RIVERDALE -- Somewhere between the 10th and 17th holes at Schneiter's Riverside Golf Course, a family of geese is doing what families do in the summertime. Mom, dad and the kids are floating in the cool water and basking in the fresh air and sunshine.
But I can't help but wonder if those geese know how lucky they are.
See, as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, they live between holes No. 10 and 17 on one of the most beautiful golf courses the Top of Utah has to offer. That little feathered family gets an up-close view of golfers like me making their way up the 17th fairway, hoping for the best as they approach the picturesque, undulating green.
Of all the holes on all the courses around the Top of Utah, No. 17 at Riverside might just be my favorite. That's not to say it's the most difficult or even the the most iconic stretch of greenery on the property, only that I thoroughly enjoy playing it.
Starting today, we're teeing up a semi-regular series that will highlight some of my favorite golf holes from North Salt Lake to Brigham City. They won't necessarily be signature holes; nor will they be the longest, shortest, toughest or easiest.
In the coming weeks and throughout the rest of the summer -- and perhaps into the fall, who knows? -- we'll visit some of the best golf settings in Northern Utah and highlight some of the great holes.
Really, the only criteria is that they be fun, interesting and mildly challenging to me, a guy whose love of golf dates nearly four decades.
However, just because I've been playing for a long time doesn't mean I'm good, so bear that in mind.
Also, I understand not everyone enjoys golf and that's just fine. Hopefully, these pieces will inspire readers to "come out swinging," as it were. And if not, hopefully there's at least a little entertainment value.
Speaking of entertainment, good luck finding a better golf storyteller than Ernie Schneiter Jr., 83, director of golf at Riverside, a tree-lined, par-71 track with deep roots in this community.
On a day not long ago, Ernie sat at a table in his pro shop, chatting with friends about the 113th U.S. Open, which was days away from starting at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. At the time there was a bit of speculation as to how Merion, a smaller course of less than 7,000 yards would fair against the world's best players.
Ernie correctly surmised the tight, super-challenging pat-70 course would bring the big boys to their knees. It did, handing out more more than a thousand bogeys over a four-day stretch and yielding a winning score of 1-over-par.
But that's not surprising at all because Ernie understands golf like Beethoven understood music; which is to say, it's his life's work.
And Riverside may well be his masterpiece. From its deepest tees it's more than 6,100 yards, which isn't huge by any means, but those beautiful tree-line fairways provide lots of risk vs. reward opportunities.
The bottom line is this: Riverside is challenging, but it's fair.
Nowhere is that more true that hole 17, my personal favorite.
The only par 5 on the back nine, No. 17 is 490 yards long from the blue tees and 481 from the whites. There are trees -- lots of them -- along the right-hand side and a couple of ponds on the left. The fairway isn't too terribly imposing off the tee but the closer one gets to the green, the more creative one must become.
The green is protected by water hazards -- and that family of geese -- on either side. And just before the promised land the fairway gets thiner than Rhett Butler's mustache (Google it).
Longer hitters who can accurately muscle a shot off the tee have the option of going for the green in two, but mere mortals like yours truly rarely have that luxury.
On the day I played with my teenage son, Tyler, I began 17 with a decent drive then laid up to where the fairway bottlenecks. Suddenly overcome with confidence, I promptly sent my third shot to a watery grave.
Naturally, I begged for a mulligan and received a somber, stink-eye stare in return.
So I dropped, chipped onto the green and two-putted for a double-bogey seven. The other member of the twosome wasn't nearly so unlucky. He hit the green with his third shot, one-putted for birdie and happily glided away with his head held high, just like the geese. nment value.