Monday, October 6, 2014

Ozymandius Plays Through

Having an interest in history will influence how you see things.  Recently I visited a site that was a place of lonesome beauty.  I was the only observer on a day when autumn was at its magnificent best. But I could sense the presence of those who had been there in the past, small wandering bands armed with clubs and engaged in their peculiar rituals.

It was an abandoned golf course that was reverting to a natural state with surprising speed.

There are a lot of these out there I guess.  In the 1990s and for a few years thereafter golf courses were being build with giddy abandon.  Maybe it was the mirage of endless prosperity that would transform us all into idle gentry.  Maybe it was simply a part of the Ponzi scheme that the American real estate market had become before it came crashing down circa 2008.  But for whatever reason the numbers of golf courses closing has exceeded new ones opening for 8 straight years.

Exact numbers are a bit slippery, but as best I can tell, in the 15 years leading up to 2004 the numbers of courses increased by a exuberant 40%, topping out at around 16,000 (all such numbers are 18 hole courses...a 9 hole course counts as half!).  Since then there have been at least 500 closures, most of them small private courses.  Like this one:

Gently rolling savanna, the grass now waist high.

The "greens", now inaptly named.  For non golfers this is the area right around the hole.  As the most artificial part of the course it resists nature the longest.  Under the dense, dead grass there are presumably layers of packed clay.  I think this looks sinister.  It has the sort of stark, unnatural symmetry that I have seen on World War One battlefields where shell holes still persist a century after their sudden violent birth.

Or to continue the African veldt theme, perhaps they look like dead water holes, a place where thirsty beasts nuzzle the baked ground in faint hope.

Of the hand of man, there is little to be seen in most places.  The club house is long gone.  Like many courses there was an attempt to sell "luxury" housing adjacent to the place.  I encountered the last such building up on beams being prepared for moving elsewhere.

The property is apparently being allowed to revert to nature.  But before it was a golf course it had been a farm property.  Near the remains of an old barn I did find a few relics, arranged in ordered ranks that whimsically made me think of dwindling legions trying to march away from a distant province lapsing into barbarism.

Chariots and foot soldiers.

I don't know what archaeologists of the far future would make of this.  There are a few puzzlers here. In one area a patch of verdant green persisted. Between its closure and its abandonment it was owned by a mega corporation that has a lot of real estate holdings in the area.  They have other, active golf courses and may have kept this for awhile as a test plot.  I think this is a place where they were trying out some new grass type.

Now you should know that there are certain things archaeologists are very keen on.  For one thing they are always seeming to look for evidence of prostitution*.  But their real go-to explanation for ambiguous features would probably be applied here.  "Enclosure, unclear ritual purpose."

And I am quite certain that they would look at the next artifact and leap enthusiastically to an interpretation:

"Votive object, frequently found in springs.  Probably placed as ritual offerings".

And I guess they would not be far off.
*I was advised by an archaeologist that this is a reflection of the mediocre dating prospects of graduate students.  But since he actually was happily married to a fine spouse he may well have been kidding me.

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