Rocky year looms for municipal courses

GOLF

March 14, 1993|By JOHN STEWART

The Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp. begins its latest newsletter with the pronouncement that, "This year's improvements on and off the courses are certain to please you."

Are they kidding?

Perhaps no changes in the previous eight years of BMGC operation have caused as much discontent among area public parks golfers as the ones in place for this year.

Consider:

On the one hand, the corporation declares it wants to offer the most people the best golfing experience. On the other, it institutes "fair play," and expects golfers teeing off at specified times to complete their rounds in a specified time span.

Possible, but not likely.

"We're dealing with a high-volume golf course and we are trying to be as fair as possible," says Jon Ladd, director of golf, whose job includes implementing the actions of the organization's board of directors.

The regulations include: "Golfers teeing off between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. are expected to play in 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 hours; those going off between 9 a.m. and noon, four hours; and those requiring longer are expected to go off after noon."

These would seem to be optimum rather than required times, but putting a clock on players doesn't exactly sound like being able to have the best experience.

Several other speed-up measures have more merit for providing an enjoyable experience without having it seem like the U.S. Open.

Hitting when ready and continuous putting should not be a problem, and even skipping stroke-and-distance in favor of just "stroke" for a lost tee shot (drop another ball, take a stroke and play away) should not destroy the integrity of the game.

Besides, if players ignore their tour counterparts, don't draw and quarter every green looking for the perfect line, and simply be ready to hit each time, they automatically play faster. Surveys indicate faster players tend to play better anyway, but they shouldn't be forced to imitate rockets.

Or, as one caller pointed out, "Figure about an average of 11-12 minutes per hole, and starting every eight minutes, that means your foursome has a maximum of eight min

utes to tee off and hit their next shots. Now, they have about three minutes to complete the hole.

"I mean, I'm a 3-handicapper and that doesn't make sense. I'd say this 'fair play' was getting out of hand."

Another ruling that has prompted howls of protest concerns the use of pull carts. The BMGC board, after assessing the slow-play problem, discovered weekend and holiday play was slower than weekdays. Next, a review of records showed the use of pull carts greater on weekends and holidays. Thus, the contention that those using pull carts play at a slower pace.

One disgruntled golfer wrote of his displeasure: "I don't think the pull carts cause slow play. Without them, players are forced to walk-and-carry or use a motorized cart that costs $17 [for two]. And it's a flat fee -- no break for seniors or those requiring a cart for medical reasons. They're doing this to promote sales of motorized carts."

Also, the words golf and Pennsylvania linked in the same sentence appear to be an anathema to the BMGC's administrative staff.

They don't want to hear about golfers going to nearby courses in southern York County, even though their own courses are overloaded.

"Some of the corporation's rulings have caused a lot of hard feelings," one caller said. "A lot of people think they have hurt rather than helped.

2& "Last year, I could call a Pennsyl

vania course during the week and get a reserve time and play on the weekend. Here, there is a postcard lottery [which begins tomorrow] two weeks in advance, no telephoning, and a requirement of purchasing two greens fees and one reservation fee per golfer."

The corporation will limit postcards to the available starting times prior to noon, so all lottery participants are guaranteed a pre-noon starting time. "The reservation fee was something we inherited from the previous operation," Ladd said.

No attempt here will be made to put the new group policies into layman's terms. It gets a little complicated.

There is no disagreeing with Ladd when he says, "The toughest part is trying to balance the access among the five courses. You can't be all things to all people. We're just trying to be fair.

"We have to convince people if they tee off at 8:30, not only do they affect those playing, but every person who tees off after that. We must keep the good of the whole in mind. We can't let one player or one group influence everybody else."

Miscellaneous

The Middle Atlantic PGA will hold its chapter meetings tomorrow, with the Northern group meeting at Prospect Bay CC. The section's spring meeting will be held March 29 at Swan Point Yacht & CC.

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