A writer's rant: My 10 biggest golf course pet peeves

I’ve just about seen it all when it comes to how public golf courses are run.

I reviewed my first golf course nearly two decades ago. More than 800-plus courses later, I understand what amateur golfers like me want to see when we shell out our hard-earned money for a tee time. I know how a customer deserves to be treated and their expectations once they arrive at the bag drop.

I’ve got some real issues with the everyday experience at most public courses (private clubs are guilty, too). More often than not, I’m willing to forgive problems with course conditions and slow play, because all it takes is one freaky thunderstorm or one bad group to throw things out of whack. These problems will never go away. They happen. Get over it. Most courses are working hard at correcting both issues because it's critical to their futures.

It’s the other smaller issues I'm tired of putting up with anymore. I’ve come up with a list of 10 of my biggest pet peeves at the golf course, things I see regularly that drive me insane. I’m nitpicking every little detail here, but to prove my point that I'm not alone in this fight, I've gathered up comments from other golfers at GolfAdvisor.

I know our rants probably won’t change a thing – the golf industry is notoriously slow to adapt. The reality is that most of these annoyances are easy fixes. Owners and operators – get cracking!

10. A range of issues

"(The) range sucks, old balls, old mats, crazy deal on hitting off grass something like $30 for grass access at back of range." - Reviewer u953214321

Most golf ranges are plagued by an assortment of maladies I could rail on – bad balls, a lack of targets, closing too early, hitting off mats, poor conditions, bad locations (looking into the sun or adjacent to a hole), etc. – but the biggest bother in my eyes is simple. Charging extra for a bucket of balls feels like the ultimate money grab. If I’ve forked out the cash to play, then I've earned unlimited balls to warm up with for that round.

9. Long on yardage, short on fun

"Too many long par 4s. I was hitting 3-wood for the second shot on par 4s too many times. I prefer a course where the second shots will require more variety of clubs." - Reviewer Mike8347196

Hey, golf course architects, you reading along? Building one 440-yard par 4, fine. Maybe. But three or four of them? Ridiculous. I wish stats geek Dave Pelz or Professor Mark Broadie (inventor of the strokes-gained statistic on the PGA TOUR) would track a couple hundred long par 4s at courses around the country and add up just how many golfers hit the green. 20 percent? 15? 10? I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentages are way lower than I could even imagine.

Here’s where the savvy course operator should step in to save the day. Golfers are too proud to play from the proper tees. Move the tees up for them. If the blues are playing 450 yards and the whites 410 yards, move both sets of markers up to the white tee box. Golfers will shoot lower scores. They’ll play faster. They’ll come back more often. If this solution is such a no-brainer – in my mind, it is - then how come nobody does it?

8. Poor pin placements

"Pin placements are ridiculous. They need to remember what the average golfing public’s handicap is. If they want slow play and have disappointed golfers, keep setting it up the way you are. I believe it's a nice design but and a big BUT is they need to put the Sunday pin placements in tournament play. Not day to day!!" - Reviewer bowlees

You can tell which pins were set at 5 a.m. when cognitive skills aren’t firing full throttle. Setting pins on difficult ridges or slopes makes no sense. Any member of the greens staff cutting all 18 in the back left corner behind a bunker should be fired immediately. The location of the pins directly affects the daily operation – how many low scores are shot, number of three putts, pace of play, etc. Every diabolical pin location should be eliminated.

I refuse to rank a certain World Top 100 course highly because the day I played it, one pin placement guaranteed a three-putt from almost every angle. After four-putting, I tried putting from all sides. Every miss funneled to the same position off the green 30 feet below the hole. Dumb.

7. Practice green problems

"My only complaint would be that the greens were inconsistent. The putting green was very fast then the first 7 or 8 holes were a couple of feet slower." - Reviewer Danh52

Maybe I’m looking for a good excuse as to why I three-putt so much, but inconsistent green speeds on the practice putting green are a nasty nuisance. I can’t tell you how many times I've warmed up on putting greens that roll nothing like what’s on the course. Superintendents, I can live with divots on the tee boxes and other sins on the course, but please, PLEASE make the practice green roll true compared to the rest of the actual greens on the course.

6. Roughing it

"Rough too long. Great shots and you can't find your ball. Rough way too long for the average player." - Reviewer dawglb63

I’m always severely disappointed when I go to a public golf course that’s proud of its “thick” and “heavy” rough. Sorry, Mr. Superintendent. Golf should be fun, not made to mimic the U.S. Open. Mow it down. Thin it out. Give the hackers a chance to hit it on the green, not chop it up the fairway with a wedge. A course should play tough on its architectural merits and weather conditions, not merely by growing a jungle of rough near every fairway.

