Growing up in rural southwestern Virginia, I never had the opportunity to build a soap box derby car. I remember seeing photographs or images on television of youthful midwestern lads attempting to maximize their wind resistance and reach the finish line first and thinking that would be fun. I was a Cub Scout and Webelo, and enjoyed the Pinewood Derby. I believe my cars might still be somewhere at my mother’s house. It was fun, but it wasn’t quite the same. As I got older, I learned the term soap box connotated a different meeting, one where folks publicly aired their opinions, grievances or other beliefs. I’m not one who usually hops upon an old tree stump to address the group, but I thought just this once I would make an exception.
Ever since the days when Old Tom Morris began to improve the conditions of the links on the Old Course at St. Andrews, golf course superintendents have been required to contend with the results of poor course etiquette exhibited by golfers. Whether it’s unrepaired ball marks, footprints in bunkers, or unreplaced or overfilled divots, it seems we’re always trying to better educate our end users to improve course conditions, and make our lives a little easier. I abhor stakes and ropes, yet find them a necessary evil at times to prevent folks from damaging the course. More recently, we have moved on to other transgressions such as applying aerosol-based insect repellent or sunscreen to one’s lower extremities when standing on turf and the latest craze – driving range divot patterns. Twitter is home to multiple posts every day from turf professionals expressing their disapproval of the actions of either their members or paying customers. Even I have engaged in attempting to use Twitter to alter the behavior of my members, but there is one other golf course transgression that I believe is prevalent in our industry that really gets under my skin … D!@# Measuring!
In the movie “Taken,” Liam Neeson’s character Brian Mills stops to speak with his ex-wife Lenore shortly after their daughter Kim is abducted in France. Lenore is remarried to Stuart and as Brian questions Stuart to determine if anyone overseas would want to bring harm to him and his family, Stuart comments, “I have resources of my own.” To which Brian quickly states, “Now is not the time for d!@# measuring Stuart!”
I think we all know how the remainder of the film goes, and at this point I’ve lost half of you and the other half is thinking, “How did he get from unrepaired ball marks to penis size comparisons?” Despite being perturbed by poor golf course etiquette, what really tees me off (pun intended) is the d!@# measuring I see at local chapter meetings. Could someone please explain why golf course superintendents think it’s a great idea to use last year’s Tough Day setup at this week’s chapter association event? Last time I checked golf course superintendents do not play golf for a living, although some of us may possess a GHIN number and single-digit index. There are also quite a few in the group who struggle from the white tees. Golf is supposed to be fun. And when most chapters are struggling with attendance numbers, did you ever stop to think folks aren’t having fun spending five-plus hours on the double bogey train and four-putt carousel.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand your peers are coming to see your course and you want it to look its very best. In other words, you want to “show off.” There’s nothing wrong with having pride in your course and nothing wrong with a double cut and roll before the noon shotgun, but do we really need to see all 18 of your most difficult, over-the-top hole locations in one round to know your course is challenging? Whether we’re talking about the crest of ridges and knobs, the toes of steep slopes or the edge of a false-front, it’s a pace-of-play nightmare. Truth be told, the only thing you’ve showed off to me is a disregard for your fellow greenkeepers and industry folks who are busy and struggle to make the time and effort to get away on occasion. Most of us don’t take enough time to get out and experience each other’s courses frequently enough if the results of the recent Can Am Cup Matches are any indicator. Looks like our brothers to the north have a better work/life balance than those of us in the states.
To make matters worse, it seems if someone is brave enough to comment to the host about how great the course was but noted the difficulty of the pins the host usually responds with, “I let my assistant or intern do setup today.” Insert facepalm emoji here! Thanks pal, I guess it never occurred to you this might be a great opportunity to instruct and educate your young staffers on course setup and pace-of-play management. Whatever happened to knowing your target audience?
“Could someone please explain why golf course superintendents think it’s a great idea to use last year’s Tough Day setup at this week’s chapter association event?”
At my club, we host several Guest Day events throughout the year. These are one-day tournaments and we strive to showcase the course at its best on behalf of our members. I permit my staff to select hole locations for these events because it’s a great learning experience, but I always remind them this isn’t Tough Day. It’s OK to select one, maybe two holes at most that will “give them something to talk about in the bar after their round,” but what we’re striving for is a fun day on the course for our members and their guests.
So maybe next time you get selected to host your peers you might scoot up a couple of tees and place a few holes in some collection areas or at least away from the hazards. Besides, we’re all just excited to get away from our place for half the day and enjoy the camaraderie and networking the golf provides, as well as the education. OK, we’re here for the beer, but my point is everyone just wants to relax and have fun, not spend all day watching the foursome ahead three-putt from 15 feet.
Thanks for listening!
Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG, is the superintendent at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, N.C.