It’s still early in the golf season in my part of the world, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t already experienced a summer’s worth of aggravations on the links.
Some have come in the form of general player behavior while others are institutional intrusions that often take a bit of fun out of the sport. They also make you wonder what the golf committees were thinking when they made their moves.
My friend Simpson and I were talking about our frustrations the other day, and by the end of our conversation, we had compiled a list of golf pet peeves.
One of those has to do with the use of railroad ties, an aversion born from a visit last spring to a fairly new golf resort that had so many of those clunky wood logs it could have passed for a freight yard. And both of us profess ignorance as to why anyone ever thought railroad ties were such a good idea when it came to course construction. It seems that in the vast majority of cases, they have about as much business being on a quality golf layout as cinder blocks or aluminum siding, and I’ve always found that the more of them you find on a golf course, the worse the layout – or club – actually is.
Conversely, Simpson and I have determined that the presence of train tracks frequently is a sign of great golf. Think of Royal Adelaide in South Australia, with its commuter line rolling through the wonderful Alister Mackenzie-designed layout. Or Pine Valley in southern New Jersey, where the rumble of a freight train through the sandy woods late on a summer afternoon is only one more reason to fawn over that fabulous retreat.
Even the one-time presence of rail lines (St. Andrews) or the proximity of tracks and the sound of, say, an engine’s whistle (such as Dunbar in East Lothian) often means the course itself will be sweet.
Another entry on the list of peeves are those electric pull carts that either lead or follow golfers around their courses. To be fair, I do appreciate the fact that those players are indeed walking – and not riding – and I see how the introduction of those vehicles allows golfers who are farther along the back nine of their lives to stave off the inevitable move to more traditional – and more irritating – golf carts. But neither Simpson nor I can fathom why someone who still is capable of walking three or four miles of fairway does not have the physical inclination to pull his, or her, own cart along the way.
And I must admit to a certain fantasy each time I see one of those pull carts, in which it actually turns on his master and chases him, or her, into the mire of a water hazard or bunker before motoring off in triumph, free at last from the chains of mechanical caddying.
Golf carts in general are a constant source of angst, especially in the States, where they proliferate like 17-year cicadas when compared to the situation in more right-minded golfing societies like Scotland and Ireland. And you can only be a big fan of charmless, Soviet-era architecture to find any aesthetic qualities in another of our pet peeves, those massive cart paths constructed on so many of the newer courses these days. They are about as visually appealing as an East Berlin apartment building and look sturdy enough to accommodate semi-trucks. In fact, the industrial strength concrete used in their construction no doubt will be here when the dinosaurs return.
Speaking of dinosaurs, I would gladly applaud the disappearance of the golf characters I see so often at my place, men and women as rich as Rockefeller – and as tight with their money as a welfare widow. These are the folks who spend 10 minutes looking for a lost golf ball, then another 10 for any other Precepts or Pinnacles they might use to replenish their stash.
They also have a penchant for arriving at the first tee right after the time period for mandatory use of caddies has passed because they hate the thought of paying some earnest, and needy, high schooler $50 to carry their bags. And I am never surprised to find those golfers stuffing range balls in their golf bags on the practice tee, or the convenient way in which they forget to pay off their Nassau losses when the round is done.
Those incidents of cheapness probably are the most offensive entries on our list at the moment, but they could be easily surpassed by others by the end of the season. For there still is plenty of golf to play – and plenty of peeves yet to pile.