The Roots of Golf
I’m writing this morning from Green Bay, WI, as my long-time business partner, Ralph Thompson, and I decided we needed a road trip. It was nice to get away from the 100+ temperatures in Texas for a few days of golf and brain-work with him, working on our marketing/advertising, and general business strategies.

On our agenda for today is a round of golf with some friends we met on one of our “road trips” a few years ago; they live in Door County, so we’re headed to Horseshoe Bay Golf Club later this morning to spend the rest of the day with them. Yesterday we flew into Milwaukee and drove north, starting our trip on a wonderful little course out in the farmland southwest of Green Bay -- The Links of Royal St. Patrick’s. The course was in excellent condition and had good design qualities to the holes, with considerable variety, given the relatively flat “links-y” nature. Of course, it isn’t true links golf, which is based on firm and fast conditions, but we had a great time and enjoyed it. And the cost was $94 for the both of us, including range balls and cart!

The first question you would ask . . . as has every other person I told I was coming this way . . . “are you going to play Whistling Straits?” Well, I really had every intention of doing that, but my frugal German roots somehow got in the way. And that leads to my somewhat of a rant today.

I called Whistling Straits to see about a tee time, and was told that it would be $450 with caddy, plus tip. So, by the time we have lunch and a couple of beers afterward that would make our day of golf a thousand dollar adventure. I’m sorry, guys, but the enjoyment of golf doesn’t require me to spend ten times as much as we did yesterday at Royal St. Patrick’s.

So, I just flat said, “No way!”

Being in the industry, I hear every week how the game is in trouble. How we are losing golfers. How it doesn’t appeal to the kids. How it takes too long and costs too much. Well, duh? When courses like Whistling Straits, Pebble Beach, etc. put themselves completely out of reach of the golf fan, with the price of admission for a few hours of enjoyment equaling or surpassing a car payment or mortgage, what do we expect?

We had a great time on a nice golf course yesterday for less than $150, including lunch and a few beers. Could I really expect to multiply that fun by 8-10 fold had we done it on a “name” golf course? I highly doubt it.

To me, golf is about the challenge of making the ball do what I want, and it doesn’t require some name brand real estate to give me that. All I need is a place to hit from and a 4-1/4” hole somewhere out there.

It’s about spending time with my closest friends, acquaintances who will become friends, or meeting new friends . . . like those we will spend today with after only one afternoon together on a golf course several years ago.

It’s about the thrill of a well struck drive, a solid approach, a good recovery, or a drained putt. And that really isn’t enhanced all that much just because I spent a mortgage payment for the opportunity.

And finally, it’s about the fact that I just simply LOVE this game. And that love was nurtured on a little 9-hole course in a small town in South Texas in the 1950s and 60s. We had very little grass, so I never played the ball “down” until I was in my 20s. But it was GOLF. Pure and simple.

I can enjoy this game on any kind of course, and in many ways, enjoy the simple ones the best. So the rest of our trip, we’re on the search for two more courses for Saturday and Sunday to continue to experience this game at the more grass roots level. If any of you know of a hidden gem between Door County and Milwaukee, drop me an email!
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[ comments ]
dartboss04 says:
great article're right on when you say these championship courses price folks out...i understand that to achieve that kind of quality, they need to charge higher prices...but there must be a certain point where it's just all profit...i suppose it's supply and demand and if people pay $450...what can you do?...

i always judge a course based on price...if i "get what i pay for"...i'm happy...i played a course early this year for $19 during a weekday special for 18 with a cart...for 19 bucks, you really start to notice the positives...instead of seeing the couple burned out spots on the fairway or a tee box riddled with tee stubs...

i think once the fee hits $100, they better put a quality product out there...i'm comfortable spending $100-$200 a couple times a year for the experience...beyond that, it would need to be really special...pebble once in my life or something like that...
dooboo says:
So true...with high gas prices, recent recession, lost jobs, etc., game of golf is getting tougher and tougher for average Joe to play. Time spent at the course is very relaxing, and it gives a person a break from hectic world we live in, but when some courses charge over $100 just to play 18, it get very tough. I am sure most of us have to make a decision on $100 on gas/food or golf. Make it reasonable cost in green fee, you will see more people out there swinging it.
zli says:
completely agree w/ the terry's article. although many of these resort courses like whistling straits price single round of green fees prohibitively high b/c they want to incentivize people to buy into their "stay & play" package. You end up spending more in absolutely terms with packages, the average single green fee is about 1/3 of standalone ones
bobhooe says:
I hate when I play out of town and get paired with a local that just paid half what I did because he lives 110 miles away but in the same state. Oh I guess Im on vacation because I drove across a river to play golf 40 miles away and deserve to get donkey punched because I dont live in your crappy state.
bkuehn1952 says:
Terry is 98% right. For the serious golfer, the venue takes 2nd place to the game. I reserved the other 2% for the times one has an opportunity to play one of a select few golf course icons (Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, etc ...). A couple times in life one has to just chuck all reason, pay the exhorbitant fees and play a few of these golf course masterpieces.

