Grandma Sets Us Straight
The speaker was my mother-in-law, who fairly spat the words as she shoved salad around her plate. She and my wife and my son had just come back from an afternoon at Epcot, where Grandma saw for the first time what Disney makes the market bear.
Grandma, economically careful throughout her life in northeastern Pennsylvania, is certainly not cheap. But she is proud of her frugality. Two-fifty for something that costs $1.25 just outside the gates offends her. Heck, paying for something that comes from the tap offends her.
Grandma is not a golf fan, but she knows that golf provides a nice life for her daughter, grandson, and son-in-law. So if Jack Nicklaus happened by the little neighborhood grocery Grandma runs in Wilkes-Barre, chances are hed be treated to a free Coke.
But Grandma got me to thinking. Just why do so many of us pay exorbitant prices to play this game? Leave equipment out of it for a moment. Think access. In some places, the cost of four hours recreation on the golf course has escalated out of proportion to other leisure time choices.
Lets skip through Golf Digests Places to Play, a nifty little paperback the magazine produces with travel book leader Fodors. In the new fifth edition, there are separate classifications for Great and Good values. That alone ought to tell you something.
But look at some of the prices. They run a broad gamut. Ill flip pages at random.
Sunrise Golf Club, Sarasota, Fla.: $47 (the highest fee listed; these examples all list a courses top fee). Sharon Woods Golf Course, Cincinnati: $21. Legacy Golf Links, Aberdeen, N.C.: $99. Long Island National Golf Club, Riverhead, N.Y.: $100. Jester Park Golf Course, Granger, Iowa: $22. Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.: $350. Canmore Golf & Curling Club, Canmore, Alberta, Canada: $48.
Whats going on? Even accounting for differences in amenities, one can still legitimately ask, why is some golf so expensive while other tracks seem like a bargain? You cant put it off to goat-track syndrome. Some of the reviewers comments in Places to Play congratulate less-expensive layouts for fine conditioning.
Surely, there is some greed involved, episodes of overpricing driven by a mania for big, black numbers on income statements. Another culprit may be what I call Mortons Disease: Great food, high prices, all based on the existence of big corporate expense accounts (see daily fee, upscale). And the insistence of some golfers on wall-to-wall green, instead of a more realistic tinge of brown on the edges of fairways and greens in summer, can push maintenance budgets to the point where green fees must also swell.
But the reasons dont interest me as much as the effect. Those of you who read this space regularly know that although I dont have the game for it, I love to play wonderful, classic courses. But even a dyed-in-the-Scottish-wool fan such as me has to blanch at the idea of Pebbles tariff. (Im not sure if they even have a media rate, but I cant imagine it descends to my comfort level.)
Every region has its green fee comfort level. Forty-five dollars is bargain basement in Westchester County, N.Y. (if it even exists). Its pricey in southern Illinois.
Every person has a comfort level, too. For me, a round of golf had better border on the religious to be worth more than about $60.
But consider this: How much does it cost to do other things? You can take a family of four bowling for a couple hours for about $20, at least here in Orlando. Kids can play soccer on the local field for a slice of your real estate taxes. Same for the basketball hoop down at the high school. No YMCA program ' swimming, hoops, baseball, you name it ' costs as much per hour as a round at White Columns Golf Club in Alpharetta, Ga. ($120 divided by, say, five hours equals $24 per hour.)
Skateboarding, rollerblading: The cost is done once you get the gear. Video games: Same thing. Surfing: Ditto, dude.
For all but a small segment of North American golfers, cost matters. Lets put that problem in our participation pipeline ' and smoke it out.
McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.
McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.
''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''
Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.
''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''
McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.
''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.
''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''
The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.
Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel
If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.
Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:
When in the Middle East... pic.twitter.com/lNv1Lh79E0— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 16, 2018
If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:
Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."
Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."
I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H
And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.
“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.