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The golf course where legends were made

There was a Harley-Davidson parked in the ladies' room, which ought to tell you something about the old Eastwood Golf Course, although what, I don't know.

The men's lockerroom had lockers but they just stood around in dimly-lit disarray, some along a wall, some in the middle of the bare floor, facing in various directions. Only six or eight of them were used. Public course players don't require lockers, especially the ones who wear Hawaiian print shorts, long black socks and T shirts advertising a motor oil.

The clubhouse was a low, white structure that looked like what the first motel must have looked like. The windows on one side were always broken, thanks to wayward shots off the ninth tee.The golf carts looked like they had been in a war.

One of the managers, a gruff, wonderful caricature of himself with a megaphone voice and a wry sense of humor, would bark at guys lingering in the grill room, "stop sitting around sucking up my air conditioning, get out there and play," or in winter, "stop sucking up my heat." The owner, a former PGA Tour star named Clayton Heafner, refused to put sand in the bunkers, his reason being, "Every time you play out of a sand trap, you knock 25 cents worth of sand out of it."

Eastwood, whose entrance was just behind a service station on a busy corner in northeast Charlotte, was one of those places where you could get the latest betting line, where you could drink beer in the morning and not feel uncomfortable about it, where you didn't have to wear a shirt if you didn't want to, where they'd ice down some beer in a plastic bag for you to take onto the course.

A lot of you are sitting there nodding your head, thinking, yeah, I've played at places like that. There is an Eastwood Golf Course just about everywhere, but with different names.

This Eastwood had a never-changing odor, a blend of steaming hot dogs, cigarette smoke and beer, very much like the smell of a good old fashioned pool room. The regular clientele became a part of the fixtures, sitting around vinyl-topped tables stacking beer cans, arguing bets and talking about things like a diner where you could get a good early bird special.

Crazy bets were a staple of the place, which you kind of expect of a course where a professional wrestler played a round wearing his mask. Where they played from the clubhouse roof. Where they hit shots while standing in a golf cart. Where one played a round throwing the ball with a jai alai cesta. Where one played every shot in a round other than those on or close to the green with a paper cup over the ball. Where, under cover of darkness, one sawed down some trees that kept getting in his way.

The golf course itself was pretty good, once you got away from the service station and the hole where the tee was no more than ten yards from a street where cars and trucks roared by.

Unfortunately, Eastwood didn't survive the city's tsunami-like growth. It's now buried under a cluster of big condo buildings. I never ride by and not think about how the place felt and looked and smelled and about the cast of characters who practically lived there.

It wasn't Augusta National but for them, it was a piece of paradise.

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