ice golf the cure for s.a.d.

The scientists tell us that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing, affecting countless numbers of cabin-bound individuals during the long winter days. (Symptoms are too depressing to enumerate or describe.) The combination of near-perpetual gray skies, relentless cold and snow begin to take its toll on the human psyche, not that we haven’t had some practice because of pandemic-mandated quarantines. And yet, something stirs in the golfer’s breast that keeps the fires burning, hope re-kindled with every tick of the calendar toward the opening day of the local muni or club.

This spirit cannot always be contained and must sometimes be exercised. So it is with Bob Gettis and the denizens of Locust Lake Village in the Pennsylvania Poncono region. Annually, these hardy souls take to the frozen surface of nearby Pines Lake for a round of Ice Golf. Turnout has been sporadic in past years, but in 2021, more than 120 turned out to challenge a 9-hole layout designed by architect Gettis whose handy snow shovel preceded use of his trusty mashie, or perhaps a Taylor-Made 6-iron.

The Pines Lake Ice Golf Open

At 11 a.m. on Feb. 13 the players assembled, having waited, no doubt, for the temperature to climb to a balmy 22 degrees F. A snow plow had already created several lanes on the frozen beach, and Gettis shoveled off areas of the ice to create the fairways and holes. A storm that had passed through a few days earlier deposited two feet of snow, so there was some work to be done.

Gettis reports that a piece of foam pool noodle was placed at the bottom of each pin. These constructions were fixed to 2-inch holes in the ice created by Gettis and an electric ice fishing auger. The foam bit at the bottom of the pin sits above the ice somewhat and when your ball hits the foam, you are said to have “holed out” and may proceed forthwith to the next challenge. (R&A and USGA rules are mute on this holing out on the ice, so the Locust Lake Village rules are in no violation of acceptable golfing standards.)

Not only does Gettis create the course, he provides the clubs and balls. The Village provides prizes for families and the kids. Although there is no “winner,” everybody has great fun and we suspect that Mr. Gettis derives the greater satisfaction from this annual get-together and is thus a champion by any measure of the term.

Bob Gettis, left, and his group recreated a scene from an 1899 illustration by A.B. Frost, above, titled Winter Golf – Play the Like in Four.
John Fischer III, photographer and golf historian, noted a curious grouping in one of Gettis’ photos. Said Mr. Fischer: “I enlarged your photo and found this strange grouping including a man with an axe. I guess his handicap wasn’t questioned.”

Though all nature be frozen in the bitter month of February, the golfer’s spirit blazes bright the year round. Cheers to Mr. Gettis and the adventurous souls of Locust Lake Village.