While it’s never fun to be sick and unable to play this wonderful game, to have this happen during the meat of the season is particularly frustrating. Without going into details, it’s been two weeks of maladies I wouldn’t wish on anyone and it’s kept me looking wistfully at my clubs, hoping they’ll see plenty of use before too long.

In a rare moment of smarts, the PGA Tour agreed to a ban on the anchored stroke. However, they agree that amateurs (meaning you) should be able to use these until 2024 at least. We’re finally on the way to bifurication (professionals and elite amateur events under one set of rules, and everyone else under another). With the game not growing, those that run the game have to look at ways to keep the game growing. Telling a bunch of casual golfers you can’t use a belly putter doesn’t serve that purpose.

Unfortunately we’re still dealing with slow play issues; last month’s US Open made that abundantly clear. While the USGA was running some clever “While We’re Young” ads to encourage folks to move it along, you have elite golfers taking 5 to 5 1/2 hours to get around. Not to pick on him, but Ian Poulter doesn’t help things when he points out that it would take casual golfers even longer to get around, and thus, the pros should be above criticism. He’s missing the point; it’s that people see you take 60-80 seconds on a putt, and guess what- that’s what your weekend golfers end up doing. Add that up over 18 holes and all of a sudden we’re at 6 hour rounds. And yes, Ian- you’re a great deal more talented than a 10-handicapper…which is why you’re playing for millions in prize money and you earn millions in endorsements while we pay to play.

As I’ve noted, this is something everyone collectively owns. Pointing fingers doesn’t help. Playing faster does and that’s the point.

In talking to several trusted sources and doing some sleuthing on my own, if Howard County is serious about trying to build itself as a golf destination, than I should offer up a few tips:
-Maintenance costs money. Letting bunkers at one of your few public courses fall out of disrepair doesn’t help. The management company has a case to answer on this (and yes- all the rain we’ve had isn’t helping), but people see disrepair and it doesn’t help things. Spend a little now, or spend a whole lot more later.
-Any quasi-public course that effectively blocks out the first six tee times every weekend for the same group (when the course claims that it’s available for a fairly large segment of the population) is killing itself softly. Oh, but you’re building a new clubhouse…why that’s wonderful! Never mind that the course is, by several accounts, in dire need of upkeep and maintenance. You do a great job of keeping people from playing the course (or worse, if they are lucky enough to play there…between the attitude of people working there and the conditions…they won’t come back) which generates…you know, revenue! If you talk to golfers, things like pace of play, course conditions, and friendliness of staff typically are what bring them back. Which leads me to my next point…
-Treat golfers like the customers that they are. I made a few phone calls trying to secure a tee time (because while every other course in the area allows online bookings…well, they don’t do it that way). What a gong show. If your website says “call this number for tee times”…you know what helps? Having someone to answer the phone! Oh- I need to call between only certain hours…well that makes sense. And I need to talk to only one person. And I have to have my papers. Let’s review- I’m trying to give you my money…all you need to do is to accept it. This, apparently, is too much. So this leaves Turf Valley resort (which caters to guests staying there), and the nearby Waverly Woods (sister course of Blue Mash) that seem to get it.
-There’s no way that I’m the only solo golfer out there. It would be nice to not be treated like I’m from a leper colony. Just saying. As much as it pains me, I can go to that larger county west of here, and be treated like an actual human being with courses that are either in good shape or are being renovated (Rattlewood is converting to Bermuda Grass; and on their website they have several notices about it- good on them for taking the short term hit for a long term gain). This isn’t rocket science.