Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game


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Pitching In – An Interview with Shaper Justin Carlton

ArcadiaBluffsSouthIt wasn’t the most pleasant evening I have ever experienced in Northern Michigan, but I didn’t care.  After months of Facebook messaging, I was finally getting a walking tour of the South Course at Arcadia Bluffs with Justin Carlton.  Justin is an experienced Shaper, having worked on courses from Michigan to Bock Cay, and beyond.  He had been brought on by Dana Fry to pitch in on the South Course – one of the most intriguing course construction projects in years.

We walked and talked and geeked out hard on golf and architecture.  Justin’s interests range from building traditional golf courses all the way to applying proven design principles to disc golf courses.  Our conversation eventually turned to pitch & putts, and it was evident that we had touched on something near and dear to Justin’s heart.  His enthusiasm was palpable, and I wanted to know more.  

Justin graciously agreed to do an interview so that we could learn more about him, and what he considers to be a missing piece in the game for championship golf obsessed Americans.  Enjoy!

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THE INTERVIEW

(click on images to enlarge)

How did you get introduced to the game of golf?

Jason, first thanks for all you do for the game of golf and allowing me to be a part of it!  I was introduced to the game by my Grandfather, Ralph Carlton.  He was a great guy, but also a Marine Corps lifer so he could be a little stern at times.  I played with him and my Aunt, Kathy Carpenter the most growing up.  We always played our local courses, Arcadia Country Club and Sunnybreeze, both of which are located in my hometown (I would love to get my hands on them to fix them up).  It was a real treat to play with them and we had a lot of fun – memories I will never forget.  My Grandfather had this signature move, the Carlton shuffle.  It never failed, at some point when the game had him beat and frustrated he would hit a horrible shot and proceed to stomp the ball repeatedly into the ground to where you couldn’t even see it.  I’d give anything to witness that one more time!

When did you know that the game had a hold on you?

I started to take lessons, began to understand the game better and had developed a nice swing.  My grandfather invited me on a trip.  It was mostly to visit some areas where he was stationed while in the Marine Corps and included a visit to Sea Palms on St. Simons Island to play golf.  Up to this point I had only seen good courses on TV and walked away from this experience in awe, realizing there was a lot more to the game than what I had experienced so far.

How did you get into the business?

I had some interesting things happen growing up and felt I had to find work a little early to help the family.  My first job was actually working the drive thru window at McDonalds.  My uncle was into excavation work and he gave me a shot, running a shovel cleaning up curbing on a road for a grader operator that I learned to despise.  Every day I said, if I am ever the boss, I will not give this much trouble to the laborers.  I recently bought a home off that road that I learned to hate and visit those memories frequently when driving on it.  I moved on from working for my Uncle and took a job down in the Naples area that led to moving dirt around golf courses.

Art grabbed my attention at a young age, Salvador Dali was and still is the man in my opinion.  I had gotten very good on a dozer and realized the shapers were making a lot more money than myself and figured that my love of art, dirt and golf would be a great combination.  My brother Jody actually moved into shaping before me while we were moving dirt on Tiburon in Naples, and he led me to make the jump.  Tom Fazio was starting a new project, Corral Creek Club in the Gasparilla area near my home.  At that point I honestly had no clue who Tom Fazio was, didn’t really know there was a role called “golf architect” – I only knew this was my shot.  Quality Grassing was the construction company and I found myself begging the hardnose Larry Woody for a job.  Somehow it worked out and here I am today.

Who have been your biggest influences, in and out of golf?

As far as golf shaping goes, Mark White took me under his wing and taught me the ropes and I am forever thankful for everything he taught me.  He really influenced me to become the “free spirit” shaper I am today for many reasons.  Mark was a Mike Strantz boy and had performed several jobs for the legend.  I would eat up his stories and then go home to do further research to catch up.  I’ll never forget working at Corral Creek.  Mark had ripped all the stakes out of the fairway and told me I had to learn to “feel it”. My mind was spinning when Tom Fazio’s site rep showed up and said, “Somebody sure has taken some liberty with this one.”  But he liked it, and so I thought to myself, game on!

