Reader’s Trip Report: North Carolina

Graham Stevens, a reader, sent the following report. He doesn’t name the course, but I’ve encountered the same policy and it drives me bats.

I called a semi-private course I’d never played near the mountain town I was visiting on vacation, and made my usual request: “I would love to be first out. I play fast and I’m a solid golfer (6 handicap). I will play with anyone from any tees as long as they play fast, too. My typical rounds take less than two hours when I play by myself, and I hate playing in more than three hours.”

They said, “No problem. We’ll see you at 7:30 and take good care of you.”

I showed up a little after 7:00 and the guy at the pro shop was great. He gave me tips on which holes were quirky, and told me how to get to the practice areas and the first tee.

At my allotted time, I striped one down the middle. As I walked toward my drive, though, three carts came racing over the tee boxes and down the hill. Their drivers—the entire early-morning staff of the clubhouse—were shouting, “Wait!” “Sir!” “Excuse me!”

The starter, breathing hard, explained that I couldn’t walk. I told him that I had perfectly good legs and that I could walk. He said he couldn’t let me go off first unless I took a cart. I told him I would play faster on foot. He said that wasn’t possible on a mountain course. I said, “I bet you $5,000 I can play faster walking than riding on this course.”

He pleaded with me: “Please, sir, I can lose my job if someone sees you walking.”

I have heard a lot of crazy excuses, but this was a first. 

In the end, I didn’t want to argue. I love this time of day for the solitude, long shadows, and fresh moist air, not for endless irrational discussions. More important, I wanted to play quickly and get back home before my wife and daughter noticed I was missing. I took the cart and played 18 holes in an hour and fifty-one minutes. The starter (still employed!) approached me after I putted out on 18 and he said, “Wow, that was fast!”

I told him, “I would have been in my car ten minutes ago if you had let me walk.”

He smiled and said, “I appreciate you being accommodating this morning and I hope you will come back and see us.”

I said, “You have a great golf course here on a beautiful piece of land, but there is not a chance I will be back unless you change your policy on walking.”

 

 

14 thoughts on “Reader’s Trip Report: North Carolina

  1. Dumb policy. Ungracious dude. And I doubt very much that he could have walked it faster, unless they — really ridiculously — had a paths only rule. If, as a six handicap, he was keeping the ball in play, it is silly to pretend that he can walk faster than a cart. The only speed advantage of walking is if you can walk more directly to places the cart can’t get.

    Walking is way better than carts, but not if minimizing the time of a round is your (kinda silly) first and only priority.

  2. Walk or ride it is really a matter of taste. Sadly this becomes almost religious to some.

    Regarding this situation was there a fee for the cart thereby giving an economic reason to push the cart? Second the staff have to apply the rules not make them they were in effect doing their job. Issues of policy cannot be worked with the counter staff.

    If I liked the course and had the option to play I would call next time speak to the GM and see if I could walk .

    .

  3. I like to play fast and walk also, but it seems to me that this guy is just an anti-social jerk. They let him go off first, by himself, and it was in no way an unreasonable request that he use a cart. But he feels the need to tell the starter that he will never play there again? I’m sure he broke that starter’s heart. I have no doubt that if this guy wasn’t out first that day he would have been hitting into the group in front of him. If you want to take a brisk morning walk by yourself, there are plenty of public parks for that. If you want to play on someone’s golf course, do what they tell you and shut up.

  4. Our correspondent wasn’t trying to tee off alone in the middle of the day. He asked for and received permission to lead the pack, and he wouldn’t have had to play at a two-hour pace to stay ahead of any group that might conceivably have teed off behind him. Walking golfers are a vanishing breed. It’s right for them to speak up, and it’s a shame when golf courses treat them as renegades or troublemakers.

    In my experience, walkers almost always play faster than riders. Golf carts have encouraged many time-devouring bad habits–such as wandering halfway across a fairway to examine a ball that couldn’t possibly be anyone else’s, then wandering back to a cart to select a club to hit it with. Meanwhile, the cart’s other passenger is wandering somewhere else, or twiddling his thumbs, or checking his messages. It’s entirely possible to play fast in a golf cart–I’ve done it myself–but golf rounds in the United States have gotten longer as riding has become dominant, and that’s more than a coincidence. Rounds at Bandon Dunes, where carts are virtually forbidden, are faster than rounds at resorts where everyone rides.

    Golf courses can set their own policies, of course; but golfers can, too. Golf Digest, in its 100 Greatest rankings, downgrades courses that don’t allow walking. So do I. Back in January, in Florida, two friends and I played a course where the pro–when we said we’d like to walk–told us that, as far as he knew, no one had ever played the course without a cart. So we had to ride. It was a nice course, but I wouldn’t go back.

  5. I’m young(ish… 26) and took up golf last year. After discovering many of my friends have played on and off for years I have a decent little group of regular playing partners, but am just as happy booking a spot on my own after work and playing with whomever I end up with. The only people that want to walk are generally the older guys I meet – often devilish accurate short hitters who make every putt they look at! I cannot persuade any of my friends to walk, ever. I play in Calgary in Canada so all the courses in the city are fairly flat and made to walk, but they all insist (wrongly, in my opinion) that a cart is faster.

  6. I’m 53, I prefer walking. It’s healthy, keeps my muscles warm, and gives me time alone on the course, even when playing in a group. I also hate cart paths. I’ve hit cart paths that are only 15 yards off the green, and whereas I would have had a short pitch to the green, I now have to find my ball 50 yards away in the flower garden behind the green. I also think people drive their carts too close to the green. I have a good wedge game, but I end up playing too many hard-pan shots around the green because the carts have rolled the grass flat. (yes, I know, I should hit more greens.)

    I once played a seven am round with three freinds. We needed to get off early, as two of the guys needed to get home. I wanted to walk, they wanted to ride, “to get done faster”. When we arrived at the first tee there were two groups of walkers ahead of us. All of the walkers were in their fifties and sixties, and the guys began mumbling about how slow we were going to be. I had played with these old walkers before though, and told the guys not to worry, they’d beat us. Sure enough, the walkers were walking off nine as we were teeing off eight, and we were trying to play fast.

    Nothing beats ready golf, walking. Particularly for foursomes.

  7. David — Everything you say is indisputably true, and indisputably inapplicable to this guy, going out first, alone, who is actually interested in playing fast. This guy presumably wasn’t going to engage in all the round-slowing behavior associated with carts. This guy was presumably going to drive to his ball and hit it, and then drive to his ball and hit it, and then park near the green and chip or putt, and then go the next tee.

    I understand, and agree, that golf is more enjoyable when you walk. Don’t tell me, however, that it is faster to walk for a single, going out first, who is a good player not keen on wasting time. That’s just not possible.

    Yes, he was perfectly reasonable to ask to walk, and even to be persistent–especially snice that would have been more enjoyable for him. He comes across, though, as a guy for whom speed is an end, rather than an important means to enjoying a round of golf. Finally, he was surely rude in his post-round behavior.

  8. Don’t complain. Help. Does the ‘Golf Digest’ course locator segregate courses that allow walking. How about a list of courses that are friendly to walkers..

  9. My wife and I played Port Royal in Bermuda in May 2011, and they refused to let us walk, even if we paid for the cart. In hindsight, I was glad to have somewhere to sit between shots during 5-plus hour round (there were two holes open ahead of the group in front of us). Funny how they enforce the cart rule but the ranger did nothing about the pace of play. I will never go back to Port Royal.

  10. Walking can be nice and I do it in my 9 hole weekly league with a nice 3 wheeled push cart. MY bag is way too big and heavy to lug around. That being said If the course you play on requires carts than either respect that rule or don’t play there, No need to get in an uproar, just find another place to play.

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