Mixing with the masses

Departments - Teeing Off

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February 8, 2019

Producing a magazine for turf enthusiasts means benefits can be reaped by interacting with civilian golfers.

So, when I travel for assignments, especially to warm-weather spots in the winter, the sticks often come along. The beginning of our “Making the Cut” series (page 39) required visits to Scottsdale and Jacksonville last month. The series explores unique tournament venues, including TPC Scottsdale and TPC Sawgrass, and the assignment calls for spending entire agronomic workdays at each facility.

Understanding there’s much more to this industry than televised golf, I always try to visit a few facilities beyond the courses serving as the primary purpose for a trip. In Scottsdale, for example, I played Mountain Shadows, an 18-hole, par-3 course with architect Forrest Richardson. Following the round and subsequent interviews with Richardson and superintendent Ron Proch, I booked a last-minute tee time and rushed over to Papago Golf Course, a city of Phoenix-owned course opened in 1963, to squeeze in as many holes as possible before dark. I walked to the first tee and an affable retired Chicagoan named Scott asked if I wanted to join him.

We made it through 10 holes. Neither of us kept score. Double bogey or eagle, northerners visiting Arizona are overjoyed to be walking on turf and swinging golf clubs in January. We discussed the courses Scott plays back home and the ones he’s experienced while visiting his parents in Phoenix. Walking off the first green, Scott asked me what I do when I’m not playing golf. Cover blown!

As the nine progressed, he asked me agronomic-related questions. I answered them to the best of my ability, thankful nobody with an actual turfgrass management degree was around to overhear the conversation. Playing a wonderful Arizona course with overseeded tees, fairways and greens, and dormant rough, catering to golfers of all levels with a stranger who relishes his time on a course helps somebody immersed in the golf industry see the game through a consumer’s eyes. I handed Scott a business card after we completed the 10th hole and explained how anybody – even a regular golfer from Chicago – can access agronomy content for free via our website. I hope he makes the digital journey.

I also hope others immersed in the golf business meet up with a stranger while making a solo trek to the first tee. Sometimes we’re so engrossed in the business we forget millions of people experience no greater joy than playing nine or 18 holes. Most golf consumers will never play a tournament-caliber course such as TPC Scottsdale or TPC Sawgrass. They want to a hit few shots, walk a few miles and escape the pressures of their regular lives. They are why thousands of us live comfortable lives and their perspective can help us further enhance the game.

Less than three weeks after visiting Arizona, I headed to Florida, hoping for a similar experience at Jax Beach Golf Club. Heavy rain greeted my arrival, yet I remained steadfast in my desire to play the recently renovated municipal course. I pulled into the empty parking lot and walked toward the pro shop. Rain pelted the paspalum greens; wind whipped the palm trees. I slipped on rain gear and approached the first tee. Nobody else was around.

A rumble originated from above. The World Golf Hall of Fame lurked 30 miles from the tee, according to the GPS. No civilian golfers were spotted inside its walls.