Maurice Campbell played a critical role in developing me as a shaper.  We battled each other daily in friendly competition in who could shape best.  I never thought I would get close to him but loved every second when we would walk holes early in the morning before anyone else showed up to talk and challenge each other to do something better.  I’ll never forget the day Maurice asked, “What do you think about me doing this?”  I knew I was getting closer at that point.  Maurice also was a Strantz boy and eventually led me down a deeper rabbit hole into golf architecture.  Mike Strantz and Dana Fry who were both Fazio guys that came from the same dozer seat and helped me realize I could dream bigger.

My Parents and grandparents have played a massive role in who I am as an individual.  They taught me to be humble.  Work hard and success will follow somewhere and someday.  Although it doesn’t show up as much as it should in my daily life, I have a deep personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Without that, I’d be a complete wreck.  I owe all my talents to Him!

Who is your favorite Golden Age architect, and why?

I am not sure it was intentional but Tom Marzolf from Fazio design referenced Tillie the Terror a few times while I was working with him on projects, and it was my first introduction to the Golden Age guys.  Although Tillinghast was my first real introduction to the Golden Age I would have to say it is a three way tie between Tillinghast, Mackenzie and Colt.  Sorry I can’t nail this question, and it is the toughest question you could ask me.  Although Mackenzie has the name, I think Tillinghast has had the biggest contribution to today’s game.  The guy was a genius in what he designed.  I find myself a little different than some of the guys I have shaped with in that I love studying golf architecture deep into the night every night.

Which part of a course do you like working on the most?

I think each individual aspect can be just as important as the other.  Originally I loved the finish work and still do.  I love the grand scale of creativity allowed in rough shaping.  I think the initial clearing or set up can really lead to a great start and create a great impression to work from.  I haven’t been responsible for the initial routing of a course yet, but have been given a lot of freedom on my current job to change the routing.  There is a real art to reading the land and I have learned to love the routing process.  I love bunkering – you can flip any course on it’s head with bunkering.  I feel that courses struggling in today’s atmosphere could bring back much interest to themselves by starting with a good bunker renovation.  If done right, it can be accomplished relatively inexpensively compared to the other components of course design.

How did you first become interested in pitch & putts?

I was not even aware of pitch & putts until a few years ago when I was hired to shape Adare Manor in Ireland for Tom Fazio.  Until going to Ireland I was fixed on short courses, par three courses or executive courses being the way forward.  Thankfully, when I got to Ireland my housing was just outside of the small town of Adare.  Instead of driving to work I would walk to The Manor each morning and would pass an old yellow and black sign that read Adare pitch and putt.  The next weekend, I walked to the pitch and putt and thought, what in the world is this?  It looked a little silly but, I found myself playing it every weekend.  It didn’t take long to realize that it addressed every issue we seem to be facing at home: time of play, land for development, and cost.  It seemed to have a great following amongst all age groups.  Eventually, I mapped out all the pitch and putt courses near me and started to journey out to other areas to see various designs.  I developed some favorites and Sandfield House next to Lahinch became my inspiration.  No disrespect to the other courses I played, but whoever designed this one really tried to take a step in the right direction.  I would love the chance to raise the bar higher by designing and building a pitch and putt here.

What are the elements of greatness for a pitch & putt?

I think the greatness comes from it’s ability to just get people interested in golf.  It isn’t golf as we know it, but a good pitch and putt can really spark an interest, and that is what we need here at home. It is a challenge with the short distances you are dealing with, but I think a great pitch and put needs to incorporate every shot conceivable in an approach by air or ground, including multiple angles to get to the green depending on pin location.  Most courses I have played have only one teeing ground and just including some different angles and length would greatly contribute to many facilities.

Why don’t we have more pitch & putts in the U.S.?

