It's what every recreational golfer wants: a walk-up tee time, a wide-open fairway and no other golfers messing with your mojo with slow play ahead or fast play behind. It was paradise.
If your idea of paradise is Florida in August.
But this was Indio, in the Coachella Valley, a place so sere it makes your lips fray, a place so hot they wrap the metal railings at the IHOP so you don't burn your hands. In Indio, in August, you expect heat. You do not expect humidity. But the monsoonal flow during last week's heat wave rendered this part of the world so tropical even local golfers who play at 6 a.m. slept in.
We are not local golfers. We slathered on the sunscreen, donned hats and filled the cooler with ice and water. When we teed off around 9:45, the starter at Eagle Falls said we were the only group on the front nine. Six or seven holes later, we were the only golfers on the whole course. For nearly 18 holes, the only humans we saw were three or four workers in wide-brimmed hats who were underpaid to maintain the course. Absent a hurricane, a plague of locusts or the apocalypse, that never happens.
When you must shape recreation around work obligations, you get flexible. Warm muscles are more limber, and when it's 100 (nearly 10 degrees cooler than the day before), flexibility isn't the issue. When we played last week, it wasn't the heat, it was the humidity (39%), courtesy of the monsoonal flow sending its regards from the Gulf of California. Even before the first wedge shot we were shvitzing enough to make a dent in the drought.
The day after we played, a reader asked golf writer Larry Bohannan in the Desert Sun, "You have written several times about playing in the summer. But honestly, who really plays in this heat?"
"Well," he replied, "there is a point at which it makes no sense."
In other words, it's not the heat, it's the stupidity.
It was so hot even the reptiles, who seek heat like my golf balls seek sand, were MIA. A little before 2, having finished 18 holes with a score lower than the temperature, we headed for the empty parking lot shouldering our golf bags with smug satisfaction. It wasn't the journey, it was the destination.
Today, I checked psweather.net, a Coachella Valley website. Yesterday, the maximum temperature in Plam Springs was 116 (one symptom of heat exhaustion is confusion). This morning at 10:36, it was 103, and by noon at Eagle Falls, it was 104, humidity only 16%. According to the guy who answered the phone in the pro shop, nobody was playing.
Photos: Ellen Alperstein