I recently had a chance to play a relatively upscale public course near Lansing called Timber Ridge. The weather was perfect and the course conditions terrific, but poor clubhouse management ruined what otherwise should have been a very good day.
I had called the day before playing to get a tee time and was told that “the course is wide open all day”; that I didn’t need a tee time and; that I should just show up. I took them at their word and arrived in the late morning after an earlier medical appointment. The guy at the pro shop desk took my money and sent me out onto the tenth tee.
So far so good. I played the tenth, and then from the eleventh, spied a group about to tee off on the twelfth. I played two balls on the par three eleventh, and by the time I had putted out, the group was still on the tee. Talking. Having a grand old time. Enjoying themselves like they were at a coffee shop, not a golf course.
That’s when the nightmare began.
There are two felony offenses in golf: being a bad player, and being a slow player. The goal is not to commit both felonies at the same time. These players committed so many golf felonies they were eligible for the death penalty. Parking the cart fifty yards from the ball, one would get out, rummage through the bag and select a club. The player would stroll to the ball, take a few practice swings and then invariably, head back to the cart to get a different club. I saw one do this four times for one play. These golfing idiots took half a dozen practice swings only to advance the ball fifty yards. Their balls went sideways as often as forward. They were plumb bobbing their sixth putt.
On the thirteenth tee, a beverage cart pulled up. I asked what was going on—since I had been told that the course was wide open. He laughed: “You’re behind the women’s golf league.” And, as it turns out, they were several groups deep. There was no way to get around them.
The Women’s Golf League? Why hadn’t the clubhouse told me of this? Had I known of the situation, I would have chosen another place to play—there are several nearby, including the excellent Forest Akers—Michigan State’s track. I felt like a con-man’s mark.
On each tee, I waited until the group immediately ahead was leaving the green. To kill time, I played two or three balls to the green. And still, I would often arrive at the next hole to find the group just then teeing off.
At one point, I looped back (there was no one behind me at that point), played three holes over, and still caught up with them a hole later. I stopped at the turn, ordered lunch and sat and ate it and drank a hard cider, thinking that I’d give them plenty of time to get ahead. I played three balls on each hole … and caught up with them four tee boxes later.
Timber Ridge’s management should absolutely be ashamed of themselves for sending people out without a warning. I have played plenty of other courses where the warning was given at my arrival, if not over the phone when I made a tee time. They absolutely had to know that they had a regularly scheduled league.
If it weren’t for the quality of the course itself, I’d give Timber Ridge a don’t-play recommendation. I’m still that angry at the deception.