First off, I don’t think we have ever really been introduced to Pitch and Putt, and that has left the game relatively unknown in the States.  I am not sure if it is glamorous enough or revenue friendly for modern architects to pursue pure pitch and putt locations but I am ready to give it a spin, and am looking for the shot to put my vision on the ground and see it come to life.  If I ever get the chance to build the images in my mind I see no way a Pitch and Putt could fail.

Which course(s) do you most want to see next?

I really want to get up to Sand Valley.  I am really digging the look of Mammoth Dunes. The other course hot in my head is The Black Course at Streamsong.  Being based out of Florida I intend to set out to play all the courses listed on the Florida Historic Golf Trail.  One of the biggest reasons for trying out the Trail is that in Florida, most courses today are being built on flat pieces of land with no character.  The old guys had to be more strategic with bunker placement and I feel there are some great opportunities to learn from yesterday.  Let me add one more – whatever Mike DeVries does next I really enjoy his designs.

Any exciting projects in the works, beyond pitch & putts?

Recently finished helping out on The South Course at Arcadia Bluffs.  It was a lot of fun to contribute to that project, and I think it will be a great addition to the already fabulous Michigan golf scene.  I have been bouncing back and forth working on a private 365 acre island in the Exuma Cays for around two years.  It is one of the best sites I have ever seen.  I’m not sure when it will ever be finished, but it has tremendous potential.  There have been several interesting calls, one of which I am really excited about.  Hoping I may be heading back up North again soon – I will keep you updated!!

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Ripping rock on Bock Cay

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4th fairway cleared

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9th and 18th green sites

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10th green site

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13th hole clearing

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Hole corridors cleared

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Disc golf on Bock Cay

What do you love most about practicing your craft?

Freedom.  I am about as free spirit as it comes, and shaping is the ultimate outlet for a guy like myself.  I love pushing boundaries and getting out of the box.  We could be in the next great era of golf design and to think you have been a small part of that is really interesting and keeps the drive going.

When you aren’t working or playing golf, how do you spend your time?

As great as the shaping job is, it has its negatives and the biggest downside for me is family time.  When I am home I try to spend as much time as I can with my amazing family that supports me.  I enjoy fishing more than anything and could get lost on the water, catch no fish, and be very happy.  I’m constantly reading golf design related material, researching design and golf architecture, because the job never really leaves my mind.  I could discuss it all day and could not imagine doing anything else in life!

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The Carlton Pitch & Putt – Coming soon to a town near you…


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Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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What My Kids Taught Me About Architecture

My son Jack is 15 years old and my son Henry is 7 years old.  This season, I officially became one of those lucky golf geek dads whose kids are golf-crazed.  We play most of our golf together at Canal Shores, but we also had outings over the summer at Kingsley Club, Champion Hill, and Arcadia Bluffs.

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Jack and me, sweeping the dew on the opener at Kingsley

I took Jack out for his first “real” round of golf at Kingsley, and we were joined by my buddy Howard.  He had never been on a big course before, and I thought his eyes might pop out of his head when we stepped onto the first tee.  In Jack’s defense, many people who visit are intimidated by Kingsley’s opener, and the 2nd is no picnic either.  Jack struggled on the first two holes, and on the 3rd tee, I gave him a pep talk.  “Ignore what you see on the ground and hit it in the direction I point,” I advised.  He is a quick study and followed the instruction, striping his tee shot.

It was well hit, but on a more aggressive line than intended.  We held our breath wondering if it would clear the right fairway bunker.  It did, and the feeling of exhilaration was palpable, not just from Jack, but throughout our whole group.  In that moment, I realized that my boys were teaching me about golf course architecture.

LESSON #1 – It is fun to hit the ball over obstacles.

Sure, good design provides the opportunity for hazards to be avoided in exchange for strategic advantage, but the truth of our hearts is that we love to knock the ball over things.  The corner of a dogleg.  A creek or crevasse.  A bunker – the bigger and nastier the better.  The successful clear provides a thrilling satisfaction.  It’s in our DNA.

