Circumstances can sure change your perspective on things and, for me, I look at golf outings differently now than I did before I retired.
During most of those 36 years I was a superintendent, I considered an outing as a major disruption and a pain in the neck for me and our golf course staff. And for most of those years, I had no right to complain. Our private course was closed on Mondays so we could work on projects and maintenance activities. About once a month we would accept a significant outing IF certain requirements were met – full green fees, prizes from our golf shop, carts, starting times that were convenient for us, menus, etc. We made a tidy profit on these, and they were worthwhile. Mostly we accepted groups that had a charitable aspect to them.
The club officials had tough stringent outing requirements because they could. We had a nice course, provided a good venue and golf was at its zenith. Golf demand was high and we had a waiting list for a place on our member roster. There was no reason to offer up any bargains. I understood all of this, but it was still out of normal golf course operations and caused some headaches.
From that zenith, circumstances in golf declined. Our waiting list, like most others, diminished. Too many new courses were built in our area, the economy stagnated and our revenue declined. Soon there was an outing on almost every Monday during the golf season, and if it fit, outings could be held at some other times. Participant numbers were reduced to the point where 50 or 60 players at an off time during the week were considered and often accepted. I didn’t like it but was smart enough to recognize the need for the revenue outings generated. As I now approach my 10th year of retirement, I understand that things haven’t gotten that much better.
But what has changed, a little bit at least, is my attitude. That’s because I am now involved in a golf outing at our local municipal golf course. I’m a member of our community VFW Post, and our golf outing is one of the Post’s major ways of raising money to help veterans of military service who are in need. Our other fundraisers are the long established Poppy Program and our beer tent in the local Good Neighbor Festival.
We try to run a fun event. I have seen too many outings that had no limits on the number of players and they become six-plus hour rounds. They are a test of tempers and can be miserable instead of fun. Local businesses are very supportive of our veterans’ outing with prize donations and hole sponsorships. We limit the number of players and control our costs very carefully, which is easy to do since we are all volunteers. We grill a lot of the food ourselves and strive to limit the time of the event to around five hours total. If some want to visit at the bar after golf and the meal, that’s fine, too.
Money we raise supports everything from our state VA Hospital to gas cards for vets who travel here for care and have little income. We support a facility that helps homeless veterans get back on their feet, offer college scholarship help to children of vets and add to the local Boy Scout programs. Hundreds of flags fly on our community boulevards during patriotic holidays, a beautiful tribute to our country from our VFW Post.
And our biggest source of income is ... a golf outing. It’s a little easier because of excellent cooperation of our municipal golf course and the commitment from the superintendent. It makes me proud to be a retired superintendent and a veteran.
Live and learn. I would love to know how much money was raised by our club for the Ronald McDonald House, an outing it has hosted for decades. The University of Wisconsin, in many different aspects, has also benefitted enormously from the club’s generosity. From church charities to athletic scholarships to funding for our symphony orchestra and everything in between, golf outings have had a tremendous positive impact. It would be difficult to imagine how else these funds could have been garnered.
I still see the problems with an outside outing that is slow, with “players” who don’t understand golf or know the rules or appreciate the etiquette of golf or respect the golf course. But the charity-based events are valuable to society, our courses and the game itself. They fit right in with the PGA and the USGA tournaments that have such huge charitable causes. More people should appreciate that aspect of golf. I most certainly do.