Warm and friendly and thoroughly tanned, Ray Peterson is the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. Assuming he had a shirt on his back. On a recent Saturday afternoon, he didn't. Striding down the fairways at Cypress Cove Golf Course in Kissimmee, Fla., the 56-year-old mechanical engineer looked perfectly at ease wearing nothing more than a cowboy hat and a broad grin. "I always play without shoes," he said. "I don't feel comfortable in them." Or anything else. Peterson was one of 30 naturists, aged 37 to 76, teeing it up in the sport's
quintessential skins game. "The human body is not meant to be in a bra and underwear," said Sandi Tayler, whose own body wasn't in them either. Showing not a trace of embarrassment, with unclothed parts moving free, she and her fellow duffers gave proof that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
The nine-hole pitch-and-putt course takes up 21/2 acres of the Cypress Cove Nudist Resort and Spa, a veritable Garden of Eden of saunas, swimming pools, tennis courts, hot tubs and spring-fed lakes. Of the 272 nudist clubs in the U.S. and Canada, Cypress Cove is one of only two with its own course. "Too bad the pros won't strip down like us--most are too staid and straitlaced," said Tayler's husband, John, 56. "I'd like to see John Daly go naked, though." The rest of us would gladly avert our gaze.
With its history of checked trousers and white belts and shoes, golf may be the most sartorially challenged of all sports. But playing in your birthday suit? "Actually," deadpans Sam Jackson, the president of the Cypress Cove Golf Association, "my golf outfit is transparent."
Jackson, a 66-year-old retired Marine, believes his game is enhanced when he plays without attire. He likes the feeling of the sun on his belly and the breeze against his butt. He likes the sense of lightness, of being totally unencumbered. "Normally, after a day out on the greens I'd come back with a golfer's tan," he says. "Here, there are no tan lines."
To be fair, nude golf has it disadvantages. "You have no pockets," says Peterson. "There's nowhere to keep your tees or balls or billfold." And after a ride on a golf cart you may have trouble separating your genitals from the seat. That's one reason nudists always carry towels.
Visitors would be wise not to call Cypress Cove a nudist colony. "Some members are offended by the term," says operations manager Ted Hadley. "They think it sounds like leper colony." Nudist community is more in keeping with the intent of Hadley's late grandfather Jim, who built the resort to provide a sanctuary for those who not only want to sunbathe in the altogether but also want to live life au naturel.
Cypress Cove was unveiled during the Johnson Administration, and 41 years later it's still unabashedly going strong. NO SHIRT, NO SHOES, NO PROBLEM reads the sign over the door of the administration building. Clothing is pretty much optional. The swimming area that abuts Cheeks Bar and Grill (REST YOURS AT OURS) is the only place nudism is compulsory.
Just as it is at most country clubs, Cypress Cove's 3,300 members tend to be conservative Republicans, affluent white folks looking for a safe, crime-free environment. Some are full-time residents, but for most the resort is a weekend and vacation spot. Twelve years ago longtime resident Mike Wax had the crazy idea to turn a wooded corner of the club into a par-3 course. He laid out nine holes, from 25 to 48 yards long.
The golfers who signed up for the Saturday better-ball challenge wouldn't have cared if the grass had been sown with poison ivy. Risk-averse nudists, they were not: They dined, after all, on chili, a cuisine with great potential to backfire. And despite a blazing sun, hardly any of them wore sunblock. "I haven't in 15 years," said Sandi Tayler, which explained the Cheetos-colored rash that crept across her torso.
Here, there and everywhere, body parts normally concealed from public view bobbed, swayed and quivered. Some breasts were Pinnacle-sized; others hung like headcovers stuffed with bricks. Some men had chest hair thicker than muskrat pelts; some women had hair on their heads but nowhere else. No woman carried a purse, though one man sported a colostomy bag.
Nudists mostly avoid risqué repartee. But pack 30 of them on a tight course, and the ricocheting double entendres are inescapable.
"It's long, real long."
"It's not that long, is it?"
"Believe me, it's long."
"Did you stay up, Sam? Please tell me you stayed up."
"Yeah, I'm up."
"By golly, what I wouldn't give for another three inches."
"If you'd been straight, Sam, that puppy would have gone in."
Jackson bantered best with partner Kathy Preece, a 50-year-old nudist camper who had parked her mobile home off the 1st tee. The other member of his threesome declined to divulge her name. "You don't ask naturists a lot of questions unless they volunteer the answers," said Jackson, a diminutive man who tries not to poke his nose into other people's business. "A lot of them want to keep their private lives private."
With Preece putting badly and Anonymous chipping madly, Jackson kept the team in contention until the back side. By the time his nude crew reached the 14th hole, however, they'd gone belly-up. Preece lashed her tee shot so hard that it hurtled past the cup and nearly struck a wooden wall, prompting a bystander to shout, "Hole found in nudist club fence. Police looking into it!" The threesome finished with a 48, six under par and five strokes off the lead.
Hanging out at Cypress Cove tournaments is one thing, competing in them quite another. "They're fun, but they're not my bag," says Tomm Grimm, who sat this one out. He prefers going the Full Monty on regulation 18-hole courses. For the past few years the resort had sponsored excursions to Bull Run in nearby Poinciana. Alas, Hurricane Charley rendered Bull Run unplayable. "It's a shame," says Grimm. "You'd stand there in the nude and knock the ball as far as you could. It was grip it and rip it." Ouch!
"Too bad the pros won't strip down like us--most are too staid and straitlaced," says Tayler. "I'D LIKE TO SEE JOHN DALY GO NAKED, THOUGH." The rest of us would gladly avert our gaze.
Preece lashed her tee shot so hard that it nearly struck a wooden wall, prompting a bystander to shout, "HOLE FOUND IN NUDIST CLUB FENCE. POLICE LOOKING INTO IT!"
Photographs by Brian Smith/Corbis-Outline
Peterson prefers to play au naturel and, taking a page from Sam Snead's book, without shoes or socks.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS
Kennetha and Tomm Grimm (left) like a longer course, but Cyprus Grove's tiny track is enough for Gerald G. Jackson.
THREE COLOR PHOTOS
HIT AND GIGGLE
With wife Cynthia tending the pin, Lloyd Divelbiss (left) took dead aim. Elsewhere, Mary and Ed Bloem (above) were content to putter around the house, while John and Sandi Tayler checked the flowers and the fauna.