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Henry, after clearing a deep bunker on the 1st at Arcadia Bluffs

My wife and little guy Henry joined Jack and me for a walk and twilight golf at Arcadia Bluffs.  On each hole, I would create a “Henry Tee” in a special spot 100 or so yards from the green.  We found a perfect Henry Tee on the far right of the ridge above the bunkers that cut across the fairway on the 3rd.  He gave his hybrid a lash and we watched expectantly as his ball bounded along the fairway toward the green, peeling off at the last moment and coming to rest on the fringe.

LESSON #2 – It is fun to watch the ball roll over interesting ground toward the target.

There is a reason why “fair” is a four letter word, and in my opinion, it has no place on a golf course.  The game is gloriously unfair, especially on courses with contour, kept in firm and fast conditions.  Hit a good shot, catch a bad bounce.  Hit a bad shot, catch a good bounce.  There is no justice in the rub of the green, and that is the way I want it.  I want to watch my ball tumble along, not knowing exactly where it will end up.  Predictable is boring.

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Jack guessing on a line for the semi-blind tee shot on the 14th at Champion Hill

I do my best to walk the line between patience and teaching my guys a lesson about moving along on the course.  They get more of the former when nobody else is around.  After all, I’m loving every moment I get with them, and what’s the rush?  At times, when I get impatient, I have a habit of giving them long putts.  They don’t like that practice one bit.  They want to get the ball in the hole, and I am robbing them of that pleasure.

LESSON #3 – It is fun to get the ball in the hole.

I love wild green surrounds and undulating greens as much as anyone, and yet I wonder sometimes, has that trend gone a little bit too far?  If the surrounds are so complex that my chances of ever holing a chip or pitch are diminished to the point of dumb luck, is the architect’s creative expression worth it?  If the greens are so severe that every putt over 5 feet is a pure guessing game, is the player cheated of seeing a line clearly and dropping a bomb?  I’m no tour caliber putter, but I’m no slouch either.  I like to see a putt drop into the hole as much as my boys, and it seems that an architect has some responsibility to at least give players a reasonable chance of success.  Restraint is a virtue.

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Jack chasing the summer sun on the 5th at Arcadia Bluffs.

My kids have a way of stripping away complications to help me see what really matters.  Like most golf geeks do, I appreciate strategic options and being encouraged to think.  I also greatly appreciate the natural beauty of the contrast of colors and textures.  Rarely do I encounter quirk and creative flourishes that I don’t dig.  But at my core, I am just like my boys and they remind me of the essence of the game.  If the architect and greenkeeper give me the opportunity to golf my ball over obstacles, to see my ball run along the ground, and to get my ball in the hole with reasonable effort, I will have fun.

Could great architecture be that simple?

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Golf Heaven on Earth – The Kingsley Club

KingsleyLogoMy discovery of the Kingsley Club was just dumb luck.  On a buddies trip to Arcadia Bluffs and Crystal Downs, we needed a third course to play.  I stumbled across the Kingsley Club review on GolfClubAtlas.com – it looked interesting, so it was added to our itinerary.

Turning into the property off a dirt road, it was apparent that we had found a hidden gem.  Beyond the modest clubhouse lay rolling hills covered in wild flowers and fescue grass, with beautiful undulating fairways cutting through them.  For me, it was love at first sight – a feeling of exhilaration that I find anew every time I pull into the parking lot, and every time I step onto the first tee.

The original intent of this post was to give a course tour.  Among the GolfClubAtlas.com review, the Club’s website, and KingsleyGolfer.com, that tour is thoroughly covered.  No need to redo what has already been well done.

Instead, this post is about why Kingsley has touched me so deeply.  Why I believe that it embodies everything that is great about golf.  (Thanks to fellow Kingsley member Tim B. for use of his photos)

Kingsley is certainly challenging and fun to play, and the laid-back culture of the club enhances the experience for me.  But the profound sense of joy it evokes in me goes beyond fun.  What makes Kingsley so special?  Three words hint at the answer: Interest, Variety, and Beauty.