For me, Whistling Straits does not fall into the icon category and asking $400+ is insulting.
Kickntrue says:
Agree. Because of my wife's job which had tons of travel opportunities and great golf courses, along with a little help from being Mr. Oob, I've had the chance to play some pretty cool "brand name" courses. Not Pebble or Whistling Straights, but I have played Bethpage Black (which ironically is quite affordable), but in the end, I've learned that 400 yards is pretty much 400 yards. Sure, Bethpage is a cool story- but I'm glad it was only $100 instead of $500.
birdieXris says:
that IS insulting. Know what else is insulting? when you ask a club that is normally private if they are allowing paid rounds and they look at you like you have 3 heads, say no it's members only and tell you to leave. With the economy the way it is, barring the large well known clubs, more and more "private" courses are having unadvertised fee play. Not only is this a great idea, but it's more revenue. Just because someone can't afford to join a club or plop $450 on a round of golf doesn't mean someone isn't good and is going to hack up your course. I think until golf loses the snob-ass attitude, it's not going to get any better.
legitimatebeef says:
I am with you Wedgeguy. I'd much rather play more rounds of golf than fewer fancier rounds.

Here in Manhattan there are lots of over-the-top pricey restaurants that people rich and poor fetishize. It's fine for those who don't need to sweat the bill, whether because of expense accounts or else just lots of disposable income. That's who those places are for. If the cost of a certain meal is going to make your wallet hurt, those restaurant simply aren't for you. Which is fine because pricey joints don't have a patent on great food. But people will continue to scrimp and save just to blow their paychecks because they are sheep, there are always dullards who don't know how to create memorable experiences for themselves.
putz says:
I had the opportunity to play Barton Ck. in Austin a few years back. With cart and mandatory fore-caddie the price was around the $450 per player range. Nice place but not 15 times better than my $30 per round muni.
Banker85 says:
this game is so dam expensive. gotta have the attire, equipment, green fees. I can barely afford a $40 round let alone $400.
dartboss04 says:
that bumper sticker may be misconstrued...
dottomm says:
All I need is a place to hit from and a 4-1/4” hole somewhere out there.
I think this should be a bumper sticker
BME_Badger says:
The Milwaukee area has plenty of great and reasonably priced tracks. Brown Deer Golf Course is where they used to play the Greater Milwaukee Open and can be played for < $100 as a non-resident but only ~50 as a resident. You should let the OOB community know when you're traveling to different parts of the country, could have a local OOBgolf outing.

While you're up in Door County play Peninsula State Park if you can, great views that get even more stunning as the leaves change in fall.
EloraBlue says:
I play 40 + rounds of golf a year in our short Canadian season. My maximum regular fee is $50 but I prefer $25. I'm not a member of a club because I like playing different courses and I simply haven't found one worth joining. The best courses in the Muskokas are around $250 and worth every penny, especially Bigwin Island. They take you over to the Island (course) by boat , meet you with suited up attendants and basically kiss your lillywhite ass for your entire stay. Plus the course is spectacular. The prices you guys are quoting for some of these american courses are beyond obscene! $450 !?!? I'm sorry but that better come with a hummer and a cigar .
jwilder78 says:
Ha, EloraBlue...Exactly, for $450 I should have a personal ball-washer

Totally agree bkuehn -- nobody ever lied on their death bed saying, "I wish I had the chance to play Whistling Straits at least once...". $450 is an absolute joke for anything but the 10 finest courses in the world.

Terry, good article. I'm a cheap-ass golfer and the price I pay for a round directly affects my level of enjoyment. There are some super el cheapo courses that aren't worth playing, but once you get above a certain threshold, there's not much difference between decent courses.
madmac3948 says:
I knew I wasn't wrong for loving my 3 munis in Queens that offer 20$ twilight fees.
Rocketballz says:
To birdieXris' point -about the private clubs allowing paid play, it would be great if there was a resource out there for tracking such information. I travel quite a bit and am always looking for a decent place to play. This past week I called 4 or 5 private clubs before giving up and slogging through afternoon league play at a muni-course. Other than address and phone number, the oob course finder doesn't really add much value either.
jwilder78 says:
The course finder may not have every piece of info, but it's certainly helped alert me of courses I didn't even know existed. And it's way better than anything else out there in terms of helping golfers catalog courses in a given area. Most other options on the web are just big text lists of courses with no notion of where they're located. Just my 2 cents.
Panerai111 says:
450 for Pebble? Okay. 450 for Whistling Straits? No thanks.
scottccherry says: let's you join and play lots of private courses for reasonable prices. just throwin it out there.
larrynjr says:
Several of the course's I've played in NW Wa. State offer an play all day rate that is only about $12 more than the price for 18 holes. The lowest is $39 for all day the most expense $78 but includes cart. I really like those courses when I get up there to play. 36 holes per day is not too much golf.........
birdieXris says:
@hibore - well the difficulty finding those courses ensures that they'll keep doing it. While it's income for them, they still don't just want any guy with 14 clubs and a little money to blow to come out and hack up their course. There are more people out there like that than it seems. I like scottccherry's link. That looks like an ok resource! Otherwise, just do what i do... keep calling and sound polite on the phone. Eventually you'll get someone.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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