It's August and it's hot. It's hot in the South, out West, across the Mid-Atlantic, pretty much everywhere.
But the days are still long and it's prime time for golf. You have about a month until your football-obsessed buddies won't play with you on the weekend. On-course hydration is especially important right now. And yet this summer, like most summers, we're noticing an influx of reviews submitted to Golf Advisor where course management isn't providing sufficient hydration to its golfers.
"No water coolers provided on the course and don't really see a cart girl driving around so on a hot day, it can be really brutal," wrote this reviewer of Meadows Golf Club in northern New Jersey. "Even with a cart girl, I'm a firm believer that every course should provide water coolers."
"The only complaint," wrote this Reno-area reviewer of Empire Ranch Golf Course: "There was no water available on the entire course. I took one water bottle thinking a drinking fountain or water coolers would be strategically placed throughout the course, especially in the summer. The last couple of holes I was really struggling."
In an analysis of our reviews, over 930,000 since the fall of 2012, we've received more 3,000 that complain about a course for having no water available. These mentions spike in the summer months, and they tend to hurt a golf course's overall or staff friendliness rating.
Great course conditions on a fun layout at a good price is generally the most important aspect of a round of golf. But no water can be a health hazard.
FACTS:— Ben Grehan (@Back9Ben) August 7, 2019
1.I've played 86 golf courses in Virginia, all but yesterday's had drinking water on the course.
2. Personal coolers are not allowed by any VA golf course.
3. Staff didn't tell me there's no water on-course yesterday.
4. I couldn't finish my round due to dehydration.
I'm fortunate that my munis in Austin, Texas are geared towards walkers and do a good job of tending to water jug stations on the course. That's especially true where I play most of my golf: historic, compact and shady Lions Municipal Golf Course. I walked 18 comfortably last week on a 100-degree day, which couldn't be done without ample opportunities for on-course fill-ups. There are nine water jug stations throughout the routing (several come at routing hubs), plus the clubhouse at the turn. Combined with my 24-oz. Yeti mug and my Nitron push cart that has a cupholder right in front of my face, there is no excuse for me not to be well watered. Whenever I play Lions, it's rare that a jug's water isn't cold, much less running low. I found one review from 2016 complaining about the jugs being staged late one morning, but that is an aberration.
For a facility's staff, there can be a lot to worry about across 100-plus acres of turf and various machines and equipment courses require. Hydration stations away from the clubhouse can be out of sight, out of mind for the outside service staff, so it's important for everyone, whether it's rangers or maintenance or the cart-barn attendants to remember to check on water jugs or make sure comfort stations are functioning properly. If you're a paying golfer, and you notice an empty jug or broken water dispenser, say something. You can inform a marshal or call the shop from your cell phone.
Although in fairness, some golfers do this and then some and nothing happens.
I call [the] clubhouse and inform them that they have a course full of golfers & no water— I was assured it would be fixed ... We get to the same 2 jugs after #6 & now before #14-NO WATER!!! I call clubhouse and this time complain; after getting no where with the young kid I ask him to bring us out 2 bottles of water— he said they would—-NEVER DID!!
Higher-end courses often have comfort stations built with water machines in them. Floridians love their machines with water and dense, chewable "bullet ice." The new wave of luxury clubs stock comfort stations with not just water but all sorts of goodies - all racing to achieve a maximum ratio of pounds of sugar per square foot.
We also see reviewers complain about the cost of sports drinks at the course often. They can run the cost of a beer. While we generally advocate for supporting golf courses with some added F&B revenue during your visit, if you simply can't stomach paying that much, grab a tube of Nuun tablets and add them to your water for added carbohydrates and electrolytes. Mio also makes concentrated liquid with electrolytes that you can add to water; packs are likely available at your local grocery store.
On rare occasions, I've seen on-course marshals doubling duty as roving water-jug operators. They tie down a jug or two to the back of their cart and approach every group they see and ask if they need to fill up. That is A-plus operations, and should be done more widely.
There's also the issue of bottled water. Resort or member-for-a-day courses that charge around $100 or more will have one or two bottles of water per golfer kept on ice in the golf cart included in the green fee. But frankly, two bottles of water over 18 holes in the Southeast or Southwest is not enough. Others gladly sell them to parched golfers. While facilities surely enjoy the revenue, I am noticing more and more hotel brands and other companies trying to go "bottle-free" based on customer feedback due to environmental waste concerns. The R&A ambitiously rid their tournament of single-use bottled water at this year's Open.
There are some facilities out there who fear water jugs can be a safety hazard, whether via bacteria from dirty jugs or the potential for tampering. My old muni growing up had these ancient-looking water fountains with rust all over them and the water had an off taste to it (builds character, I suppose). Some courses avoid on-course hydration all together but they are at least up front about it:
"Make sure you bring water out on the course (no water out there), but they remind you of this and supply bottles at the clubhouse," wrote reviewer 'tapidgeon' about Granite Fields Golf Club in New Hampshire.
As with most things related to the customer experience, it's all about setting expectations from the beginning: if a course can't set up hydration stations around the course, management needs to be up front about it. If something is broken, management must be proactive. The key reason most of these complaints crop up? Golfers had no idea they'd be left out to dry.
Is your course up to par when it comes to providing ample opportunities to hydrate? Review them here, or let us know in the comments below!