KINGSLEY IS INTERESTING

A good golf course catches the player’s interest on the first hole and keeps it throughout the round.  A truly great golf course like Kingsley keeps the player’s interest round after round, ad infinitum.  Kingsley displays its greatness to me in how it keeps my interest.  It is like a puzzle to attempt to solve.  It provides challenges of strategy and execution, along with a mixed bag of good and bad luck.

After I have played a really good round at a course, I often lose interest.  My experience at Kingsley has been just the opposite.  I have played some of my best golf there, and yet I still want more.  It is simply impossible to imagine getting bored walking those fairways.

These specifics top the list of what makes Kingsley interesting:

  • Blind shots – The property is hilly and Mike DeVries’s routing takes advantage of the elevation changes to create numerous blind shots.  Blind shots quicken the pulse and provide interest.  There are few things quite as exciting in golf as hitting one’s shot, watching it disappear, and then taking the anticipatory walk to find out how it ended up.
  • Bouncing balls – The fairways and green complexes are gloriously undulating.  Coupled with fescue fairways and bent grass greens that drain well, the undulations provide bounces from tee to green that make the course unpredictable.  Superintendent Dan Lucas keeps the course in immaculate firm-and-fast condition, but it is not “manicured”.  Kingsley will hand players good and bad breaks according to its whim.  In golf, “fair” is another word for “predictable”.  Predictable gets boring quickly, and does not hold a player’s interest.  Kingsley is anything but predictable.
  • Distance and depth-perception – Elements of the course, in concert with the often windy Northern Michigan weather, make judging true distance and selecting clubs very challenging.  Even when playing repeatedly from the same spot, the shots are not the same.  One is never quite sure if the club is right.  Executing a confident shot in the face of that fundamental ambiguity is an interesting mental challenge indeed!

INTEREST IN IMAGES – Holes 1 and 2


KINGSLEY OFFERS VARIETY

Variety is the spice of life.  It is also the hallmark of a great golf course.  From tee to green, from front nine to back, Kingsley has tremendous variety.

The course has a wide variety of hole lengths and is routed to maximize directional changes.  Factor in time of day and weather conditions, and Kingsley can play like an entirely different course from round to round.

Kingsley puts its variety on display:

  • On the tees – Each hole offers several teeing grounds that often differ not just in length, but in direction.  The player can choose to play each hole from wherever they wish.  The best example of tee variety is on the par 3 9th, which can play from 106 to 240+ yards from two groups of tee boxes that are set at 90 degree angles to one another.
  • On the greens – Kingsley has incredible variety in its green complexes.  Some are heavily bunkered, some have few or no bunkers.  Some greens accept ground approaches and recoveries, others are elevated to encourage aerial shots.  There is a wide range of green sizes and shapes, some with subtle interior contours, and others more dramatic.  The course has punchbowls, table-tops, crowns, horseshoes, double plateaus, and multi-tiers.
  • In the feel of the nines – The outward nine is routed through sand hills.  It is open and largely treeless.  The inward nine has a much different feel, wandering through trees.  Both nines feel expansive, but each has a distinct feel.  Playing at Kingsley is like playing at Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails in the same round.

VARIETY IN IMAGES – Holes 12 and 13


KINGSLEY IS BEAUTIFUL

Kingsley possesses a rugged, natural beauty that might not be appreciated by those accustomed only to manicured, parkland golf.  The minimalist first impression gives way as the course reveals contrasts of greens and browns, painted onto beautiful contours.

The grounds crew has painstakingly tended the native areas, planting fescue and wildflowers.  Players who visit frequently are treated throughout the year to an ever-changing show of colors that is at once visually arresting and appropriate to the overall look of the course.

