Sunday, July 2, 2017

Course Care 101

Here's a familiar sight for this time of year.  A thoroughly trampled bunker and some of my staff out hand watering fairways.  We've been so busy trying to get caught up yet, we are just at the beginning of what's bound to be one of the busiest summers in our long history. Membership is the highest it's been in ages and today's membership is a very "golfing" membership.   Don't get me wrong, nothing makes me happier than seeing golfers enjoying the playing field at Tacoma.  At the same time, nothing is more frustrating than seeing some of the unnecessary damage caused by golfers which only makes the golf experience less enjoyable for everyone.  

I'm not really talking about ball marks and filling fairway divots.  I'm pretty sure everyone is tired of hearing the same old lecture about the proper way to fix ball marks and lets face it, some people fill divots and some people don't.  So, I'm not going to talk about ball marks but if you haven't seen the video I made several years back, you should watch it since It's still very relevant HERE.  When it comes to filling fairway divots, we have so many people that love to fill divots that it kind of makes up for the people that don't like to fill divots.  
I do want to talk about practice tee divots because it's clear that some people still don't get it.  The other day I came out to see this horrific damage to the practice tee.   The amount of turf consumed here could easily have been reduced 50% by simply practicing properly. Thankfully right next to this carnage was this........
...........this is a really good picture.  Almost everyone that hit in this area tried to hit in strips thereby reducing the amount of turf consumed.  Maybe this is obvious but I'll point out that when you consume less turf, you leave behind more turf.  This means the next time you go out to hit golf balls on the practice tee, the more likely it is that you will find some nice turf.  In addition, the less turf consumed, the less time and money we spend repairing the damage which means more time and money we can use elsewhere to improve your golfing experience.   I understand that some people simply just don't know how to take divots properly. That's really the bottom line.  It's about education.  Again, if you haven't seen it, watch this video I made back when I had less gray HERE.  
Lastly I need to touch on something that I haven't spoke much about, but is of growing concern.  We all know Tacoma may have the best bunkering on the planet, but these bunkers are taking a beating, and it's caused by the golfers..............the one group of people that you would think "care" about the condition of the bunkers.  What I'm talking about is one very basic rule of bunker etiquette, but at Tacoma this simple rule is even more important.  The rule is "Enter and Exit the bunker properly".  
Check out this bunker face on #9 green.  Someone decided to enter the bunker or exit the bunker in this area and they collapsed the face of the bunker.  Now we have a condition which needs repair.  This kind of repair is something we do not have time for this time of year so it will just remain this way for quite some time.  The problem is that before this damage occurred we had a bunker face which released the golf ball properly.  Now we have a bunker face which may swallow up a golf ball and create an unplayable lie like in this picture.
This is a reality at Tacoma.  Our bunkers are true hazards and if you play here you will find that you need to deem the ball unplayable from time to time.  I call that golf.  It's much more interesting and exciting golf when the price of a bad shot can be very costly.  I can't stand the modern type of golf I see where being in a bunker is no penalty at all or even worse, being in a bunker is the better lie than not being in the bunker.   With that said, none of us want to deem our ball unplayable.  It is a very costly price to pay.  Missing a green by a few feet should simply mean that more often than not, your going to have to pull off a good recovery shot to make par.  I'm seeing more and more of this type of damage because people can't take that extra few seconds to use the low side of the bunker for entering and exiting.  Before you know it, the unplayable lie might become the norm.  None of us want that.  Please people, enter and exit properly!  Enter and exit at the low side of the bunker.


  1. Our membership is privileged to have one of the finest courses in the area maintained by the best staff. Golfers should consider it part of their obligation to provide a little extra care and assistance to ensure that we continue to enjoy these great conditions. With all too much frequency I am finding unrepaired ballmarks and improperly raked bunkers. If the use of a divot repair tool or rake is unfamiliar or unappealing, I suggest retaining the services of a caddie competent to perform these tasks. Proper conduct by each of us will help our course, our staff, and our membership and improve the overall golfing experience for everyone.

    1. My reply is mainly in response to "Sandy Bagger," while I tip my hat sincerely to Joel Kachmarak.

      I strongly disagree with presenting the solution to the problem as "Golfers should consider it an obligation to provide a little extra care and assistance to ensure that we continue to enjoy these great conditions."

      If you want to tell your members that in order to experience the course - which they definitely pay greens fees for and also most likely pay a yearly membership fee for ON TOP of what they may be paying for country club dues and contributions to the entire tell them that in order to best enjoy their experience, they need to work...that won't work out the way you think it will.

      This isn't to say that that members SHOULDN'T be offering this support, far from it. The way you present it is as Mr. Kachmarak has presented it: an opportunity for education and personal investment...coupled with undeniable pieces of proof of cause and effect.

      The range of persons who play golf today is so much wider than in previous generations...a very large portion of them just want to kick back and enjoy nature with a six pack with a sub-5-hour-round and a scorecard that has been dubiously tweaked during the course of play due to "shoe wedges" when nobody is looking. I make no judgment as to whether or not this is "destroying golf," but the plain fact of the matter is that this is where we are.

      Most people who play the sport today do not have the time to seriously understand the ins and outs of the etiquette of play or the etiquette of the course. How many understand WHY soft cleats are primarily the only cleats available on the market today, let alone the history of cleats?

      What about the history of the golf ball, and how you used to have to be either quite wealthy or very, very good at the game to be able to afford the physical act of playing?

      How many people have ever been in a position to understand course maintenance?

      This should not be the day that we shake our fingers at members and say, "You should be more respectful of and expect to work for this thing you pay us money to enjoy," and instead take this opportunity to educate and actuate...if they know WHY these things are important, the behaviors of golfers will sort themselves out.

      Embrace the information age, and use these amazing technological platforms (like a blog) to educate, rather than recriminate.

      Excellent article, thanks for the continuing tutelage!

    2. The beautiful thing about the game of golf is that there are many options for individuals of varying experience or skill levels to enjoy the sport. These can range from a night out with a group of buddies at Top Golf, to a six-pack and foot-wedge experience at a daily fee public course, right on up to a rarified experience at a premier private golf club. The key element for all concerned is matching the customer to the appropriate venue. This ensures that ALL the customers will have a good experience. By way of example, should I choose to go to Top Golf, I know that traditional golfing protocols will, in all likelihood, be absent. My expectations are adjusted accordingly and I enjoy a fun evening out. Should I choose to play a daily public fee course, I know that I will have an experience that likely will include interactions with neophyte golfers who may be struggling with the fundamentals of the game and who may not be aware of the common courtesies generally employed, such as replacing divots, repairing ball marks, and raking bunkers. I accept the fact that I may suffer the ill effects of a bad lie in the fairway where a divot was not replaced. I also accept that my role may include gently educating these new golfers as to the etiquette of the game. When it comes to playing a private club such as Tacoma Country & Golf Club, however, I have expectations that my fellow golfers know the fundamentals of etiquette and exercise them appropriately. While it is true that these members pay membership fees and dues, the same holds true for me. I therefore have the right to expect that when someone hits into a bunker, after they play their shot they return the environment to a condition that is as good or better than they found it so that if I subsequently hit into the same spot in that bunker I do not suffer the ill effects of their inattentiveness. The private club experience is a cooperative effort that must be exercised by all members and their guests so that each and every customer receives the benefit of a high quality experience.