Does this make it worth it?
What Makes A Course Worth The Money?
By cjgiant on 9/17/10
We asked for readers to send in blog posts- and Craig Messinger didn't disappoint. Here is his take on what makes a golf course worth the money. I'm sure you guys can chime in with a couple opinions of your own!

A friend of mine and I were discussing the courses in our area when debating where to play recently. We both wanted to play one of the nicer courses in the area, but both of us had trouble justifying the cost of the course. Could we afford it? Sure, especially since it is once a year; but was spending the extra dollars worth it for this course?

As a part of deciding, we started thinking what courses in our area were worth spending a little extra to play. What would we be willing to spend at one of these courses on a weekend, peak rate? As it turns out, we may be pretty cheap, because we didn't think any high-end public or semi-private course in the area was worth the cost. Regardless, I found it interesting to analyze what made the courses that we would spend more money for worth more than a normal course.

First off, I am in general a minimalist. So, the first, and probably most obvious thing is, you need a challenging but fair course. Give me a variety of holes that force a variety of shots. Give me a couple wide fairways, a couple of tight holes, some doglegs, some hazards to avoid, a long and a short par 3, a reachable and a 3-shot par 5; throw in some elevation changes here or there, and have some undulations in the greens without being a mini-putt course. Okay - there are only 18 holes, but the more of these you can give me, the better I will enjoy your course.

Sticking to the basics, the course needs to be in good shape. This is the biggest concern over paying extra for an upscale course. Usually to warrant the charge, the course is in good shape. But don't charge me full price (and definitely let me know when I book) if you just aerated. The greens absolutely should "run true". I shouldn't see much GUR, and I definitely shouldn't have to define my own. The rough should be a decent length and not patchy.

Moving away from the basics that make an upscale course worth it, the course should have a decent practice area, including driving range with enough bays and range balls included in my fees. The putting green should be similarly large enough to hold a couple groups of practicers, and should definitely reflect the greens on the course. A chipping green (with sand) is a nice add-on, but would affect my perception more if I were considering joining a club than playing it.

Lastly, there are intangibles that I really don't need, but when added to the previous items are a definite plus. The first thing is a competent starter and the second is a competent ranger. These people should be happy to have you at the course and treat you accordingly, even when they have to ask something of you (yes, we can all get a little slow at times). And, to be totally sexist, an attractive beer (I mean cart) girl belongs in this "unecessary, but nice" section.

That's about it. Have I missed anything? Hopefully you have found a course like this near you, and if you're really lucky, it's not expensive.

This was written by Craig Messinger, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo source

[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
I agree with all that. So many times you're not even told about the aeration and things of that nature (ahem - temporary greens!!) and you don't know until you've paid. It's always good to ask, but at the same time, you shouldn't be paying full price anyway. The only thing is that i'd add again, COMPETENT in front of attractive beer cart girl. I've been to a lot of courses where the cart girl drives in the same direction of the players. We see her once, sometimes not at all. in my mind, a brain is a little higher up than looks on the cart -- while a hot girl is nice to look at, i can have multiple beers during a round and none will be jealous of the others, nomatter who sold them to me.
lcgolfer64 says:
Nice article Craig and a good topic.
A group that I play a few rounds with every year do the same thing and look for some nicer courses to play for our 'annual' outings (4-5 times in the summer fall) to some of the nicer courses in the area.

Agree with a lot that you have here. When we play we look for the challenge, and overall shape of the of course, price - we look for deal times or use online deals or specialty cards due to varying income levels of the guys.

I think another important piece we look for is the overall look and feel of the course. We are lucky to have a variety of landsacpes (minus mountains) in Minnesota so we can play everything from very open links style, to valley and river landen courses to to heavily wooded areas. Having a great look and feel with some variety makes the round especially enjoyable when we walk them.
Kurt the Knife says:
Scenery, man.
I often will choose according to the vistas some our local courses offer.
San Francisco bay, endless vineyards, Pacific Ocean, airport tarmacs and modest-retired-folks-bungalow-backyards. There's a lot to choose from.
Can't wait to get back to Kaanapali.

*Hang in there. justa coupla more months, coupla more months*
Banker85 says:
I play cheap courses 99.99% of the time so if i go to a higher scale course i expect most of what you said. Lost Marsh Golf Course in Hammond, IN is great. Has an open link style for the first 6 holes water all around, more woodsy type for the middle and back to link for the last 2 holes. 1 reachable par 5 for me and some good elevation changes and doglegs. course is always in good condition, challenging but offers a nice amount of holes to score on. OMG almost forgot this! Catina the hottest cart girl ever! nice Latin accent, curves that make you drool and the sweetest thing i ever met! Man i miss that course!
bkuehn1952 says:
Interesting subject and well written. Thanks Craig. The points made about the qualities needed to justify the green fees are spot on.
wrhall02 says:
Good pretty much describes my selection process.

