Now, if Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens were running a golf course, he’d most certainly be Justified in putting a little lead into the behinds of slow players. But it’s a fact that at most courses, marshals drive by foursomes moving slower than a century-old tortoise, write down numbers on a spread sheet, and move on without saying much more than, “Have a great round, guys.” In terms of enforcement, Barney Fife carries much greater weight.
My colleague Ken Van Vechten may have captured the reason in a recent post about the Summitpointe Golf Club in Milpitas, CA, which is run by American Golf Corporation. Here’s a link to the piece: http://kenvanvechten.com/golf/the-golf-iconoclast/349/why-play-golf-america.
His essential point is that marshals and management weren’t about to prod players to move faster, because it counted on those un-offended regulars to provide the course with its greatest chunk of income. Although Ken was rightly unhappy and left before enduring a six-hour round, the folks at Summitpointe knew he wouldn’t come back no matter what they did or said.
There is, however, an alternative between indifference to slow play and armed intervention, and it is embodied by the nine members of the La Costa Resort and Spa’s Golf Squad, who are trying to redefine the meaning of a true course ambassador . Patrolling the 36 holes of La Costa’s North and South courses from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m, they provide support and encouragement to players, from finding stray drives to raking traps and giving hints about the idiosyncrasies of daily flagstick positions. Schooled in the history of the resort and its courses, the nine do articulate an expected pace of play.
The group is part of a program that debuted this past spring, a extension of a resort-wide commitment to excellent service. “It is all about making each guest feel special,” says James Hochrine, La Costa’s Assistant Director of Golf, who manages The Golf Squad. “We want every guest to feel right at home as soon as they walk in the door.”
But it takes a certain degree of felicity to pull this off, since not all players want an ambassador or marshal following too close, especially players who take personal pride in a swift pace. Golf Squad members – – each of whom has a business card with a name and contact number – – clearly know when to keep their distance and when their help would be appreciated.
It’s an eclectic group, who among them speak six languages. One is a former anesthesiologist and another once directed customer service for a major U.S. automaker. While they make sure they don’t come off as course police, they will help players figure out the break on a putt. And unlike the situation at Summittpointe – – be sure to read KVV’s report – – the Golf Squad helps move things along.
Indeed, they’re even at liberty to reward fast players with a voucher for the first round of drinks at Diversions Lounge, right behind the 18th holes of both courses.