In 2009, the CEO of the PGA of America said this about Minnesota: "... they love their golf, playing about eight million rounds a year. Golf is a big part of the fabric of Minnesotans." In a study by the National Golf Foundation (NGF) a few years back, Minnesota boasted over 650,000 golfers and one of the highest rates of golfers per capita in the US. It's true. We love golf here in Minnesota.
As someone who has recently been self-diagnosed with golf fever (picture golf balls strewn all over my living room), the weeks we have to wait before even being able to take a road trip a few hundred miles south to get some holes in will be long and painful. I remember last year when I found my first patch of snow-free grass in my yard I made about 50 little snow golf balls to smash just so I could pretend to golf.
But 2011 brings with it some uncertainty and a little frustration as we await the coming golf season in my little part of the world. Through circumstances too complicated to explain here, our golf course conditions deteriorated during our 2010 season. I watched nervously throughout our short summer as some dead patches and fungus started showing up, but I was assured that things were going to be fine or that repairs were on their way. I try not to be a complainer, so I held back as another few weeks went by and things did not seem better. Then, I think because golfers are adaptable people, some of us got so used to the conditions that we became oblivious to how bad things really were.
By September, some greens had lost so much grass that the decision was made to close 9 of our holes and try to repair damage to those greens and some of our tee boxes.
The thing you learn about golf course conditions (especially when they go bad) is that they need time to heal and grow. There doesn't seem to be a magic potion or any specialized equipment that can cure our greens overnight, and on a small town budget (and a sketchy climate), we didn't have a whole lot of options. Thankfully, some efforts were made last fall to try to remedy things, but the truth is we have no idea what we will see when the snow melts in the next month or two. We may very well be faced with the reality that part of our course may not be playable to start the season. Worst case is that they may need a whole season to get fixed.
And that, my friends, has quite a few people miffed....and truth be told, that includes me.
But what I'm even more miffed about are rumblings I'm hearing from other local golfers. As the speculation about the course conditions becomes the topic of conversation at the local coffee shops and watering holes, I'm hearing talk of local golfers deciding to golf either 25 miles north of us or 25 miles south of us and not buying a season pass at our course.
Oh, I get it. I've considered those same thoughts myself. I drive past a 27-hole facility every day to and from work. But that course is not the same as my home course - it might have more holes, but it has a lot more pass holders trying to get on and more leagues and events each night of the week. I'm sure it could be fine, but it's not, well, ...home.
What makes me miffed is that the same people that have had cheap golf and relatively unlimited access to our course for all these years are so willing to jump ship and abandon it when it needs our support the most. Whatever TLC our greens are going to need costs money - and if our season pass holders up and leave, what message does that send to our City?
I know it's not fair, I know it wasn't "our" fault, but sometimes, when you're a family, and I believe we are a golfing family, we have to step up and be there...both financially and rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands in some dirt. The idea of only playing 9 holes (for awhile), and playing on a few less than stellar greens that are still open, might not be ideal, but if we want things better for the future we have to make it through the rough patch.
I know there are a lot of "nomad" golfers out there that have no "home course" or any allegiance to a golf course, so maybe my frustrations make no sense, but where I live it's different...we need our local golfers or our course won't make it. And as much as I love playing golf (and I LOVE golf!), I believe it's worth making it though this season with some sacrifices in order to help get things back on track. I may golf other places, too, but I will not abandon my happy place.
I hope and pray that the rumblings are just false rumors and in a few weeks we'll be pulling together to make the best of our upcoming season. I'm cheering for the home team.
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