Yesterday we posted a letter by Dr. Robert Weiner of Utah, who complained that public golf n this country was going to the dogs, or at least to a bunch of boors who don't fix ball marks and wear their hats backward. Dr. Weiner has retreated to a private club and objected when Jerry Tarde, in his Editor's Letter in October, might relax their dress codes and cell phone rules. But is public golf really so intolerable.
I tested Dr. Weiner's argument this weekend and played Montauk Downs
, a beautiful, state-park, Robert Trent Jones Sr. course on the far eastern end of Long Island. On a brisk morning the first weekend after the Labor Day crowds, my friend Rich and I walked on about 7:30, got assigned an 8:45 time with another twosome, and had time for a delicious, cholesterol-boosting, ham-egg-cheese sandwich, a cup of coffee and twenty or so practice balls off the mats on the range between holes 3 and 4.
I won't give you every sordid detail of our rounds, but this was golf exactly as you daydream it. Not a cloud in the sky. Light breeze, 10-15 miles an hour, temperatures from high 60s to high 70s. Pleasant playing companions--a father and son, Eric, in his 50s, and Steve, in his 70s. They took a cart; we walked. I'm a 5, Rich about a 15, and we, like the twosome we hooked up, with played the white tees, meaning that pars were a possibility for all us and each of us made at least a couple. We played reasonably fast--4 and-a-half hours--though the ranger rightly prodded us on the back nine because we were a hole behind. Divots were replaced, ballmarks repaired, bunkers raked. A great walk, a great time, golf, Dr. Weiner, as you know and like it.
As we packed up our clubs, we ran into a large group from western Long Island and Queens who had driven up to two hours to play the Downs for the first time. (Yes, it's that good.) They were packing Corona longnecks into a couple of coolers and had a list of questions about our round and the course. How were the greens?. Aerated, we said, but rolling fine. What tees did you play? Whites we said, 6300. Really, what handicaps? We told them and they seemed surprised we hadn't played it longer. Run into any walkers they asked, as if we might have stumbled upon a multi-car crash on the Long Island Expressway. We were (blanking) walkers, we said. Don't worry about walkers! We all laughed and they headed out under a perfect sky. They were different kinds of golfers than us; but they loved the game and would love the course, especially if they played the appropriate tees. (I think we convinced them the whites were right for them, 15-to-25 handicaps). I have no doubt they'd take care of the course, too.
Dr. Weiner, we've all run into the idiots you complain about. But it's not a matter of public versus private, nor is it a matter of new golfers versus old. I've played behind incredibly slow golfers at private clubs and had to dig my ball out of their footprints in bunkers. (Don't get me started on ballmarks). It comes down to the standards at that course or club, standards that are maintained not only by the facility but by the golfers themselves.
We pushed back on the walker question because our friends from Queens should know that it's not walking that makes for slow golf, it's slow golf. You're right to rue the rudeness that creeps in. But I think Jerry Tarde's point in his Editor's Letter
is that it's not whether the hat is backwards or forwards, or whether the cart has a cooler, that determines what kind of golfer your playing with. It's closer to the heart than that.