Based on appearance, and his golf game, Dave Hall does not fit the persona of an old man suffering from several diseases.
He admits he forgets names and streets in Albuquerque he once knew so well, among the signs of Alzheimer’s that his physician has twice diagnosed him with. He has two artificial knees. He’s hard of hearing. He suffers from interstitial cystitis — his bladder can’t hold much urine, resulting in frequent trips to the bathroom.
But the 85-year-old from Albuquerque usually becomes a different man on the golf course. And, check this out: All he needs is one club.
The evidence came Feb. 7-8 when Hall used his zero-iron to shoot below his age, an 84 at Puerto del Sol Golf Course.
It’s a nine-hole course, par 35. Hall shot a 40 on Feb. 7, featuring birdies on No. 5 and No. 8, both par 5s. He was nervous the next day because he knew he had the opportunity to shoot below his age. After a few bogeys to begin his round, Hall started to feel he would not be able to make what is seemingly every elderly golfer’s dream come true.
But there he was on the final hole, needing a 6 or better on the par-4 No. 9. Hall finished with a 5.
“This came as a big surprise,” he said. “I thought I would never do it.”
Albuquerque’s demographic of senior golfers who really can play is large and active. Local golf shops routinely call the Journal to report players who have shot their age on their courses.
Hall first did it when he was 78 and he continued to match that feat each year up until he was 81. That’s when he decided to ditch his full bag of clubs.
He said he got the idea to play with one club from the stories he heard about Bob L. May, a former pro at Puerto del Sol. May was known for his par round at Puerto del Sol with a 6-iron, Hall said.
Using just one club, and no bag, helps Hall preserve energy. He likes the course at Puerto del Sol because there is a bathroom at each third hole.
Hall, who is also a member at Angel Fire Country Club, has found other ways to maintain stamina throughout his rounds. He doesn’t use a tee because he hates to bend over. After a ball rolls into the cup, he won’t reach down to grab the golf ball. He’ll use his club to scoop up the ball into the air and catch it.
“I love to play with him,” said Ray Moore, the vice president of the Puerto del Sol Golf Association. “He’s just a gentleman. He embodies golf.”
Moore appreciates Hall so much that he named a tournament after Hall. The second annual Dave Hall 3-Club Tournament took place in December with about 20 people showing up, knowing they could use only three clubs.
In addition to his 84 round and the tournament in his name, Hall is also proud of the fact that he’s had nine hole-in-ones.
Hall has a simple explanation for his nine aces.
“I hit it pretty straight,” he said.
Hall said he never has a problem with playing with one club at Puerto del Sol. That’s how most of the people there know him. But he said he’s seen a sign at Arroyo del Oso that says each player must have a bag of clubs to play on the course. He doesn’t play there anymore. Hall has encountered disdain for his use of one club throughout a round. One time, he began to play with a man who asked Hall after the first hole if he was playing with just one club. Hall responded: yes. The man walked away and said he would not play with Hall.
“I felt kind of sorry for him,” said Hall, who retired in 1988 as a doctor who worked for the Indian Public Health Service, assigned at Chinle, Ariz., and later again in Farmington. “He couldn’t see how much fun I was having with one club.”
Hall loves golf, not just because of the fun he has playing with one club. He just enjoys getting outside and walking the course.
The game is very special for him. When he turned 85, he received a card from the City of Albuquerque that allows him to use the municipal courses for free. And yes, that includes Arroyo del Oso, where Bruce Staake, a pro shop staff member at Arroyo del Oso, said Hall is welcome to play with his one club.
“I was born in this city, so it’s kind of a reward,” Hall said of his card. “It’s real fun to just get out here and not worry about taking a club out of the bag and putting it back in. I can play five minutes each hole if I’m playing alone. All I do is hit and walk, hit and walk.”