Monday, April 3, 2017

Why I Am The Walking Greenkeeper

"Golf is a good walk spoiled".

Fuck, Mark Twain. Golf makes a good walk better.

Perhaps this should be the USGA's new slogan.

It all started innocently enough when I was around eight years old, and received a set of Junior Wilson golf clubs for Christmas.  It was circa 1980 if my memory serves me right, but what I definitely recollect about that Christmas, is not being too stoked on those golf clubs.  It was a pretty beat present in my opinion, particularly the weak ass canvas bag that accompanied those sticks. But despite my disappointment, I feigned a genuine interest as to not bum out my father, since he thought it was a pretty sweet gift.   And I think we can all agree, the last thing you want to do on Christmas is be a total dick and break one of your parent's heart, because a broken heart isn't really a cool gift to give anyone.....let alone on JC's birthday.

Anyway......

When the cold weather snapped, my dad began taking me to the local public course for these three to four hole evening rounds.  At first I disliked it pretty tough, because golf is really hard and I had some serious reservations concerning the stereotypes associated with the game.  You have to understand, growing up in middle class suburbia, amongst the jerks I associated with, we firmly believed golf was for nerdy guys named Trip or Hunter who sported LaTigre polos and Garanimal slacks.   It was full on mission impossible style every time I ducked out of my front door with that crappy canvas bag of Wilsons slung over my shoulder.  The last thing I really needed was to be seen by one of my boys throwing that crappy canvas bag full of Wilsons in the trunk of my dad's LTD, and forever be labeled, a dork, a spaz or a geek.  But something so unexpected happened as my father and I strolled along those burnt out fairways on those hot steamy evenings which are so prevalent during Delaware summers.  It dawned on me that I actually liked golf....a lot. And even though I had no fucking clue at that particular moment in my life, my father had unwittingly presented me with the best Christmas gift perhaps of all time...the game of golf.

I could go on and on about what I like about golf, but I want to focus on one aspect of the game that in my opinion, has been completely lost over the years.  Back when I started, barely anyone used those awkward three wheeled, motorized Harley Davidson carts with the odd shaped steering apparatus that was perfectly centered between the two riders.   I would notice the occasional golfer using them back in those wild and wacky 80's, but everyone I played with walked.  I actually remember asking my dad during one of our evening rounds why we never used a cart, and although I can't positively quote his exact words from 1981, I'm pretty sure his answer involved cuss words and the term ,"bush league".  When you played golf, you walked is what I gathered from my dad's response, so I just continued slinging that crappy canvas bag of Wilsons over my shoulder and kept on trucking.

But that all changed during the freewheeling 90's, because carts basically became as mandatory on a golf course as flagsticks on putting surfaces.  Golf pros, general managers, club presidents and golf course owners everywhere became overwhelmingly spellbound by the Benjamins generated by the gas fueled caddie.  Walking a round became as obsolete as a fucking persimmon wood, and no longer was it feasible to burn off those two hot dogs at the turn, because let's face it....you're not burning shit for calories on a golf cart.  I wish I could tell you I didn't participate in the golf cart fad, but I totally did.  And to the dismay of all the hardcore golfers in New Castle County, Delaware, my dad totally sold out,  went bush league and became a golf cart user as well.  To be honest, the transition from walking to riding was barely noticeable, and it wasn't until I became a head greenkeeper, that the ill feelings I had towards carts began to metastasize.

Lets's face it, golf carts fucking blow.   Or perhaps the more appropriate statement is the majority of people operating golf carts blow?  For close to twenty years, I've witnessed some pretty unremarkable stunts by  people operating golf carts, and not in the spellbinding manner, of say an Evil Kinevil  jumping over a thousand cars on a motorcycle type of way.  I'm talking about dudes ripping through bunkers, traipsing over native grass areas, mindlessly driving into a water hazard, or my all time favorite, shredding doughnuts on a fairway or even worse....a green.   Honestly, those stunts don't really piss me off nearly as much as how thoughtless we are as humans (me included!) when it comes to going from point A to point B in the straightest fucking line possible, or the unexplained obsession with parking the cart as close as we possibly can next to a green or a tee.  And because of our insistence on taking the most direct route, therefore the fastest route to our next shot, or slapping that golf cart right next to the green,  we as greenkeepers have to tacky up our courses with rope/directional stakes and signage to divert traffic while also keeping carts away from our number one asset....greens.  Moving rope/directional stakes and signage around is totally bunk (and lest we forget about maneuvering equipment around these obstacles) but another thing that really sticks in my craw about carts is making the dreaded, "cart path only" call.  As greenkeepers, we've all been here:

