Golf Course Politics

Playing with a long time regular at my favorite local track, I noted that the greens were in very bad shape for a course that in the past had prided itself on the quality of the putting surfaces. While every course in Michigan had been hard hit by the hundred year winter of 2013-2014, most had recovered by June. This one was still suffering in August.

Mark (not his real name) said that there’d been a “regime change” at the course earlier in the year, and that the new managers didn’t seem to have a handle on things yet. Further, he thought that when the previous pro had realized earlier in the year that he would be ousted, he had lost interest in maintaining things.

Since I play the local muni mostly in the spring and fall after work, I had missed the drama. Thinking back on it, though, I realize that the usual crew has not been behind the desk at the clubhouse. I also noted on the way out that day that the pro’s name was gone from the reserved parking spot.

As Mark related the story, the issue was tee times. For many years, mornings have been the realm of some very serious money games, and tee times were booked weeks in advance. Further, Mark said, a good number of those money games consisted of five- and six-somes, which backed up the whole day.

I knew that it was nearly impossible to get a tee time in the mornings there, but never thought anything of it. Every course has its rhythms, and I have a mental checklist of which courses I tend to be least crowded at which times of the day.

The daily money games are the stuff of legend at that course. I have witnessed quite a bit of money changing hands at the picnic pavilion, and heard of some very large payouts. One story I heard from two different regulars was of an $800 shot at a par three. That may not be a big deal at some country clubs, but this one is strictly a blue collar muni.

At some point, the tee time blocks for money games apparently irritated the wrong people. Mark said that some influential locals were miffed that they couldn’t get certain days and times no matter how far they booked in advance.

Some things about the story don’t add up for me, though. If tee times were an issue, why wouldn’t the old pro just agree to new policies limiting how far in advance a spot could be reserved?  And given the fact that so many courses struggle to fill their tee times, why would a lack of available slots be an issue at all?

I’d love to know the real story. Perhaps the previous pro was hired away. Or there was a contractual dispute. Or he was fired for other reasons entirely.

Whatever the circumstances, there clearly has been a change. The greens are not as well tended. Many trees are being cut down, opening up what was a tight, tree lined course (I will wait to see whether that is a good thing or not). In a good many of the traps, sand has been randomly dumped, causing them to lose their defined edges.

On a definitely positive side, I’ve seen rangers for the first time urging players to keep moving and maintaining order among the intoxicated.

I’ve also noticed that there are many more beginners and dilettantes out on the course. The place once had a reputation (thanks to the money games, surely) as a place where serious players teed it up. I found that to be true. I was rarely, if ever paired with players who hacked their way around in 100+. As a twelve to fifteen handicapper, I was often the worst player in the ad-hoc group. These days, I’m likely to be the best.

Mark said the money players all left when the long time pro did. Just where that was, though, he had no clue.

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