 

The autumn colors, always a highlight of any trip into the mountains in October, were heading toward their peak at the higher elevations, so that was nice. Sometimes the colors are so vibrant that you spend more time gazing at them than your shot, which is a very fine excuse for a shank.

The weather was quite excellent.

And the meals were good.

The golf? Oh, that. There were two rounds on the same course – Mount Mitchell Golf Course, a quite beautiful layout, and the low score was 84. We won’t talk about the high scores here. Serves no real purpose.

The most fun in gatherings of this sort is the closest-to-the-pin competition on the par 3s. Even bad golfers can occasionally hit good shots into par 3s, so everybody is prize-eligible.

The prizes on Day One were quite modest (the Guys are not big spenders). A pack of high-end hand sanitizers. A Spider-Man Pez dispenser. Some very fragrant car fresheners. You get the picture.

Against all odds, I was closest to the pin on three of the four par 3s, which means I won three prizes (well, not really, because I bought the prizes, but let’s not quibble).

On Day Two, the par 3 competition involved money. Now we’re talking. Everybody put in a buck on each par 3, and the closest to the pin on each won the big bucket of cash. Of course, with real money on the line, my par 3 tee shots landed, in order, in the high rough, barely on the green, on a cart path and near a creek. On an otherwise splendid day, I’m down four bucks.

Sigh. This happens often. The answer is practice, practice and more practice, and I’m fortunate in that my backyard is big enough to contain a par 3. Well, not a formal golf hole, but the distance from one property line to the other is about 90 yards, so I can fire a pitching wedge from one side to the other and pretend it’s a par 3.

It’s no surprise that I often overshoot my pretend green (sometimes I just feel like DeChambeau), sending golf balls into the neighbors’ yards. They don’t seem to mind as long as I retrieve them, but if I find out either neighbor has bought a Doberman I’ll be practicing elsewhere. Fortunately, they’re not like those grumpy people who live adjacent to fairways and object to the occasional wayward drive falling into the yard. Their no-trespassing signs often are quite creative, if a bit nasty.

So, it’s back to the backyard and more attempts to perfect the short-range shots. This is a fair warning if you’re a delivery person or a meter-reader. Golf balls are in the air.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.