All of the rain we’ve had over the last few days meant any hope of getting out to play yesterday was unlikely. I guess I could have played but my knees have been bothering me lately. I opted for a trip to Olney Golf Park to get a few final swings in for the year, since I won’t have a chance to go to the range or hit balls until 2016 (and while this warm spell has been great I can’t see it continuing) since work typically keeps me busy during the week.
I like Olney Golf Park because the range has covered bays (the ranges at Fairway Hills, Timbers at Troy, Waverly Woods and Hobbits Glen do not), and because the mats are in better shape than you find (they were pretty wet yesterday, which isn’t a surprise given the rains we’ve had). Unfortunately that means going to Olney and dealing with the army of photo radar that they have (or “speed traps” as they should be known as).
Unfortunately I couldn’t get loose, my hand kept bothering me (I fear that I may be developing some kind of arthritis in my hands- make your own jokes), and I never felt comfortable bringing the club back (I’m not overly mechanical). The bays that are covered are heated (kind of needed yesterday due to fairly constant breeze- the photo above shows the flags all blowing pretty good) but the one I was at wasn’t working. I hit far too many bad shots. Hopefully I can get back out there sooner than later.
I was hoping to start earlier, but their hours on Google weren’t correct (their website and their signage at the range is correct- currently they open at 10am). So with some time to kill, I thought I’d venture down Georgia Avenue and see how one of my old haunts was getting on- the mystery golf course that was Trotters Glen. I spent many a happy evening after work there, hitting balls and using their short game area. I never knew what happened, but a few clues made the answers fairly apparent.
Driving past the two large churches and a few McMansions, it was clear the area had seen some development. And then, there it was.
I’m not against development, and I’m not against progress, but I am concerned about how the average person gets into the game (Trotters Glen was a shorter course). The course’s website is now this, and if you look carefully, you’ll note that these are going for $1.1mm plus. So for an average family, that’s so far beyond attainable it’s ridiculous.
This made me wonder two things- who’s paying into seven figures for a home, and where does someone new to the game go? The First Tee does great work for kids, but what of adults? Are we to assume they binge-watch old Golf Channel infomercials?
If you’re scoring at home, Virginia is losing Goose Creek at the end of the year, Trotters Glen is gone, Sligo Creek has long been rumored to be going away, and I’d argue that Old Gunpowder may not survive this decade. Montgomery Country Club went under for a housing development. I’m almost certain I’ve missed at least one course going away. And yet, interest isn’t waning. The number of rounds is typically impacted by weather (notice how much rounds went up in November/December since the weather was spring-like?).
And what of that lack of interest by millennials? Looking at my Instagram feed and suggestions (and if you haven’t done so, follow me on Instagram- I post other stuff besides golf photos), it’s a lot of golf stuff being largely produced by the younger set (some of it really good and some of it terrible). They’re playing the game (I played several rounds with millennials this year; they’re just like most golfers- by and large a decent lot, they love the game, and they want to improve).
So when I hear people talking about growing the game, I point out that you’re losing courses that weren’t as intimidating to novice players as some other tracks…how does the game grow again (you don’t grow any business by reducing supply)? There’s no new courses coming to the area that are public and/or daily fee. We keep adding houses. Where are the golfers going to play who want to take the game up who aren’t quite ready for a full size course? Northwest Park has the “inside 9” which is a pretty stern test. Needwood has an executive nine hole course, and Sligo Creek is a nine-hole course. Hilltop in Alexandria is a 9-hole course but is no pushover. See where I’m going?
There are rumors floating around East Potomac Golf Course in Washington. I fear what may happen, because frankly, this rarely ends well for golf courses. Look at what almost happened to the golf course at University of Maryland.
Meanwhile, tell me again how to grow the game when you eliminate courses. Take as much time as you’d like.
Unrelated, if you have a chance, go see the film The Big Short. I can’t recommend it enough.
Enjoy your New Years’ celebrations and all the best in 2016.