In the Spotlight: Waterloo Golf Club
Haglund and Son: Waterloo Golf Club
“Someone made the statement that Donald Trump has built or owns the greatest collection of golf courses, ever, in the history of golf. And I believe this 100 percent.”
As a boy in Connecticut I caddied for my father. One of the guys he golfed with was Joe “Long Ball” Thrall whose ‘80s hair blowing in the wind required no harmonica accompaniment. Another guy my father played with was Victor Reese, a retired attorney and WWII Veteran. This heroic soldier saved his platoon when he jumped on a grenade. Reese won a medal for his valor but he lost both hands.
Arnold Palmer taught players to “swing your swing.” He meant use what works best. Because I suffer from hip dysplasia I’m unable to pivot my lower body, the engine of the swing. To compensate I have to use my upper body, but I’ll never hit like “Long Ball” Thrall. Reese swung his swing by the use of two hooks in place of his hands. I don’t know what his handicap was but he didn’t let his injuries stop him from playing golf. That’s a profile of courage and valor. I never forgot that.
This article is the second on local golf courses. There are many fine courses nearby and I’d like to cover them all but I don’t think my ego could survive. Golf is like journalism; it’s a craft that demands years of practice, but you never get it right all the time.
The next stop on the 2017 summer tour is the Waterloo Golf Club, a 5,500 square-foot 18-hole course deep in the Township on Trist Road, so far off Mount Hope Road you might need your GPS if you plan a round. Be sure to bring your mountain goat because many are the hills and dales.
I play Waterloo often because of the camaraderie but learned quickly that picking up the wrong ball is not the way to make friends.
The owner and club pro at Waterloo, Keith Haglund, a Buckeye, lives in a house at the course with his wife Charlene, and son Keith, Jr. “I’ve been in this business since I was a caddy,” Haglund tells me. “Back then I didn’t even know how to change a cup.”
We sat at a table strewn with the latest editions of golf publications. Keith, Jr. is eating a chilidog. Golf-wise I’m not a late bloomer. When the doctor said “It’s a boy!” my father handed me a putter. That’s how Tiger got started but some of the worst days of my life have been on golf courses. Trust me.
Rush Limbaugh, who golfs daily after each edition of his radio show, describes the game as “humiliating.” Limbaugh once told an interviewer: “I actually think they should make prisoners play this game. It can be that frustrating.” Limbaugh also claims that he only shanks balls to the right, because, he says, “nothing good happens on the left.”
Haglund speaks wistfully of the ‘good ol’ days’ at Waterloo in the 1990s when the course was packed with golfers playing in leagues every night from April Fool’s Day until All Saints’s Day in November. Depending on how you play every round can feel like April Fool’s Day.
Haglund sighs. “It’s been steadily declining since then. I don’t know. Social media, maybe.” Now there are only two leagues a week. As a pastime, golf stands in a class by itself. Fishermen will sit in a boat for hours for a tangible outcome—fresh fish. Hunters rise before dawn and wedge themselves into deer blinds. If they bag a dear they can pack their freezer with venison. If they’re a real Hawkeye they bag a buck and mount it over the mantle.
Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated, is as rewarding as it is maddening. What does the hapless golfer hear if not the golf clap but jeering squirrels each time he watches another ball careen out of bounds?
Thinking on the late Victor Reese helps me put things into perspective. Complications with my hips have benched me for the season. I love the fresh air and sunshine, can tolerate squirrels, but more than anything I value my two hands.
Haglund says that Waterloo has been up for sale “for some time,” declining to divulge the asking price. Not that I’m interested. It sounds like a major lawnmowing headache. For Haglund, the fatigue of maintaining the course with a two-man crew and the costs necessary to keep Waterloo open is ever challenging. There’s a lot of land at stake. Haglund envisions that the property will become a subdivision within 20 years. Waterloo opened as a nine-hole course in 1963, back when water hazards were plaid.
“Everybody overbuilt courses,” Haglund says. “Too many 36-hole courses. They close a course daily but there’s still too many.” Though he has the bearing of the Maytag Man he is optimistic but this season only 20 members joined up. A seasonal membership costs $450.
Keith is the course. Waterloo is his masterpiece. It’s his canvas. He cares about the secluded spot. If I had to paint a portrait of him it’d be of him on his mower or training a garden hose on each dry patch of fairway. I’ve been playing there for two years and can’t recall the sight of threadbare greens or fairways thanks to the four capable hands of Haglund and son.
Waterloo Golf Club is located at 11,88 Trist Road in Grass Lake. Don’t be a fool. Call 517-522-8527 for a tee time. Walk-ons are welcome.