Anyone who's ever moved into the East Coast corridor from more bumpkin surroundings (say Chicago) knows what a transforming experience it can be. It isn't long before you're darting in and out of 75 mph congested turnpike traffic like the rest of the locals, cursing out the timid fool with the Florida plates. It isn't much longer before even the most glacial of eaters is forging a pace that Takeru Kobayashi, that world hot dog chomping champion from Japan, would appreciate.
Hurriedness isn't in the DNA here. It's in the air, the water and the concrete. It's going to seep into your system no matter how laid back a person you think you are.
Which isn't all a bad thing. It's sort of amusing to go back to the Midwest and suddenly notice that your friends and family all seem to be clutching the side door handle every time you're behind the wheel. Everyone deserves to be introduced to the simple joys of a New Jersey left (flooring it to turn left before the oncoming traffic realizes the light's gone green). Like that grandmother from Detroit wasn't going to have a heart attack anyways.
Yet when it comes to golf, this easily-adopted, ever-present East Coast attitude is as annoying as the one guy on the Newark airport moving walkway who thinks it's a moving standway.
Golf is supposed to provide an escape from everyday life. Including the attitude and mores of turnpike life. Too many East Coast golf courses brim with the self-important condescension of a trendy NoLIta (fancy New York term for north of Little Italy) restaurant. It's super-serious, stone-faced sentries standing behind clubhouse counters acting like they're doing you a favor by agreeing to take your money.
A friend recently plunked down $180 at a decent New Jersey club for a round for him and his wife. When he asked not to be paired with another twosome on a slow Monday because his wife was a relative beginner who still got nervous playing with strangers, the pro rolled his eyes. He didn't even bother to try and hide it.
Look, if you're too cool for the room, get out of the golf business. This isn't the stage for a bunch of pricks who want to play that David Spade receptionist from 1990s Saturday Night Live. It's golf. Rumor is, it's supposed to be fun. For the golfer.
Just because people are packed on top of one nother on the East Coast and your tee time sheet is jammed doesn't give you the freedom to treat your customers like numbers. If anything East Coast courses should be even more grateful and accommodating considering what golfers have to go through around here to get in their rounds. Chances are they've been stuck in traffic, harried and harassed. Imagine being the stock broker who's logged 80 hours a week at Cantor Fitzgerald telling his wife he wants to spend six hours at the golf course away from her and the kids on Sunday.
Every round is precious to that guy. He deserves to be treated according.
Instead a recent month-long tour of East Coast courses, backed up by eight years of living and golfing here, revealed treatment that bordered on the comically bad. At Rocky Point, a Baltimore County public course that overlooks the Chesapeake Bay, an attendant screamed at his customers not to talk to a reporter. The customers crime? Daring to talk on a day when the garbage cans on the course overflowed. Later, the Rocky Point employee tried to explain it away by saying it was a corporate mandate. A corporate mandate to be a jerk?
The average golfer's sick of courses in this multinational, cross-ownership age hiding behind "corporate mandates.'' You're representing the course, you're the corporation that day. Don't tell the guy who paid good money for a torn up course that looks like it received its last visit from a professional groundskeeper when The Moonwalk was still all the rage that you'd love to give a refund but that unfortunately has to go through "corporate."
No excuses, just provide the service.
At Cannon Ridge, a Deane Beman-designed course between D.C. and Richmond on I-95, I watched a golfer who could apply for sainthood calmly cat nap in his cart as he waited in an endless line on the first tee. The guy left work early hoping to get in 18 and get back onto the road before the Washington Beltway turned into its usual rush hour sitstill. Instead, he got a starter joking about the huge group of junior players ahead of him.
Don't overbook your course just because you can. And if it is...here's a tough one...stop taking additional reservations!
East Coast courses have so much to offer, from breathtaking views to historic tracks to outstanding teachers. Unfortunately, too many golf visitors only remember the snotty, shoddy service they received. And don't give me that tired if they only took the time to know the real New Yorkers line.
You're a golf course worker. Your gruffness is not an endearing character trait, it's plain rudeness.
Maybe, I'll run into the clueless mope in the Toyota I cut off three times in traffic later in a Hoboken bar and discover he's really a great guy. From you, I just want service without the attitude.
October 22, 2004
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!