Golf series begins with one of state’s best courses

Ray Ramczyk admires his straight tee shot on No. 8 at Barn Hollow. The water hazard provides a stiff challenge on No. 9. (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press)

Ray Ramczyk admires his straight tee shot on No. 8 at Barn Hollow. The water hazard provides a stiff challenge on No. 9. (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press)

 

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in Sports Editor Mike Ramczyk’s summer golf series. He will be sampling a couple area courses and writing about his shenanigans.

Know of a good course, or would you like to play with Mike? Email him at sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com.

I love my job.

Any time you can cross something off your bucket list and get paid for it, you’re doing something right.

I had the privilege of golfing with my dad for the very first time Monday night at the Barn Hollow par-3 course at Hawk’s View Golf Club in Lake Geneva.

It was my first time hitting the links this summer, but my third time on the par-3 at Hawk’s View.

Though I’m not the best golfer (I shot a pathetic 59 in nine holes Monday), I somehow have the ability to teach my partner how tweak a thing or two.

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My former boss had never golfed, and I’d like to think my adjustments allowed him to land on the green on one of his tee shots.

While teaching my boss how to play better may have helped my job security, nothing compares to the joy of golfing with your father.

My dad, Ray, said he had only golfed a couple times before, over at Nippersink Golf Course in Genoa City, so the upgrade to Hawk’s View was significant.

With fast, undulating greens, straight yet sloped fairways and difficult, yet fun water hazards, Barn Hollow provides a five-star golf experience for everyone from the dominant athlete to beginners.

Several families were out on the course playing at their own pace, and children were able to maneuver their way around Barn Hollow with ease.

The shorter holes were ideal for Ray, who was still rocking his baseball swing and grip on the first hole.

At 77, he looks like he’s 55 tops and he was walking the course most of the time as I drove the cart.

On the first four holes, we both showed our rust. No. 2 was brutal. Ray’s tendency to slice landed him in the drink on his first two tee shots. He voiced his disgust.

Teeing off around 4:30 p.m., we took our time, taking photos and often teeing off several times because each shot was so bad.

Though I went swimming in the pond with my first drive on No. 2, I managed to crank my second tee far past the flag, which was 168 yards away.

At this point, I was intent on helping Ray more than playing well myself, so at least I could use that as an excuse.

By Nos. 3 and 4, I settled down and recorded a double bogey and bogey. Those were like birdies in my book.

Ray, on the other hand, struggled to find his shot. Though he shot 7s on both holes, tee shots were still skipping like rocks thrown in a lake, and his short-game stroke looked more like croquet than golf.

Ray is in the Burlington Baseball Hall of Fame for his days with the Burlington Merchants, and it showed with his swing. He held the club like a baseball bat, and he leaned onto his back foot after teeing off.

Picture Prince Fielder’s dramatic home run follow-through.

Ray admitted he was anxious to hit the ball, which resulted in a very short back swing. He was using his wrists more than his arms.

But my dad is an athlete, and any good athlete can figure it out with one small adjustment. When he let his natural talent shine through and stopped pressuring himself, things turned around.

“Golf is a frustrating game,” he sighed.

Your grip is everything

By hole No. 5, the ringer was in the house. Ray played possum the first four holes, but on the last five holes, he out-shot me, 27-30.

On No. 5, a 187-yard straight shot with minimal hazards except a few pine trees on both sides of the fairway, one small improvement changed everything.

I noticed Ray was gripping his 1-wood, or driver, like a baseball bat. Both hands were wrapped around the club, thumbs included. I suggested a new grip, where the top hand’s pinkie hooks the bottom hand’s index finger, and the thumbs line up with the club head instead of wrapping around the club.

On Ray’s first shot with his new grip, he smashed a beautiful, low line drive straight on that rolled within 5 feet of the green.

Ray found the bunker several times, but he always got out with ease. (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press)

Ray found the bunker several times, but he always got out with ease. (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press)

It was amazing. He looked like a natural. No more super-sized slice, and he was on his way. Ray proceeded to approach within 7 feet of the cup, and he sunk his par putt.

It was the only par of the day between both of us.

