It begins with a quick lurch into the lot, a reach into the trunk, a wave to the starter and a “whatever” to my three buddies who’ve been waiting at least five minutes to tee off. That’s one way of looking at it. Another is, I show up and an attendant meets me at the club drop with a smile and our cart. We drop the clubs, park and then walk a few steps to our ride. Either way, I’m on the first tee at my favorite, public course.
The beauty of public golf is its spectrum, wide as the horizon. When I was growing up in western New York, municipal courses were goat tracks, precisely the type of place for a kid to learn the game. We didn’t have upscale pubs in those dark days, so we found the best hunks of turf around and imagined we were teeing it up at the best layouts around.
Fast forward a few decades and the landscape is completely different. The munis have taken advantage of improved superintendency to offer their season pass-holders an enviable product. Two hands worth of upscale public courses opened from East Aurora to Lewiston, providing conditions and designs that mimic the finest resorts and clubs around. With a ten-pack, a frequent player card or a season pass, the out-of-pocket cost is completely manageable.
Who needs a pool, a monthly shop and dining charge and annual assessments? Not Mo’ Golf, baby. Public all the way!
Golf is great anywhere, but there’s something to be said for teeing it up at a private place you can call your own.
I grew up playing a semi-private club outside of Salamanca, NY. It was the perfect place for so many reasons, but it was kind enough to let you define your private golf experience. You could leave your clubs there to be cleaned, or you could take em home. You could have a locker, or you could change in the parking lot. There were rules and there were norms, but it was still a place where anything could happen. You meet a lot of characters at such places.
A private golf course is like your favorite bar. Everyone knows your name, they welcome you with a smile. People know you have a favorite tee time just like they know you have a favorite bar stool. It’s a home base where you can always come and feel part of something great.
Private golf gets a bad rap because people think it’s all about shoe shines and restaurant minimums. Sometimes it’s just about having a favorite place and holes you want to fall in love with more than the others. Some people like to play golf like single men – going and coming and doing whatever they please.
Others like to lock it down and marry one golf course. I value the latter.