Golf Pro: How much rain did we get?

Greenkeeper: Two and a half inches

Golf Pro: So cart path only?

Greenkeeper: Yes

Golf Pro: Shit.  Mr. Club President has a 10:30 tee time with three important guests.  He's going to be really upset it's cart path only.  Can you reevaluate before he gets here?

Greenkeeper: sigh

Golf Pro: annoyed look because of your sigh

Greenkeeper:  Sure, Golf Pro....I'll reevaluate around 10:00

Golf Pro:  Thanks, Greenkeeper

In all likelihood, it's going to remain cart path only at 10:00 and most likely, all day in the scenario I just laid out.  And before everyone gets their panties in a bunch, yes, I totally understand it's my responsibility to make this call, and I totally get we are a service industry, so I fully comprehend, we as greenkeepers must allow paying customers to "scatter" golf carts by any means necessary.  But in all honesty, it still annoys the piss out of me.

For the reasons I just laid out, wouldn't it be awesome to round up every golf cart in the world, deliver them to a central location, say anywhere along the Tropic of Cancer, stack them in sort of an artistic yet random way, kind of like how they do it at Burning Man,  and have every fucking greenkeeper in the world attend as we torch this mountain of EZGOS, Yamahas and Club Cars,  while also taking aim at the opening act, Jake Trout & the Flounders with X'd out Pinnacles , as we impatiently wait for the  headliner whom I'm hoping is either Slayer or Jerry Garcia's ghost.

Perhaps this could go down the weekend before GIS?

Seriously though, I loathe carts for all the reasons I just stated, but for me, I really believe golf carts on a whole are a detriment to our environment.  I can almost feel your eyes roll at this previous sentence, but I'm going to attempt to shed a little perspective on why I feel golf carts are totally beat  environmentally.

There are approximately 34,000 golf courses in the world.  And although I don't have the exact numbers, I'll safely estimate that around 20,000 of these facilities use golf carts.  Of these 20,000 facilities that use golf carts,  I'll take another safe stab and bet that 15,000 use gas powered carts.  I understand this is a wild guess, but let's roll with it just for fun.

I know for a fact, that our facility used 109 gallons of unleaded gasoline to fuel our golf cart fleet during the month of February. So using 109 gallons as our base, even though we can probably assume that some golf courses used more while other used less during the shortest month of the calendar year, let's multiply this number by 15,000 golf facilities.

109 gallons of unleaded fuel (15,000 golf facilities)  =  1,635,000 gallons of fuel consumed by golf carts.

To me, that seems like quite a bit of fuel, and I wholeheartedly believe burning just a hair over 1.6 million gallons of gas in a month's time isn't really that great for our already fragile environment.  Of course this number is probably way off, but even if it was half as much, I still think we should be concerned. It definitely concerns the hell out of me, and this is why I am the walking greenkeeper.  It's not because of my annoyance with how golfers mindlessly operate a golf cart, or how I have to make the call concerning cart rules when the weather doesn't cooperate.  And even though these annoyances have definitely influenced my decision, I firmly believe the harmful effect golf carts have on our environment is the determining factor as to why I now walk as opposed to taking a golf cart when I play this game I dearly love.  If you haven't walked a round in awhile you should.  And if you want to join me, I have this crappy canvas bag you can totally borrow.

P.S.  Electric carts are off limits too.  Think of all the inputs needed to charge those bad boys.

Next time.....an update from NCC

















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