Public Golf in the modern era
By Dom Fasciglione
When I was a kid I remember going to the golf course with my father. It wasn’t a fancy place. There was a single-story club house with a small restaurant and bar area on one side and a pro shop and locker area on the other. To the right there was a practice green and directly from the front door one stepped out onto a driving range. The club house was appointed in dark paneling and green wall to wall carpet. The aroma of fried eggs and stale coffee permeated the place. It was a comfortable place, and familiar.
Upon arrival my father would make the rounds, visiting the restaurant for a cup of coffee, borrowing a paper to check the latest scores, and eventually making his way to the pro shop. It was usually at this moment I would make my move.
“Dad, I’m going outside.”
“Don’t wander and stay clear of anyone making a swing, you hear?”
After the obligatory “Yessir” I would make a mad dash for the practice green. I had an old, bent Bullseye putter and dejected wedge from my father’s old golf bag with a bone hard grip and grooves that long ago appeared to have melted away in a bygone era.
People would come and go. The starters would be casual observers and sometimes would take an interest in my “practice routine,” which usually involved wedging out all of the crabgrass between the cart path and the 1st tee. One of the starters made me rake out a bunker one fine, sunny morning after I had decided to use it for a golf ball race track.
After a couple hours I would meander over to the range where I would find my father, brows furrowed, forearms bulging, and sweat upon his forehead.
“Did you practice your putting?”
“Umm, sort of.”
“Okay. You ready?” I was ready.
After a brief chat with the starter we were off. There were others golfing but we seldom had to wait or hurry. We occasionally shared a tee time with folks, and until I was about thirteen I would mostly caddie with an occasional tee shot here and there. I frequently would go ball hunting, entering the woods on the third or fourth hole and coming out on the fifth or sixth. I recall the woods being dark and overgrown, wayward balls lying half buried in the moist undergrowth. Max Fli Blue Dots, Top-Flights, Dunlops, Titleists.
Eventually the round would come to a close. We would make our way back to the club house. I would have a coke and he a beer. Back at the car, an old Chevy station wagon, we would clean our clubs and shoes, stash them in the back, and head on home. All the way home I could smell the wet grass and worn leather as we listened to the local AM radio station.
It seems times have changed, of course. The course has changed a bit, but not all that much. The trees are taller; the woods have been cleared out a good deal. There are new tee boxes and a couple holes have been rerouted. The club house has been renovated and all the faces are new. I guess the most significant change has less to do with place and more to do with time.
The routine today is as follows: reserve a tee time two days in advance. One must call early enough to secure a morning time. If the call is made too late, one runs the risk of interfering with the league times. A credit card number is required. In the event of cancellation, without due notice of at least three hours, a charge will be placed upon the card. Golfers are required to arrive 30 minutes prior to tee time, check inn, pay, and then show proof of purchase and tee time to the starter. Starters are equipped with walkie-talkies and anticipate arrivals to the tee box. No one may be on the course without equipment and proof of purchase.
The schedule is tight. Golfers are most often no further than 250 yards from the group behind and the group in front. People have little patience and seemingly less time.
Yes, times have changed. The tempo has changed. I just hope the game doesn’t.