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.