Teresa: To understand this golf tournament, you have to understand this place. Hal and I have turned off a dirt road and we're driving across the playa of the Black Rock Desert, a dry lakebed that stretches across hundreds of square miles, an endless expanse of shimmering white clay, so bright it blinds us.
Hal: "Wait! There's something painted. We'd better check this out."
Teresa: We get out of the truck, and Doug Keister, a professional photographer from San Francisco who founded this event a dozen years ago, comes up to say hello. He loves to see people react to the Black Rock Desert for the first time. We're dizzy and disoriented, and he tells us why.
Doug: "This is weird! Somebody just needs to visualize getting on a bicycle and closing their eyes and pedaling without ever running into anything. This is absolutely flat."
Teresa: We approach a group of people carrying hand sprayers. They could be spraying weeds, but there are no weeds. There's not a blade of ANYTHING out here. Instead, they are spraying paint, bright color on the bare white ground.
Laura: "It's just an eyeball, and it's going to be one of the greens. We're going to do the veins and everything..the red veins. And then maybe some crazy streaks coming out of it..we're not really sure yet." [Painting sound]
Hal: Laura, Doug's stepdaughter, has just finished finals at UCLA. She and about a dozen others are painting a biodegradable golf course on the playa. These are not your ordinary greens. In fact, none of them are green at all. This is a grass-free course with an attitude, where holes with names like The Vortex and Freeway are more like stage sets than carpets of well-mannered grass.
Doug: "Richard Brown has brought in a sofa and a coffee table and a television and it's all sitting on this painted rug out in the desert."
Hal: It's late afternoon now, and as friends and family put the finishing touches on the course, the other competitors begin to arrive in time for putting and long-ball contests, and a ball game played on the 'If you paint it, they will come' softball diamond. At night, we build a bonfire and ooooh and ahhh while fireworks explode in Nevada's pitch black sky.
[Sound of firework whizzing, popping, sprinkling, crowd cheering]
Hal: It's tournament day, early in the morning, and the field of 56 players gets ready to tee off into the empty vastness. The sky is blue, the desert white, a landscape from the set for Lawrence of Arabia instead of the dewey green we usually associate with this game. One man rides by on a bicycle, towing a golf cart behind him, and disappears in the distance.
[Sound of golf cart passing by]
Hal: As we approach a tee box, we hear a mixture of accents. It's a foursome of strangers just thrown together for the competition.
Hal: "Where are you all from?"
Teresa: We join another foursome about to play the par-six Hell Hole. The green is an incredible 700 yards away, and at first we can't even see the flag. But teeing off is easy. The hard part begins when we reach the green -- which, in this case, is orange, a round smiley face with horns. The playa clay is a spider web of cracks and this spot is particularly rough. Even to putt, you have to tee up your ball. As if that's not challenge enough, the wind has come up.
Teresa: "Now Dave is lining up..."
Teresa: During the six hours of tournament play, the temperature rises to 90 degrees, and the wind kicks into a dusty howl. By the time folks hand in their score cards, they are hot and bedraggled, but virtually everyone is laughing, giddy with this gift of serious golf on a goofy course, grateful for the chance to play like kids in a world with no boundaries. The winners are announced, but in the end it is Doug Keister who gets the most enthusiastic applause.
Crowd: "Thank you, Doug!" [Big applause]
Teresa: Driving the distance on The Open Road, I'm Teresa Jordan with Hal Cannon for the Savvy Traveler.
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