I think I have done this rant before, but a column (no link) in the January issue of the Golf Digest has set me off again.
It has been a continuing annoyance for me in golf magazines where the writers seem to think that $150 to play a golf course is an ‘affordable’ greens fee. I beg to differ.
But the Frugal Golfer column in the aforementioned magazine has now made mockery out of the word ‘frugal’. The shame of it!
Initially, the unnamed writer says that many of the top public courses in the U.S. are too rich for his blood, with the exception of Bethpage Black in New York which ‘only’ charges $120 for out-of-state residents. That pretty much tells me that he has a lot more money than me, or he has a very nice company expense account.
I do recognize that golfers are willing to pay higher fees while they’re on vacation, justifying it as part of the cost of the trip. But don’t tell me that $120 a round is anywhere in the ‘frugal’ category. Although compared to some of the more stratospheric rates you find on some courses, it is most certainly on the bottom end of ‘too expensive’.
Then he goes on to determine whether some of the more heavily hyped courses give any bargains during the period that their greens are being aerated.
He finds that Pebble Beach ($495) gives a $100 gift card that can only be spent in their gift shop. That probably gets you a golf shirt with the golf course logo on it that you can wear to show your local golf buddies what a sport you are. But you’re still paying half a thousand to walk those rarefied fairways. I dial in as biased on this, but I don’t think there is a golf course on heaven or earth (or even hell for that matter) that is worth laying down that kind of bread. Although there are no doubt those who would disagree.
He found that Pinehurst #2 reduces its green fees by 20% which takes them from $400 to the incredibly low price (that really was sarcasm, just in case you wondered) of $320 for 18 holes. While TPC Sawgrass in Florida closes the front 9 and lets golfers play the back 9 twice for $275, down from the regular price of $375.
Now, other than giving this guy material for a column, none of this information spells out ‘frugal’ to me. It smacks of damned expensive golf on bad greens.
On my home course, guys playing their 100th game of the year still complain about putting on punched greens. Common I am sure, at any club on the continent. Would those same guys go play on punched greens for multi-hundreds of dollars for a one-shot play? The answer must be ‘yes’ for at least some of them, or those discounts wouldn’t be offered. But you can bet that these same guys would complain bitterly if their yearly dues went up by $100.
I think the real reason that golfers plunk down big dollars to play what are considered ‘high-end’ courses is the perception that if the greens fees are low, the course can’t be very good. And on the other side of the fence, if the fees are high the course has to be better than the lower priced ones. Of course, that’s not necessarily the case, although those more expensive courses may be better groomed and give you personal service from their staff. Which may be what some are looking for, but doesn’t make any difference to the quality of the course once you are standing on the tee box.
I have seen it happen locally, where some golf courses never got the level of outside play they wanted until they jacked up their rates and then the tourists – particularly those from the south of our border – started to show up.
On the other hand, I play whenever possible in the US because I can always find very good courses anywhere I go down there at very reasonable prices.
Over the years I have found very few golf courses that I wouldn’t want to play again. I have particularly come to love the munis that I have played in the US. Not only for the golf they offer, but also for the opportunity to play and talk to local golfers.
So while the golf magazines will continue to annoy, as they shill for the resort courses and the like that advertise on their pages, I (and I am sure others like me) will continue to seek out those wonderful courses that offer an excellent golfing experience for rates that may not be frugal – whatever the hell that is supposed to mean – but are priced reasonably. Reasonable? $60 max and usually less than that. My criteria.