Golfers need to cart away weekend ban

John Steadman

April 14, 1993|By John Steadman

All the golfers who use pull-carts on Baltimore's municipal courses can utilize them during the week but not on Saturdays, )) Sundays or holidays. It's an ambiguous policy that shouldn't be taken too seriously. Unfortunately, it is. There's no reason to inflict such pain and duress on the patrons. In many instances, their golf is torture enough.

To disallow hand-pulled carts only increases the burden fiscally and physically. It means the golfers either have to pay from $15 to $17 to rent a mechanical cart or else carry their own clubs. This is impossible if the golfer has a back ailment or a heart problem.

Paying a cart fee adds to the expense of playing golf. And public courses were built to make it possible for the working class, youngsters in school and retirees to avail themselves of a game they couldn't otherwise afford to play.

In the case of a physical ailment, a note from a doctor ought to be sufficient reason for permitting use of a pull-cart. Having the opportunity to walk a golf course is a healthful experience that should be encouraged by everyone associated with the game.

It's the one bonus that comes with playing bad golf -- or worse. It provides a chance to exercise and be a part of the great outdoors. Many public golfers are otherwise bound by restraints of city streets, apartment buildings and snarled traffic.

If all the pull-cart users in Baltimore make a protest march on City Hall or attend a City Council meeting, their cause will at least be heard. By all means, they should be pulling their carts as a show of solidarity. The idea is new this spring, set in place by the strong hand of the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp.

You have to wonder, in such a situation, if its governing body has the best interests of the golfers in mind or is it ignoring its foremost responsibility. Have they forgotten this is a public course and not a country club? Could they be concerned that pull-carts are not appealing from an aesthetic viewpoint?

The basic question that needs be asked: Does outlawing pull carts on weekends benefit the public parks golfer or does it impose a hardship? Anything that's not in the best interest of the golfers is wrong.

The Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp. has performed an exceptional service by the way it has improved the appearance and playability of the courses since it took over responsibility for the operation.

But, along with the praise, is noted a zealousness, more of an over-reaction in this situation, that works against golfers who like to pull their equipment on a two-wheel cart. This doesn't wear on the grass the way a mechanical cart does nor will it pollute the air. And we have never heard charges that pull-carts delay play, as the corporation maintains.

Within a matter of weeks, the corporation, headed by chairman Henry Miller, will have to answer a complaint in Baltimore Circuit Court by Thomas H. Clark, a 55-year-old attorney who resents what he calls arbitrary and self-serving action.

It's expected a considerable number of golfers agree with him and cheer his decision to take on the establishment. Every man, woman and child who pulls a golf cart and doesn't utilize gas or electric machines, has a personal interest in the outcome of Clark's legal protest.

If the judge hearing the case is a golfer and uses the public courses, Pine Ridge, Clifton, Carroll, Forest Park and Mount Pleasant, he's going to realize -- without being told by witnesses -- that pull carts are a pleasurable part of playing the game. They are a convenience and, in some instances, where health is the issue, an absolute necessity. It can't be denied.

Lawyer Clark, who is proud to say he has worked on his skills to where he shoots in the 80s, is involved in the general practice of law but would much prefer to practice his 9-iron. "I don't argue with the right of the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp. to set and regulate rules that are beneficial to all golfers," explains Clark.

"But this requirement is not in the public's best interest. It's tantamount to allowing the courses to be public facilities during the week but change to a country club attitude on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays."

Clark makes an excellent point, one that may work well in a court of law.

It would be almost the same if the corporation allowed golfers to play naked during the week -- which would be interesting -- but then enforced a dress code on weekends.

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