A big turn off at some higher end courses are the " bad vibes" the staff can have. Arriving in a regular car when most are arriving in BMW's and Mercedes' (M5's and AMG's of course), when even the bag boys have the "you don't belong here" attitudes...

A simple smile and staff friendliness really helps when dropping a few hundred on a "splurge" outing. Snobby and condescending vibes kill the mood for me...and makes sure I never go back to that course.
Banker85 says:
@wrhall02: you are dead on! that is probably my biggest pet peve is when you get thesnobby attitude when a regular joe like me plays a nice high end course.
trikai says:
I recently thought about this topic myself. I have been kicking around the idea of joining a club and there is one relatively close with a great deal. The course, King's Deer in Monument, CO, happens to actually be one of the nicest I have played in the area. The public courses in Colorado are awesome. Probably some of the best around and are cheap. $30 a round and open year round, but even with those type of prices, a friendly, relatively thankful staff and scenery dominate the experience. Too many times I run into golf pro's or starters that should take a class in customer service. The Broadmoor, which is very close to my house is a great course or courses with staff that actually wants to make you feel welcome and appreciate your business.
trikai says:
It's a resort, so yes they want tips but at least they are welcoming. Experience is what I take away and it ultimately determines my patron-ism. King's Deer (semi-private) is $16 a round and the public courses are $31 right now. It isn't a hard choice to make but I drive 30 mins instead of 5 to play around I know I will enjoy with people who are happy.
jefs2box says:
I would add a few things to the list of expectations that come with high fees:
- Fast greens
- Real rough that isn't mowed too short. I don't like it when the rough looks similar to the fairway

One more nice to have at an expensive course: Built-in GPS showing the location of the group in front of you
martinj says:
NOT sure anyone mentioned PACE OF PLAY. If i am gonna pay big bucks you better not have under 10 minute tee times. I want to relax and be done in 4 1/2 hours or less. Don't want to be at course where all they care about is selling rounds and screw everyone on the course. You make the turn only to see they stuck another group in front of you. BUNKERS? they better be consistent. Too many times I see courses where your in one trap and perfect sand (i am being nice) and then another feels like they ran out of sand when filling the first one.
GreggScott says:
ahem.... how about.... LET ME WALK! I hate to pay big bucks for a nice course and be forced to ride in a cart. Even if it is included in the price.
cjgiant says:
@birdie: I'd argue if you see the cart girl once, you didn't have a cart girl. Also, if the two times you see her are the 9th and 18th (1st and 10th also), same thing. I am shallow, however, and would give up a little competence for a more attractive girl :).

@Kurt - agree that would put one over the top of another (Pebble at $400+), but great scenery on a bad course doesn't do much for me.

@trikai - yeah, I don't mind tipping at a nice course. I hate when a course has a random attendant who is like a throw in to make the course seem more upscale that I feel obligated to tip.

@jefs2box - I wouldn't agree with fast per se... but I don't like slow greens (I think they tend to not "run true") as much as moderate to faster greens.

@martinj - you know I agree and @GreggScott - I agree that walking a course would be nice, but quite a few courses just aren't set up to be walkable (including my home course, dang it). But if it slows down the pace of play too much, it would become a detraction.
Kurt the Knife says:
I hear ya. But for me hard to tell how varying scenery vs my bad golf equates.
My bad golf on bad (maybe good) links with great scenery... too much for me to reduce to common denominators.

Im getting a headache.
legitimatebeef says:
As long as there are 18 decent greens, good conditioning throughout the course and a layout that requires you to use every club in the bag I'm pretty satisfied. One thing that I don't really care for is excessive hazards and wooded areas that eat up wayward shots, slowing down the pace of the entire course. I'm not looking to test my game or my composure with a US Open like rigor; as a casual player I don't mind being punished for hitting offline, but at least offer a chance to recover.
FatGuyGolf says:
An interesting, memorable, and challenging layout, good conditions relative to the price, location (can't believe no one mentioned this), hot beer cart girl, and reasonably close proximity to a good bar/restaurant. I would list pace of play, but I usually find this to be more of a function of the games, egos, and cheapness of the clowns in front of me than the course's fault (maybe I've gotten way too used to a complete lack of true rangering in our conflict-avoidance society).
dbrake0 says:
I agree with the minimalist approach. Too many upscale courses provide things I don't want while missing on the important items. For example, I don't care about range balls, practice areas, etc because I want to play not practice.

Greens should be relatively fast and true while fairways and rough should not be patchy. Beyond that to make it worth the money it needs a variety of holes and good visuals. Then it must compare favorably with other courses that I've played. I live in No. Va. and we have lots of 'upscale' courses that do not compare favorably to the many regular courses 1 hr. away in PA.

Also, having a marshal that enforces a quick pace-of-play is essential. I can almost drive to PA, play a round, and get back home in the same amount of time it takes to play a local course.
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