4 Golf Resort "Customer Service" Touches that Backfired

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.

Flagstick Folly

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!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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Commented on

Most unusual Starter was at The Enlisted Mans' course,Ft.Bragg, where our 4-some watched three kids and Mom hit before us. O'boy this is going to be a long round. The Starter said wait "till the group is ON or near the green". I thought we would catch the group in front real soon, but to my surprise...it didn't happen. The spacing was perfect and we really enjoyed the 'no wait' on every shot.
Tip...don't rush the first couple of holes, golfers don't get organized as to play for a few holes...give them space on the first hole.

Commented on

Had a Marshall on a course roll up on me as I was waiting for a green to clear. Had about 230 and a baffler in my hand. He proceeds to tell me to hit and I said I would wait. He then said if I hold up pace of play he will push our group off the course. Foursome leaves green ahead of us and I hit the perfect shot to five feet. I the proceeded to tell the jack a** to GFH and if he wanted to say anything to me the rest of the day to bring out the club pro. Pebble Beach. Pro never came out. Haha.

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Crossville, Tn. is a fantastic place to play. The only thing that took us by surprise was, we had to drive the carts in the fairways. The rules were, keep the carts out of the rough. Other than that, the staff left us alone and were a pleasure to deal with. Excellent hospitality.

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Starter at Oglebay WV provides a 10 minute lecture, doesn't allow groups to needle each other on the tee box and then ranger watched us like hawks on our playoff holes to ensure we didn't play any extras, even though the course was empty at 600P and we had dropped $500/man that weekend.

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I think Brad O nailed it. It's a power trip. The list is long: Long Bay, Myrtle Beach, Eagle Mountain, Scottsdale, La Tempête, Qc, Can, Le Diable, Mont-Tremblant etc. Best experience was at Crowbush Cove in PEI; she gave us the information we needed, no more, no less, with a smile on her face. Why doesn't it happen more often?

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Worst one I had was a starter who held us for 10 min on the tee box to allow a single to catch the twosome in front of us, then by hole three we were told by a marshal to hurry up since we were playing slowly (almost 10 min behind). Before the 9th we were almost running to the next tee box to tee off.

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Wow, from the comments, it appears that several people have never work at a golf course, or at a private resort. I do. Yes, my rag is wet, clean and applied to the club in an appropriate manner. We do want to service you. By all means, if you don't want or need your clubs cleaned or taken to the bag drop, just say so. We won't be offended. However, just like that great barkeep or person who brings you that cold beer, if we do a good job, share a little love. A please and a thank you goes a long ways. If you have to tip begrudgingly, keep you $2. and play munis.
Golf is a gentlemens game. Everyday I see people who want to play the game, but it's not golf. Leave you denim pants at home, tuck in your shirts, turn your hat around and be courteous. You'll never see any of the leaders in the world of golf looking or acting in a disrespectful manner.
Keep it in the short grass.

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Why do courses insist on having those guys with the dirty rags at the end of your round . Take a survey . Almost no one wants it . It might be nice to have wet towels available but that is it . LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE .Let us take our carts to our cars and get to the bar period .

Commented on

Worst customer experience is Troon North in Scottsdale. The arrogance is off the charts.

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Nothing more annoying than the staff that shower you with attention when you arrive and finish your round. The dry rag routine at the end is common. The kicker is that they all expect a generous tip.

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