Last month, on a steamy July morning, the starter at a municipal golf course punched my ticket and pointed me toward the first tee. It was my first round in a year after a broken foot. A few emails had connected me to a husband of a friend and he agreed to play in my foursome. Newly retired, a former 2 handicap, he had served our country as a Navy doctor. That foggy morning, I’m sure sunlight splashing over lush green turf looked better than operating lights over surgical sheets.
The doctor’s wife started to walk with us. She didn’t play golf, she only wanted to stay on the sidelines and savor this wonderful day. I thought it was a wonderful idea. The starter barked: “No walkers allowed” and I thought he was joking.
The doctor’s wife unsuccessfully appealed to the club manager. The doctor wouldn’t leave his wife in the parking lot. He shook my hand, got a pro shop refund, and drove to another public course where he played a round while his wife walked with him. Back at the golf course, our group played as a threesome. I hit golf shots until my foot ached
Over the summer of 2012, the starter probably sent hundreds of golf course walkers to clubhouse confinement. They sipped watery cola while their mates or friends played a round.
Golf has suffered declining interest over the years. Golf must encourage new golfers. Walking and watching golfers play piques interest and creates more golfers. In this town, potential golfers wanting to walk must choose a cow pasture or beach.
On the ride home from my round, I thought about my first experience as a golf course walker. A month after my seventh birthday, my father and mother asked me to walk with them as they played a few holes on the golf course that borders our house. My father, a former star second baseman, hit lengthy drives while I sat in the grass behind him and watched his golf ball soar into the blue sky. And on another fairway, my mother smiled as she pulled her Patty Berg 5-iron from her red plaid golf bag and said: “Watch this one fly like an eagle,” and it did. I’ll never forget her radiant smile after striking that crisp shot on that cool summer afternoon.That first golf walk fueled my desire to play junior golf, high school golf, and this led to a thirty year career working in the golf course industry.
Ten years ago, on a snowy Christmas Eve, my brother asked me to play Pebble Beach with him and I said yes before he finished the sentence. Three months later, on a clear spring day, we teed off while a hundred walkers sauntered along the first fairway. When we reached the 17th tee, where Nicklaus hit a one-iron within a foot to win a U.S. Open, a family fresh from church services watched silently as we pondered our tee shots. I hit a four iron short. I should have hit a three. The patriarch said ‘that’s a wonderful golf shot Sonny” and I agreed for any golf shot off Pebble Beach’s 17th tee is a wonderful golf shot.
My second shot on the 18th fairway nearly struck a strolling couple. She was a tall and thin red head with pasty skin. She wobbled in her high heels. Her man, a foot shorter, wore a starched white shirt and shiny black pants. My apology led to a chat, and they said it was their first golf course walk. They had other things in mind. They kissed as I lined up my third shot. They kissed again after I hit my shot. And her tiny newlywed diamond sparkled as the Pacific Ocean roiled.
Over the past month I’ve thought about the motive for the strict prohibition on golf course walking at this local golf course. I’m sure a lawyer or insurance underwriter forced the edict. Or, committee members concerned about wayward children running like banshees over the greens ordered the rule. I’m not sure this philosophy applies to the doctor’s wife, a retired Navy Captain, who probably could guide a battleship into conflict, and who I’m sure is competent to walk with her husband without disrupting play.