All of a sudden, Ray’s groans of “golf is frustrating,” “I hate making people wait for us” and “Hurry up, Mike” turned into “It’s all in the grip,” “We should come out here more often” and “It’s a beautiful course.”

Ray’s next tee shot, on No. 6, was similarly straight but wound up in the bunker. Instead of hitting the sand before the ball, Ray somehow just blindly smacked the ball as hard as he could (he hit out of the sand about five times on the day), and he would always get back on solid grass or the green. His unorthodox ways were his strength.

I, on the other hand, needed three shots to get out of one sand trap. Of course, they totaled maybe 10 feet.             On No. 7, the fun and games were over, and it was time to compete. On the previous hole, I four-putted and couldn’t read the greens, which were very fast, and Ray said, “You can’t hit it too fast.”

The student was now the teacher, and Ray was feeling good enough to give advice. I informed him that I had a six-stroke lead with three to play, and he put on his game face.

On No. 7, which posed a huge threat with a large pond directly behind the green, Ray’s approach was within feet of the green. My wild tee shot landed way to the right of the fairway and nearly in someone’s back yard, but my approach from about 75 yards out saved me. My long, uncontrolled tee shots caused me to faintly yell “fore” at one point.

Ray and I both proceeded to putt terribly, like usual, and each scored 5s.

With two holes to play, I figured my youth would lead me to victory, but Ray had other plans.

On No. 8, a 127-yard steep challenge that features a large bunker in front of the green, Ray couldn’t hit it in the sand fast enough. However, I followed it with a push shot roughly 40 yards left of the flag in the adjacent fairway.

While Ray safely shot out of the bunker, my second shot took a dip in that same sand. With a 7, Ray beat my 8 and gained a stroke.

It would take a miracle, but Ray only trailed by five strokes entering hole No. 9.

And with half the large pond hugging the left side of the fairway and green, one bad tee shot would make it interesting.

Ray continued his lights-out play. He utilized his classic line-drive special and was on the fairway about 40 yards from the cup.

Since it was the last hole, I took out the 5-iron and made sure I didn’t stop driving until I hit a good one. After the first shot chunked and only went about 75 yards, my next shot sliced more than a loaf of bread and landed a good 20 yards past the flag. I tended to severely underestimate my strength.

My third tee shot was a dandy, settling about 5 feet from the green in the short grass.

We weren’t following the rules very closely, so I played the third ball. Like a good dad, Ray didn’t mind.

I finally two-putted and got my second bogey of the day. Ray needed to three-putt, but he was right behind me with a 5.

We shared a firm handshake and a hug, and Ray’s million-dollar smile was worth every bit of the two hours on the course.

“Love ya, dad,” was followed by “love ya, bud,” and we headed back to the clubhouse.

 

An all-around gem

While Hawk’s View is known for its two full-length 18-hole courses and Barn Hollow, its clubhouse and bar service are both top-notch.

Appetizers ranged anywhere from $6 to $12, but we weren’t shorted on our choice of hot wings. A Reuben quesadilla was another tantalizing choice.

Ray and I split a “Crazy Burger,” the special of the day, which included Applewood smoked bacon and tasty cheddar cheese.

The general manager informed us that Hawk’s View is one of only five state courses with a five-star rating. With nine-hole prices as low as $20 in-season and $10 in the fall, you get plenty of bang for your buck.

Though he isn’t the biggest golfer, Ray agreed that we should make golfing together a tradition. He turns 78 in October, and I’m lucky he can still motor around the course and play like he’s in his 50s.

I’ve golfed many times in my life, but this was the most rewarding experience. I love spending time with Ray, and I will never forget the way he turned the corner once he changed his grip.

He lit up like a kid in a candy store after each good hit, and he even almost sank a par from about 30 yards out. It rolled about an inch wide of the cup.

We shamelessly embellished our scores a little, failed to rake the sand and Ray didn’t wear the required collar shirt.

We are two players that knew we were going to hack it up out there, and we simply didn’t care.

It wasn’t about that. It was about a father and a son sharing timeless memories, suggesting ways to get better, cheering each other on and soaking up the top-notch, one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

Hawk’s View is the perfect place for any level of golfer, and I can’t think of a more peaceful course in the entire area.