Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands


Serving Orlando Golfers Since 1924

April 10, 2013

A few of the sights around Dubsdread Golf Course in Orlando.

There used to be a bar, called the ABC Lounge, in the back of the liquor store near the 14th tee at Dubsdread Golf Course

, in Orlando. Golfers would stop there for 99-cent bourbon-and-Cokes before facing the final five holes, and sometimes they would linger. A regular I played with said he once saw eight golf carts parked by the door. The bar closed 14 years ago, but the liquor store is still there. An employee told me that, when guys wearing golf shoes approach the register, other customers will usually step aside, thereby showing more concern for pace of play than many golfers do.

Dubsdread opened as a nine-hole course in 1924; a second nine opened two years later. The course was part of a residential subdivision, whose streets eventually included Mashie Lane, Niblick Avenue, Bunker Place, Hazard Street and Midiron Drive. Patty Berg, Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead and Babe Zaharias, among many others, played there in the '40s and '50s, and the Orlando Open was held there from 1945-'47. A photograph in the clubhouse shows Ben Hogan putting in 1947 with a cigarette in his mouth and a sweater draped over his shoulders. The city of Orlando has owned Dubsdread since 1978, and, unlike many municipalities that have stumbled into the golf business, it treats the course as a civic asset rather than a nuisance. In 2008, it undertook a huge renovation, during which it updated all 18 holes and closed a section of a public street that used to cross the 17th and 18th fairways.

I teed off by myself, but on the second hole I joined Fletch, a semi-retired accountant, and Brian, his son-in-law, who is in the building-supply business. Brian lives nearby and gives Fletch hybrid clubs and gentle swing advice, plus the occasional grandchild. On one hole we passed a house that serves as a sliced-drive collection area. I saw balls in the yard and on the roof and was reminded of a warning a golf developer once gave me: Never buy a building lot on the right side of any golf hole 180 yards from the regular men's tee. At the 17th, Brian pointed out a concrete utility pole, just beyond the green, that became locally famous in 2005, when a private airplane crashed into it. (You can watch a video of the crash online.)

The next day I played, Thursday, was the regular weekly competition of Dubsdread's women's association. "They're slow," the starter warned me, "and they play for blood." I arrived early and joined two my-age guys, Mark and Joe, who have played together for years. Mark is the online manager at a Chrysler dealership. His son, he told me, is an Army sniper-in-training, and his daughter is a college senior. "As soon as she gets a job," he said, "I'm going to retire and move in." Joe is a sales rep at a different Chrysler dealership. He smoked Pall Malls and was as gloomy as if he expected to be led from the 18th green to the gallows. "I used to be able to play him even," he said, nodding toward Mark. "But that's gone, like everything else." From the 10th tee, I watched a guy on the driving range talk on his phone, which he was holding in his right hand, while hitting one-handed wedges with his left hand and smoking a cigarette. As Dr. Johnson said, in a different context, "It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

For lunch, I had a bacon cheeseburger in the Tap Room at Dubsdread, where Brian's rehearsal dinner was held. There are many photographs on the walls, including one of Joanie Dann, a granddaughter of Dubs-dread's founder, teeing off in the first International Peewee Championship, in 1947. (Nine years later, she married Dave Ragan, who won three times on the PGA Tour and was a member of the 1963 U.S. Ryder Cup team. He now teaches.) After lunch, I hung around on the practice green with Andy, whom I'd seen in the restaurant, and Norman, a friend of his. Andy was drinking beer and putting with a guy whose name I didn't catch. They were playing for progressively higher stakes--club, city, state, country, world, solar system, universe--and, while they toiled, Norman explained how he and Andy had secured Jack Nicklaus' victory in the 1986 Masters. "We were watching it on TV," he said, " and we realized that the only way Jack wins is if Seve hits it fat on 15. So we give him the evil pinkie." (Curved little finger, wiggling.)

"We tried it a few other times, in other sports," he said, "but it never worked again. So I guess it was a one-time thing."