I left Peaceful Acres Horses in Pattonsville, NY at 9:30AM, anxious not to create the time pressure of a late arrival at my next destination. Usually the stretch between Albany, NY and Buffalo, NY is pretty easy — light traffic (except for the cities of Utica and Syracuse) and pretty mountain scenery. But this time, a front blew through somewhere between Utica and Syracuse, with rain so intense that I decided to pull off at the Juniata Springs rest area and wait it out.
I killed about half an hour there before the rain let up enough for me to see well enough to continue; from there it was about ninety minutes to my destination for the evening, Destroyer Park Golf in Akron, New York, another truly distinctive Harvest Host.
Genial hosts Chris and Chris welcomed me to the course and allowed me my choice of parking spots. After unhitching the camper and getting settled in, I went to the pro shop and registered for a round of “park golf”, something I have never before played.
Apparently, park golf started in Japan in 1983. Destroyer Park Golf is named for Dick Beyer, AKA “The Destroyer”, a professional wrestler in the days before WWF, who spent many years wrestling in Japan and enjoyed the park golf game there (in America, he was known as “Doctor X”). After retiring from wrestling, he founded this park golf course, the first and only certified park golf course in America.
His daughter Chris, and her husband Chris, now run the business. The pro shop also serves as a museum to the Destroyer’s memory.
I think that if golf married croquet and had a baby, that would be park golf. The game is played over an eighteen-hole layout, just like traditional golf, but each hole averages only about sixty yards long.
The game is played with one club, much like a short-handled driver; every shot is taken with the same club. Park golf is a ground game, as the club has no loft — you cannot hit the ball in the air with this club and so there are no sand traps, as there would be no way to hit out of them. There are, however, water hazards and the occasional tree in the way.
You can just see the tops of my shoes in the picture on the right. It is hoped that you can infer from the photo that the ball (which floats, by the way! If you hit it in the water, there is a net on the shore with which to fish it out!) is about three times the size of a regular golf ball (and you get your choice of colors so nobody in your group would be confused about which ball is theirs!) — and the hole is a veritable bucket compared to a traditional golf hole. Each tee box is a large square of outdoor carpet, to which the plastic tee (a round brush-like device) is attached via a string (you can just see the tee under the ball in the photo at right).
I found that my best driver smash resulted in a worm-burning grounder about sixty yards long, perhaps a third of my usual (pathetic) distance. But the game is really fun! I found myself as excited about holing a long putt as I would be on a traditional course, and as irritated by a bad shot as well. Park golf would, in my opinion, be a great way to introduce a child or a beginner to the game — all the basic precepts are there but the game is much safer since the ball stays on the ground, and much easier since there are no decisions to be made about which club to choose.
The course offers leagues and tournaments just like any other golf course. My eighteen-hole round, where I was the only person on the course, took 45 minutes to play — a distinct advantage over the 4-hour commitment required for a round on a traditional course. And take a look at my score! If only I could shoot this well at a traditional golf course!!