5. Club-scrub dance

I’m probably angering a lot of parents and teenagers here, but are the kids who scrub your clubs after the round really necessary? Most add nothing to the customer service aspect of the course. They robotically ask ‘How was your round?’ and then don’t listen to a word you say. Their hands are extended for a tip even before they’re done. I’m not a cheapo, but I really don’t carry much cash, and if I do, not singles. Do they deserve that $5 in my pocket? I hate this awkward dance at the end of every round.

4. (Lack of) Aeration alerts

"Be sure to call the course before you play and ask about aeration schedule. They don't tell you and don't discount you at all for poor course conditions as the better courses do." - Reviewer rscally

It seems all too often that aerating the greens is some sort of top secret information when in fact it should be the opposite. Signs telling of the aeration schedule should be posted near the pro shop entrance and near the cashier’s counter at least two weeks prior to the procedure. For the old-fashioned folks who call in for tee times during the window of the aeration and its healing process, they should be told what to expect. Tee times purchased online should be flagged with the same information. Most golfers are forgiving of aeration issues as long as the staff is upfront and honest about what they're buying. Not enough are.

3. Hiring unfriendly help

”The staff, however, was incredibly rude. Had interactions with three of their staff members and all three were unfriendly. Won't be back due to the staff." - Reviewer mrojas1468

It takes a special personality to work in the golf industry – you have to love the game or love people, preferably both. Those who lack either passion shouldn’t be hired, plain and simple. I’ve been told dozens of times, “Golf is a people business”. It’s the employees who are rude (that overly obnoxious ranger) or uncaring (that undertrained, shy teenager) who scare off potential repeat customers. I once had a maintenance worker jump off his mower and throw my golf ball back at me after I hit a fine shot to the green. True story.

If you can't hire the right people, train them harder. Prod your employees to smile more. Golfers gravitate toward happy places. The game is hard enough. Make your club the friendliest in town.

2. Tee markers troubles

"Mature Scottsdale course that was difficult to follow for someone that had never played the course, needed more signs for location of tee boxes." - Reviewer u00006383920

Generally, golf courses need more signs - Where’s the first tee? Where’s the 10th? - but my biggest complaint is tee markers of similar colors. Full Disclosure: I’m partially color blind, so distinguishing one color from another is a major issue for me. But even my playing partners regularly get confused, driving past the proper tee box because either: A, they couldn’t see the tee marker from the path; or B, they saw the wrong color. So often the blues look like the blacks (or vice versa) when the sunlight reflects off them a certain way. Courses trying to be creative by introducing new colors – tan, gold, salmon, etc. – are only adding to the confusion. All I ask is the colored tee markers be easily visible and distinguishable while golfers are driving the carts or there should be a sign telling me which tee box is what tee color.

1. Ditch the receipt

"The starter was really rude. One in our group threw his receipt away and he (the starter) questioned us about it and said he would go check with the office and see and come find us and make him (our friend) pay $100 (extra) if he didn't pay." - Reviewer Corey8897254

My story is even weirder than that one. I’m at Bethpage Black, excited to play one of the most famous courses in golf. I get to the starter hut. He asks for my receipt. I can't find it. It’s not in my wallet, my bag, my pocket. Gone. My punishment for one of the stupidest crimes in golf? I had to go back inside, wait in that treacherous line (if you’ve been to Bethpage, you know what I’m talking about) and then fill out a full-page form to say I lost my receipt, pay a small penalty (like $2) and return to the starter with my new paperwork. Oh the humanity!

That wasn't the first time I’ve lost my receipt. It happens more often than I care to admit. For some reason, I just can’t keep it safeguarded that half-hour between my check-in inside the pro shop and when I greet the starter near my tee time. Can’t we just get rid of the receipt? Think of how many trees we could save. A simple radio call from the pro shop could alert the starter how many players have checked in and paid for golf. No more receipts. Problem solved. You're welcome.

What’s your biggest golf course pet peeves? Tell us in the comments below.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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When one book's in and get's a receipt. He would get a course card. Surely it is not beyond keeping them together untill play starts. Problem/moan solved why blame the marshal for ones shortcomings.

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Another silly solution which puts onus on customer to make it easier for the staff. It is easy to determine courses who want to make everything better for the customer experience from those run by government employees.

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Cut the rough, if you want to speed up play. Don't tuck the flags in corners over bunkers or water. I know just hit the center of the green.

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I love working in the golf business, so much that it really wasn't like a job because I looked forward to being there everyday. The unfriendly employee needs to be replaced without question, the only reason they are there is for the free privileges extended by the golf course. Management must remove these employees as soon as possible to keep the repeat customer and gain more customers. The repeat customer is the only way a business survives especially the highly competitive golf industry.

