Slice Of Life
By Terry Moore
I was dreaming the other day. So this guy calls me out of the blue and starts asking me all sorts of questions about opening an ideal golf course. He says he just sold his Old Economy business (was it a chain of Dunkin' Donuts?) for a nice sum of dough and had always thought about running a "first-class" public golf course. "A course that would make the Top 100 list would be my goal," the guy says with a slight Southern accent. Anyway, the gentleman is very pleasant and asks to meet with me to go over my "ideal" golf course. He says he'll buy me breakfast at Denny's so I jump at the opportunity. Here's what I told him.
- General Design--stick with classic, tried and true architecture. Look at some of the great and venerable golf courses in this state and around the country and follow the precepts of minimal earth-moving, natural green settings, open-fronted greens, few forced carries over water, lively and imaginative bunkers at modest depth, moderately sloped greens with plenty of level pin positions. Thoughtful forward tees. Oh yes, please make it a walker-friendly design.
- What to Avoid in Design--elevated greens and hidden pins, three-tiered, hump-backed greens that invite four-putts, island greens and tees, moguls and decked fairways, double greens (leave that to the Scots), deep-faced bunkers that require lots of maintenance, cart paths in the sight lines and landing areas.
- Some mandatory design touches--a simple, straight-away starting hole that gets play moving, a short par four that can be driven at some risk, several types of par-5s--reachable, three-shotter, dogleg, etc., lots of bump-and-run and chipping options around the greens.
- Name--please no more tree names! They've been done so move on and use your imagination. Research the property, locale, and/or town and see if a distinctive, indigenous name emerges. Don't make it sound like a condominium complex which already has poached every storied golf name in existence. And keep in mind how a name might work with a logo.
- Policies and Practices--allow walking at all times, discounts when greens are aerated, discounts for juniors, complimentary range balls (small bag) if green fees are in the "upscale" price point, pin sheets each day, Kirby yardage systems, yardages on cart paths, and rakes left in bunkers.
- Conditioning--make it a priority. Give the superintendent (maybe your most critical hire) the budget, staff and equipment to maintain excellent course conditions. Revolve the golf course around this key element. Also: shortish rough, quick greens, and quality sand in the bunkers.
- Clubhouse--moderate in size and scope. Don't try to compete, unless one makes full commitment, in the fiercely competitive fine dining market. Focus on fast and filling breakfast fare for morning golfers, ditto for lunches. Allow for outings by using ample concrete pads for tents and canopies. Have a 19th hole bar or snack lounge located away from any formal dining. And if formal dining is opted, offer an affordable wine list.
- Service--Motto: You can never do too much to keep your customers happy. Make it a part of the mission statement and every employee's orientation. Important: don't be afraid to ask customers how they're doing.
- Other--Courteous yet conscientious (i.e. do one's job to combat slow play) rangers, order phones and menu on the ninth tee, on-course water coolers, litter-conscious staff, clean bathrooms, simple tee markers, smart signage around property, well-lit and paved parking lots, lightning detectors, portable defibrillators, and a large "thank you" sign at the course exit.
I know I'm still dreaming when the gentleman says, "Thanks for volunteering all the good advice. I look forward to breaking ground next month in Tennessee."
Terry Moore can be reached at email@example.com
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