Extravagant Humility

Steve Roberts color photo: mountains in full fall color
An eccentrically spiritual zillionaire of my imagination once asked me to design a “golf experience” on his private nine-hole course that comprised the backyard of his Adirondack summer cottage.

The only direction I received can be summed up by his remark: “Anyone who thinks this course is about golf will think naked skydiving is about transportation.”

And so it became the only course in New York State that forbid both the use of golf carts and the wearing of traditional golf attire.

Instead, it provided players access to every sort of clown costuming the world had ever known—including wigs and hats and jackets and tights, noses and knickers and stupendous bow-ties…and of course all color of shoes, each the size of a watermelon—from which guests were invited to create the ensemble of their choice for the day’s round.

Picture, if you will, the verdant expanse dotted by golfing clowns accompanied by caddies dressed in white jump suits.

A round also included a nine course gourmet meal, one scrumptious tidbit served at the completion of each hole.  And since it was not unexpected for a golfer to faint in gastronomic ecstasy, downy chaise lounges dotted the fairways, a reminder that to enjoy playing this course one must rise above the tyranny of deadlines and protocol.

Another idiosyncrasy: the prohibition of competition between players—as in, the player with the lowest score wins.  By contrast, a player at the start of a round was obliged to predict what his or her score would be; success being measured by how close one actually came to meeting one’s prediction.  Atop each scorecard was the message: “How well do you know yourself?”

Who could be surprised to learn that I named this course Extravagant Humility.

I created this experience in honor of my pop, who, 40 years ago today, on a beautiful fall morning, was out on the links of his favorite nine hole course with his pals.  I can just hear him thinking, “Boy, what a great day to die.”  Heck, he’d known quite a while that he was living on borrowed time.  His heart had been giving out for at least a decade.  And since, in many ways, my father had lived a charmed life, no one who knew him was surprised to learn that he died just as he wished, lying in the rough, looking at the sun.


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The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth