The August 2015 issue of Golf Digest was a keeper because of Ron Whitten’s excellent articles. Ron shared his list of the most cheerful golf courses in America, a list that makes you want to hit the road and visit the closest one to you. His second piece featured Whistling Straits and the PGA Championship. The Kohler golf course manager, Michael Lee, worked for me years ago, even before his turf undergrad years at UW-Madison, so I really enjoyed the story. Whitten has authored, I’d guess, thousands of articles in his long career in golf, and any I have read are among the best reading you’ll get in golf literature.
But Golf Digest’s Peter Finch offered a real eye-opener in this issue, musing about “hooking up” on a golf course. It was fun reading and represents how much things have changed when the topic is so comfortably and openly discussed. It was risqué when, decades ago, Playboy would print a cartoon centered on the idea of getting lucky on a golf course at night. In one especially funny (and full page) cartoon, the superintendent’s wife was a participant (although he wasn’t!).
I feel like I am sort of an expert on the subject — not because I’ve been a participant, but because for about 25 years of my career I was either an occasional night waterman or supervised and trained them. I could write a book about my experiences. And I say I wasn’t a participant because I wasn’t interested in going back to where I worked to engage in an activity intended for a more comfortable and private location!
Our course was open on the sides. There were homes on three sides and railroad tracks on the other border. We were right in the middle of town, and our course was close to the UW-Madison campus and its almost 50,000 students. It doesn’t take a vulgar or vivid imagination to guess what some of those old oak and hickory trees have seen since early last century. The other two courses I worked at were similar — private, little or no fencing and manual irrigation. I’m sure I’m not the only older, keen observer who can share a few stories about golf course sexcapades!
Although our course was posted “No Trespassing,” nighttime lovers ignored those signs. One couple was angered when the night waterman confronted them and asked why they were ignoring those signs. The answer was obvious to them — it’s too dark to see them!
I always cautioned these night workers to be careful and not to be confrontational, advice I followed myself. Face-to-face encounters could lead to threats. The advice was followed with “drive away and call the cops.”
Mostly we left them alone to enjoy the experience. I expect it was unnerving to see a Cushman truckster with bright headlights coming around at short intervals to move sprinklers. Those expecting solitude and quiet likely were surprised and frustrated.
One night a couple ran for cover to a shelter house that had a latch that accepted a padlock. The male slammed the door shut as he was cussing the kid. Quick thinking led the kid to jam a screwdriver into the latch, locking the lovers in the bathroom. Of course, he heads to the shop to call me about what to do next. While this is going on, lots of areas are getting overwatered.
“Let them out and drive away fast,” was my answer. Thankfully, that was the end of it.
Sometimes an irrigation tech would get bored and entertain himself by waiting until the action got hot and then set a sprinkler close enough to soak Romeo and Juliet and their blanket. That would only happen a time or two before the couple moved off the course. But for the most part, we knew that leaving people alone was the best policy. If there was a price to be paid, Mother Nature had a way of doing that with revenge from bugs, mosquitoes, rough ground and maybe some wildlife.
More than once, a couple who felt put out by having a vehicle around when they wanted privacy, pulled our Rain Bird 808 sprinklers from quick coupler valves and pitched them into the rough. That would ruin a night of watering.
Trespassers were one thing, but clubhouse employees and even players were an entirely different animal. What was a golf course employee supposed to do when a bartender and a lady in high heels headed out of the clubhouse and headed for the course? One waterman did the right thing – he asked the gal to take off her high heel shoes!
For the life of me, I cannot imagine lying buck-naked on a putting green with no idea of what may have been sprayed on its surface. But greens were the favored sites, as evidenced by footprints, knee prints and cheek prints on the closely cut turf. Back when it was legal, a 14-year-old was mowing tees with a walking mower and came across a used condom. It was left to me to fill in the bit of missing information in his sex education. I would guess that by summer’s end the older kids had pretty much answered any other delicate questions.
Splendor on the turf doesn’t define all of the sexual activity found on our local courses. Glo ball tournaments can lead to natural diving areas from a golf course pier into an adjacent lake or river, au natural of course. Worse have been cases I heard about of diving into small golf course ponds and coming out with a case of swimmers itch and a distinctive blue color from the pond dye. How romantic!
There are funny stories, like the one about a couple performing their magic on a practice putting green they thought was out of sight of the clubhouse. Only it wasn’t, and they put on a heck of a show for the audience gathered at a clubhouse window. And it wasn’t uncommon to get a report or a call about couples sneaking onto the course from a neighbor’s house. I always wanted to say, “Why don’t you pull up a lawn chair and watch?”
It seems to me that in future years, just like the past twenty or so, we are going to have to depend on confessions and bragging rather than the actual sightings of golf course sex. And if there is anything that gets exaggerated (by men, at least), it will be their prowess, especially on the grass!
Monroe Miller retired after 36 years as superintendent at Blackhawk CC in Madison, Wis. He is a recipient of the 2004 USGA Green Section Award, the 2009 GCSAA Col. John Morley DSA Award, and is the only superintendent in the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame. Reach him at email@example.com.