He could have purchased a nice watch, or a car, or a fancy meal.
Instead, for his 75th birthday, Suffolk Hills resident Bob Knych gave himself a four-hole, backyard golf course.
Spliced between prickly pear cacti and creosote bushes lie 15- to 20-foot diameter, twice-washed sand circles, all surrounding a cup with a flagstick in it.
To buffer the possible long shot, Knych lined the backside of each hole with fake pine Christmas trees – 37 to be exact – that he purchased from the Salvation Army after the holidays.
He did all of this with a few hundred dollars.
“You can pay Jack Nicklaus a million dollars and he will come out and will scribble something on a piece of paper for you,” Knych said. Knych didn’t contact The Golden Bear. He spent about $500.
Knych and his friends come to the El Gato Golf Course, work on their chipping games, and have a good time.
“Golf is my hobby,” Knych said. “This is a good way to improve a very important aspect of your game.”
On his course-christening day in December, about 25 people came out for the celebration, and a dozen or so played the four-holed course. Each put in a couple bucks to make the game a little more interesting.
His flyer from the party sat on the table, with a list reminding attendees to bring their clubs and their wallets.
“No one has hit a hole-in-one,” Knych said of the course. “But maybe we will see one today.”
Knych hit a couple balls in the direction of the first hole, about half a football field away. Some were a little short, some a little long, and a few landed pretty close to the cup.
Walking up to the flat sand green, Knych carried his pitching wedge (the only club needed for the course), a putter and a pad of artificial grass for his next shot.
He has been practicing on his little backyard creation.
Knych isn’t the only one on his street to install tees and “greens” his backyard. Though he doesn’t golf, next-door neighbor Terry Shelton has also put in a chipping pad and green.
“I love tennis, so that’s why I put in a golf course,” Shelton explained. “My original idea, when I moved here, was to put in a tennis court back there. But, with the slope of the land and with the wash back there, there wasn’t room for it. So I thought ‘well, this could be fun’.”
Shelton went a little above and beyond with his golf course, spending $7,000 to add rocks, and a grass putting green along with a little fringe. Knych said his sand green offers golfers “a really nice sand explosion when the ball lands close to the hole,” as compared with the carefully sculptured green his neighbor sports.
It might be a pipe dream, but both Shelton and Knych would like to have everyone in their neighborhood have a hole or two in their backyards. That way, everyone can play, and they can have a longer course.
“I am happy with what I am doing,” Shelton said. “But if the other people (in the neighborhood) would like to put a hole in, we could all shoot around from yard to yard. That would be nice.”
It may just stay a dream for the pair – at least for the time being.