As golfers go, I like to think I’m fairly easy to please.
Give me a fun golf course in decent shape and I’m going to have a pretty good time.
But in the golf world, there’s a big difference between “pretty good” and “can’t wait to go back.”
That big difference is, of course, the little things. Here are a few that bring my judgment of a golf experience from "like" to "love."
Beyond the bare basics that courses do more out of necessity than the pursuit of excellence, the “little things” seem to come from one of two categories: customer service and, for lack of a superior term, “everything else,” which may be beyond the direct control of the course’s operators.
I spent a couple summers caddying and one of the rules it reinforced—beyond the timeless “Show up, keep up and shut up”—was that great service anticipates as well as reacts. At golf facilities, that anticipatory service is what customers love. The best-run facilities have an entire customer service machine in place that takes care of most needs before they’re needed. Speaking of which, Don't you love it when...
...you're greeted at the bag drop? The bag drop interaction is a handshake from the course. When two or more staffers swarming my car, greet me and pluck golf bags from my trunk, that's the strong, confident handshake I love.
...practice is made perfect? The pre-round warm-up is not a time to nickel-and-dime visitors, so if range balls are included in the green fee (and set up in neat pyramids on the practice tee), I’m happy. If they’re nicer-quality golf balls (read: Titleist NXT or similar), I’m ecstatic.
...carts come with all the comforts? Play enough golf across the world and you’ll realize that not all golf carts are created equal. Now, I love walking a golf course as much as anyone, but when I do take a cart, I have certain preferences, such as:
- Battery, rather than gas power
- Ample storage space, e.g. flexible cupholders, a front-middle compartment as well as the normal front-left-and front-right
- A GPS system where the day’s pin positions pre-programmed
- Built-in club-cleaning box on the back
- A cooler on the other side, pre-stocked with fresh water
- Fresh, dry towels should also make an appearance up front.
...snack time is elevated to an art form? The presence of a beverage cart is nice (especially if there is one on each nine on a busy day), but the rise of the gourmet “comfort station” has raised the bar at the truly upscale courses. A good mid-round chicken salad sandwich? Always a pleasure. Made-to-order sliders or fish tacos like those offered at the luxe Diamante Cabo San Lucas? Now we’re talking.
...there's post-round pampering? On a hot summer’s day, there’s little more welcome relief after a round than a cold towel on the neck. My favorites courses go the extra mile by supplying a scented towel; minty ones give our necks and faces an especially refreshing feeling.
You could technically boil everything that happens at a golf course down to “customer service,” but these are the “little things” that don’t really relate to the golf course staff whom players interact with each day. Don't you love it when...
...the course is firm and fast? It bugs me to no end to arrive in the first fairway on a sunny day, only to find a huge clump of mud on my golf ball, especially if I know the area has not exactly been inundated with rain lately. I know some golfers would rather see unnaturally green grass than have fun on the course, but I am not one of them (you may recall my celebration of Pinehurst this summer).
...you get off to a great start? This is another one of those handshake metaphors. If there's a nice practice area at the player's disposal, why are so many opening holes so forgettable? I love the first at The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC course: a long, straightaway par four that shows you the course means business immediately.
...intimacy? There's something about teeing off just steps away from the pro shop and putting out on the 18th with people looking on while eating lunch that adds a ton to the atmosphere of a golf course. Not surprisingly, the Greenbrier also does this nicely.
...that private club feel? One of the best feelings after a round of golf is a hot shower. Even resort courses, where one’s lodging might not be too far away, do a great service by providing a comfortable locker room where players can clean up without retreating to their rooms.
What little things do you love when you go to play golf? As always, please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.