From the minor details to the grand scheme, Kingsley’s wide open spaces further contrast sky and earth into one breathtaking view after another.  It is the perfect marriage of outstanding design, construction, and maintenance, with the natural beauty that makes people fall in love with Northern Michigan.

BEAUTY IN IMAGES – Holes 14, 15 and 16


Interest, variety, beauty, and much more – the founders, Mike DeVries and Dan Lucas have put together the total package in a way that resonates deep down in my soul.  It is my golf heaven on earth, and I look forward to walking those fairways hundreds of times, for the rest of my life.

It is my sincere hope that many others get to experience Kingsley’s greatness too.  In the meantime, enjoy this photo tour compiled from my Twitter (@jasonway1493) series 18 Days of @KingsleyClub.

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Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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2014 Geeked on Golf Tour

The leaves and the first snow have fallen in Chicago.  My golf calendar looks as desolate as the landscape for the remainder of this year.  It’s a good time to revisit the wonderful courses I was privileged to play in 2014.  Those memories will be enough to take me through the winter.

With an extra project on my work plate in the spring, I did not get out for as much golf adventuring as I would have liked.  However, there were several highlights:

  • I joined the Kingsley Club and got 15+ rounds in at my new home course.
  • I checked off two more Coore & Crenshaw gems – Streamsong Red and We Ko Pa Saguaro.
  • My buddies and I made our second trip to Long Island and hit Bethpage Black, The Bridge, NGLA, and Friar’s Head.
  • After many invites, I finally got out to Tom Doak’s Lost Dunes and also popped over to Mike Keiser’s Dunes Club – both special places.
  • In addition to Bethpage, I checked two more U.S. Open venues off my list – Skokie CC and Erin Hills.
  • I spent plenty of time at my other “home” courses – Bryn Mawr CC, Arcadia Bluffs, and Canal Shores.

Without further ado, here are the photos.

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In addition to this embarrassment of riches, I ended the year with numerous invites and plans left on the table – Seminole, Old Elm, Glen View, Crystal Downs, Olympia Fields, The Course at Yale, Sleepy Hollow, Riviera, Whisper Rock, Stonebridge, Strawberry Farm, Oakmont, Merion, Oakland Hills, to name a few.

Looks like 2015 is going to be a great year…


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Copyright 2014 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Want to Improve Pace of Play? Start Firing Golfers.

The USGA has been studying pace of play extensively and sharing results at their Symposium.  They are amassing data that promises to help course operators improve “flow”.  Additionally, technological innovations like smart flags, GPS-enabled carts, and others will track players and help them keep the pace.

These initiatives may very well help, and I applaud the USGA for doing what it can.  Unfortunately, they strike me as unlikely to solve the problem of slow play because they don’t address the core problem – motives and behavior of course operators and players.

In my career, I have learned quite a bit about motives and behavior from my colleagues and customers.  Several basic truths have emerged for me:

1. Most people – customers and coworkers – have good intentions and are doing their best.  They have moments when they fall short, just as I do.  But even in those moments of carelessness, ignorance, or selfishness, they are not bad people.  They are imperfect, like we all are.

2. Every person does a better job if they are clear on expectations and ground rules.  Especially when those ground rules are based on the principle of providing maximum benefit to all stakeholders.

3. A small percentage of people just don’t “get it”.  Whether they are too ignorant, selfish, or stubborn, they simply can’t or won’t play by the ground rules and contribute to the success of the whole.  Upon identifying people like this, it is always best to fire them as quickly as possible, whether they are coworkers, vendors, or even customers.  They are a drag on the business, and not taking action to remove them will quickly start to degrade one’s ability to be of service to the good people.

Over decades of managing people, customer relationships, and companies, I have experienced very few (if any) exceptions to these 3 truths.

What does that have to do with pace of play?  Let’s return to my assertion about the core problem – people – using my experience with a favorite course of mine, Arcadia Bluffs, to illustrate.