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Have a little higher cut of grass around some of the bunkers and and water hazards to save some of the rollers from going in the hazard or OB. Golfers will be happier and pace of play will improve!

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Poor course design, specifically fairway traps built where trees block a chance to reach the green or with lips so high there is no chance to reach the green.

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Good stuff, I also wish that golfnow would alert folks to aeration as well 

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Why pay for a half cart for my wife to enjoy riding along during a vacation, i.e. In Hawaii, especially when playing as a single? 

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#6 is a big peeve of mine at a certain local course.The club never seeds the rough.What grass is there, they let grown to 5, 6 inches.It looks good from a distance,, but really is nothing more than hardpan with green grass

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Oh oh Jason, writing to deadline again? I guess the idea of a top 10 pet peeves felt like a good idea at the time. But where to begin? While many of your peeves are legit, some others are weak to say the least.I think it would be pretty tough today to find a course operator who doesn't care about their product or policy and procedures. While running a golf facility may seem like a simple venture and getting it right an easy thing to do, it is getting it right every day, in every weather event, with many different customer types and skill levels. I have been doing this for 30 years and each day is unto its own, with its own reasons and rationals. 

#10 - You need a stand-alone range not adjoining any regular golf holes? So, the cost of providing the extra acreage for this dream scenario is paid for by who? (Or is it whom?) Unlimited range balls to warm up with? Don't make me hit off of mats! Perhaps I can dump a large basket on your front lawn and stripe some 3 irons into the near distance? Its not the cost of the range balls but the combination of balls and turf that costs so much. The extra problem for the course operator is, the customer who doesn't want to warm up with a small basket and complains to the poor under trained sales person (#3) that he should get some kind of discount because he is not hitting any balls. 

#9 - Any course built more than 10 years ago has inadvertently become somewhat obsolete due to the new ball and equipment. Well designed courses that offered an array of second shots with different clubs have become pitch and putts. Par 5's are par 4's and par 4's can be reached with a driver and a wedge. The other problem is, if a course isn't seen to be "Tour tough", they are passed over by Joe average golfer looking for that special experience. So... the rough is grown up and the pin placements are devilish with greens stimping at 13! Moving the tee's up brings another complaint from that other golfer, (you know who I mean). Expectation is the problem. What happened to "playing the ball where it lies and the course as you find it", or "it plays the same for everyone".

#8 - Again with the pin placements? Large greens should be less of a problem. Small greens are more problematic. Less space to cut cups (no none wants an old cutting within 10 feet of the hole) and slopes are magnified when the greens speed up. If rain is in the forecast we don't want to cut a hole in a low collection spot. Foot traffic damage can dictate where a cup cannot go and we concede to the situation and a hole is cut on a slippery slope. (Sh)It happens!    Again the average golfer 3 putts a couple of times a round on the best of days so sometimes it is a skill problem not a cup placement problem. We had a PGA Tour event for 7 years and some greens had a quarter to a third of the green designated as unusable due to "severe" slopes. On small greens, public play sometimes dictates those difficult slopes are forced into use. Also, Sunday pins are a misnomer. Even on the PGA Tour, pins are rotated as close to evenly as possible, given the above. The Sunday pins are chosen not for 18 tougher than average placements but more for best conditions and maybe the last three holes are chosen to "define a winner ' so the TV broadcast can finish on time. And (to flog the horse) Tour officials have free reign to push pins to the perimeter of greens in the week to ten days before an event to maximize opportunities for emergency placements for the contests four days, something not possible on a public track. #7 - "I can live with divots on the tee boxes and other sins". Would you rather have mats? Yes some courses have small tee boxes and they get chopped up quickly but there is the option to go two club lengths deep on the tee to find a spot. In the thousands of rounds I have played I have seen this to be a legit problem maybe twice and only on the least expensive courses.

 The bottom line is, a perfectly conditioned golf course would cost substantially more than, 1) the competition and 2) the price you would be willing to pay to play twice a week. Think about it, if your perfect condition public course suddenly had a turf problem on three greens and part of those greens were roped off, what should the discount be and are you so disappointed that you decide to play elsewhere for the next month?

Expectation is the problem! We can not attain the level of expectation from the local ice palace if we expect Madison square garden.  

The worst condition course I ever played was Pebble Beach ($350.00 in 1991) and they did not tell me several fairways had no turf (at all!) as they were preparing for the 1992 US Open and the fog limited visibility to 100 yards. 

I loved it!

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Your an idiot. You act like the only people playing are scratch golfers. All his peeves were accurate.

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A writer's rant: My 10 biggest golf course pet peeves