With more and more competition for your leisure dollars springing up all the time, hotels and resorts are getting creative, trying to come up with little amenities and special touches that are meant to keep you coming back on future golf vacations.
Sometimes these little touches work as intended, but it seems that most often, they either get in the way or fail to distract us from obvious flaws in more important parts of the golf experience.
Here are some examples of times courses and resorts fell a little short with their "extras."
The Starter "Lecture"
The job of starter has about as many different interpretations as it has names ("ranger," "player's assistant," "on-course manager," "golf concierge"...). Some resorts and courses get it right - these roving helpers are there to make sure everyone tees off in a timely and orderly fashion and, after that, ensure play does not get bogged down on the course.
The problem is that some courses envision their starters more as the golf equivalent of singing waiters in kitschy, fancy Italian restaurants. I experienced this at Baywood Greens near Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Even though the fairway was clear, my group was not allowed to tee off until the starter had finished his spiel, which took - I kid you not - ten minutes
In addition to the usual information - cart rules, restroom locations, flag colors - we were given minute details about how to play no fewer than a half dozen of the holes we were eventually going to face, in spite of the fact that we were already armed with yardage books packed with the same information. It felt as close to a hostage situation as we've experienced on the first tee. After all, the job of a Starter is to "start" each group, not delay it...right? Our suggestion: trim the speech to 60 seconds and let players tee off nine minutes earlier.
More and more golf courses' overseers seem to be dissatisfied with the traditional red-front/white-middle/blue-back system of hole locations. This seems to present an opportunity for the course to "stand out," but more often than not it confuses and frustrates visitors. Some courses have yellow flags in rear hole locations. Some courses have yellow flags in the middle. Some flags are checkered. More and more courses seem to prefer having all flags be the same color, so they employ a grid system. On those courses, sometimes the green is separated into three sections. Sometimes four. Sometimes six. We've seen seven once or twice. Other courses furnish pin sheets to simulate the "tournament experience."
The strangest system we have seen is at The Witch Golf Links near Myrtle Beach. Its flags are all the same color, so the section of the green inhabited by the cup on a given day is determined by the color of the flagstick. In a nod to the course's name, they use orange-and-white, white, and black-and-white flagsticks for front, middle, and back pins, respectively. Good luck picking out a black flagstick against a backdrop of trees, or an orange flagstick in morning sunlight! Our suggestion: If the color scheme must be preserved, go with orange, white and black flags.
The Tee "Gift"
This phenomenon is not native to one particular golf resort or course. A number of them offer players a metal bag tag and maybe a ball marker or two as mementos of the experience. Meanwhile, players leave these things in their golf carts, lose them, or find them to be made of cheap materials when they break. One complimentary ball marker I received was quickly lost because it was approximately the same color as the putting surface. Useful! Our suggestion: Skip the "gift" and knock $20 off the greens fees.
The Customer Service "Swarm"
It's great for golf courses and resorts to emphasize high-quality customer service as a way to build loyalty among clientele. But at many high-end facilities, employees seem to be reading from the same playbook: swarm visitors' vehicles when they arrive, shower them with graciousness about what an honor it is for them to be visiting, and make a show of answering even the most innocuous questions. The result is that the interaction feels fake, almost robotic. It can sometimes get to the point where it's a significant turn-off. Our suggestion: Instead of hiring employees to "act" friendly, just hire naturally friendly people.
We could go on about other failed attempts at unique and memorable golf experiences, but we'll stop here and instead put the question to you:
What little things do golf courses and resorts do to endear themselves to you, only to end up irritating you instead? Let us know below!