Arcadia Bluffs is a really neat and challenging golf course on one of the most beautiful settings you’ll find, overlooking Lake Michigan.  The staff is great, and the service is first class.  I have a home 10 minutes from the course, and I have played it many times.

I have also brought quite a few friends to play there.  They have all appreciated the beauty of the course, but most of them never want to go back.  Why?  Because it takes at least 4:45 to play a round, and often upwards of 5:15.  Arcadia Bluffs is losing customers because of slow play, and not just among my golf buddies.  In speaking to people about it, it is clear that Arcadia has a bad reputation for pace of play that keeps people away.  That is bad for business, and Arcadia Bluffs is certainly not alone.

What can they do about it?

They can use data from the emerging technology and the USGA studies to improve flow on their course.  They should not just try to maximize rounds to maximize profits.  They should schedule the maximum number of rounds appropriate for their course (based on its difficulty and routing), and then actively manage bottlenecks.  This is a no-brainer, and they are probably already working on it.  It will help a little, but it won’t solve the problem.

To truly solve the problem, they also have to manage their players more proactively and effectively.  Currently, they try to do this by having the starter give a pace-of-play speech on the first tee, and by having rangers on the course.  This is obviously not working currently, and here is why:

The starter speechifies you to play at a decent pace, but doesn’t tell you how.  The rangers may tell you to play faster, but they don’t tell you how.  Based on the first two truths above, this means that people who would like to behave properly might not because they don’t know how.  They are therefore more likely to “have moments”.  It doesn’t take many of those moments to ruin pace for a whole day.

What the starter could do instead is lay out some specific expectations (local rules) for how to keep pace up.  Here are a few examples from my buddies groups:

  • Play ready golf, obviously.
  • The entire group plays from the tees that are appropriate for the highest handicapper.
  • Look for a lost ball for no more than 2 minutes – can’t find it, drop.
  • If you chip/pitch twice and you’re not on the green, you’re done.
  • If you putt twice and you’re not in the hole, you’re done.
  • Single-digit handicappers don’t hit the ball more times than par+2.  Double-digit handicappers, no more than double-par.

We play matches and we still use these rules.  Don’t like ’em?  Find someone else to play with.  Do they work?  We were the first group off at Old MacDonald last fall and got around in 3:30.  Needless to say, the group behind us was not keeping up.

If the starter and rangers at Arcadia Bluffs provided coaching on these rules, the good people will be more likely to respond.  Setting these expectations, and then coaching to them, also allows Arcadia to deal effectively with the “don’t/won’t get it” crowd.

If the pace of these players remains slow, and they refuse to change their behavior, Arcadia Bluffs needs to fire them for the good of every other player on the course.  They have to proactively defend the pace.  In practice, this means that the slow-pokes need to be given their money back and asked never to come back, mid-round if need be.

To service industry professionals, this might sound crazy.  To ignorant and/or inconsiderate golfers, it likely seems offensive because they think that having money in hand means that they are buying carte blanche.  But here is why it is necessary if Arcadia Bluffs really wants to fix pace of play and its reputation, and make its business continue to thrive in the long run:

All other things being equal, slow pace makes every golf experience worse relative to smooth, brisk pace.  Every time a golfer has to wait (regardless of their personal pace of play), they are unhappy.  In turn, they are less likely to come back.

Conversely, if I knew that Arcadia Bluffs was willing to fire “bad customers” to enhance the experience of good customers, I would a) be more likely to return, and b) drag my buddies.  Further, especially in the digital age with this issue so prevalent, it is hard to imagine something more likely to create buzz for a course than kicking chronically slow playersAlCzervik to the curb.

So keep doing the studies and keep working on the technology, and keep up the “While We’re Young!” campaigns to raise awareness.  But I beseech you Arcadia Bluffs and other course operators, give us your ground rules for how to keep the pace, and then fire the people who can’t or won’t.  I promise you that the rest of your customers will celebrate you for it, and to steal another Al Czervik quote, we’ll “make it worth your while.”


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Copyright 2014 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf