My erstwhile Golf Digest colleague Peter Andrews once wrote that golf clubs should allow their employees to throw out one member per year—a policy that would beneficially shrink the game’s stock of fairway sociopaths, and improve behavior all around. For a few years, some clubs would have the equivalent of an expulsion waiting list, as staff members worked their way through local backlogs of gripers, moochers, abusers, needlers, no-shows, and under-tippers. Eventually, though, a lasting tranquility would be achieved.
In 2009, I wrote about Flint Hills National Golf Club, near Wichita, Kansas. The club’s founder, Tom Devlin, told me how he makes membership decisions. “You’ll laugh,” he said, “but what we like to do is call the shoeshine guy at the prospective member’s club, because it’s the servers and the locker-room attendants who can really tell you what kind of person somebody is. I don’t want to talk to the owners, because those kinds of guys always treat the owners great. I want to talk to the help. Because, if you think about it, if a guy is good to a locker-room attendant, he’s probably a pretty good person. And I can promise you that if you treat our employees poorly we’ll find out, and you won’t be a member for long.”