SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Normally, on a transcontinentalflight, Iam pecking away at the laptop keys on another fresh column for myreaders(both of you). Nothing keeps me from my work. Not fuselage-rattlingturbulence, a reclining seat in front of me that pushes my computer intomydiaphragm, or yet another in flight romantic comedy selection staringSandraBullock.
All work, all flight? OK, from time to time, I nod off with visions ofplush resort courses dancing through my head. During a recent four-hourflight from Charlotte to Phoenix, I decided to put the pen to rest for awhile and catch up on some shut eye. Just as I was entering that strangeplace between the waking world and dreamland, a genie appeared.
Being a golfer, I figured this was the same cherubic dude who is the crux of so many corny golf jokes. You know the ones. "I was searching for my ball in the rough when a genie appears and grants me three wishes, blah blah blah." Boy, was I wrong. This genie was the real deal. He spoke of golf history, architecture, and a number of hot button issues on the PGA Tour.
My next thought was that he wanted a job at TravelGolf.com. Hey, it'sgoodwork if you can get it and I have no idea what a genie gig pays. Wrongagain. After giving me his U.S. Open predictions, he wanted to listen tomefor a while. These genies are so unselfish. He wanted to know what Iwoulddo to improve the world of travel and golf. What's more, if he agreedwithmy recommendations, he'd implement them all by the time I woke up.
In other words, all I had to do was tell him what I'd been thinking about for the past five years and the recreational golf world would be a better place by the time we touched down in the Valley of the Sun. Being an organized scribe, and wanting my policies implemented with genie-like expediency, I laid out my manifesto in three easy to understand sections.
Storied, private U.S. Open venues like Shinnecock Hills, Oakmont and Southern Hills should be required to allow a limited amount of public play the week after hosting the tournament. An event that claims to be the most democratic major of the four can't trumpet its openness one week, then revert to its exclusive ways the next.
This policy could make for some bitter members, but too bad. People whooccupy historic homes and structures are held to a different set ofrulesthan those who dwell in mundane buildings. The public play quota wouldalsobenefit the game, the travel industry and the U.S.G.A's standing withJohn-Qgolfer. Moreover, the economic impact on the host community would begravy,what with extra room nights and dollars spent on dining, shopping andentertainment.
The years the Open is held at "public" courses, like Pinehurst No. 2 andPebble Beach, a limited amount public play should be offered at areducedrate for those golfers who would otherwise not be able to pony up the$300plus for greens fees and caddies. Tax returns could be presented in theproshop to qualify for the discount. Sound socialistic? Get over it. Onetrip around these storied links is all some golfers ask out of life, butonly a privileged few have the means to do it.
The PGA of America should require its members to give pro bono lessons year round as part of their recertification process. The revenue lost would be more than offset by the number of golfers who decide to stay in the game. The PGA of America has made some strides in this area with its Play Golf America campaign and designation of May as free lesson month. But one month of free piano lessons doesn't make a Mozart.
How many free hours do lawyers and doctors have to put in to keep theirlicenses to practice? I'll wager that it is more than most PGAprofessionalsput in. And prosecuting criminals and saving lives has to be more timeconsuming and stressful than managing a golf course and its variousoperations. Frankly, the dozens of head professionals and golf directorsIhave come to know over the years are the type of people who'd relishthisrequirement, not balk at it.
The acceptable pace of play at public access and resort courses needs to be capped at 4 hours and 20 minutes. At most courses, it is inching towards 4:30 and 4:45 isn't unheard of. Who has that much time? Golfers on vacation? I don't think so. There are two types of traveling golfers - those who want to play 36 holes a day and those who want to play 18 and enjoy some other activity. Neither type wants to be stuck on the course for five hours.
And walking should be allowed at any and every golf course, and thosewhodecide to honor the game's traditions should not be hit with a cart or"players" fee. You say golf courses would loose too much money? Not sofast.Most courses lease their cart fleets and cover the monthly per cart feeafter one or two rounds. Anything on top of that is pure profit. Andwalkingdoes jibe with the pace of play recommendation above. Numerousstudies have shown that a foursome in carts is actually slower than afoursome afoot.
And a couple of other things before I wake up: cell phones should be banned from all golf courses. You can't take them into church, and isn't the golf course a place of worship and reflection? Whether you buy that or not, the bottom line is you're affecting someone else's propensity to enjoy him or herself when you're yapping on a cell phone. And while we're at it, let's do away with the ridiculous cart path only rule. Don't the mowers have wheels? And if a course encouraged walking, fewer carts would be on the grass anyway.
Later that day.
I am stuck behind a foursome in two golf carts with cell phones that appearto be surgically attached to their ears. Carts are restricted to pathsandall four golfers are on their way to shooting 110s in just under fivehoursbecause they wouldn't pay $70 an hour for lessons from the head pro.
Turnsout the genie had a bet with another genie that he could get a golfwriterto spend an entire transcontinental flight working on a column with ageniein it. It's a cruel world, and a cruel game, after all.
May 27, 2004
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!