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Keeping up with the Jones: First impressions and why they make or break a golfing experience

By |  October 17, 2022 0 Comments

Recently I took a short two-day vacation with an old friend. We drove to Minneapolis to attend a fantasy football draft for a league that we suddenly realized we’ve been in for almost 20 years. And, of course, we snuck in 18 holes the following morning at beautiful Rush Creek GC.

(Left to right) Seth Jones with Rush Creek Superintendent Matt Cavanaugh, Ande Parks, Turfco Executive Vice President Scott Kinkead and Pete Krause. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

(Left to right) Seth Jones with Rush Creek Superintendent Matt Cavanaugh, Ande Parks, Turfco Executive Vice President Scott Kinkead and Pete Krause. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

Matt Cavanaugh, an occasional writer for Golfdom, is the superintendent of the course. It’s a fantastic course, and I absolutely love the greens there (I putted the lights out.) They clearly know what they’re doing, and I applaud Matt and his crew.

But before we even got on the golf course, our first, second and third impression was that we were at a golfer-friendly, first-class place. The pro shop attendant was warm and friendly. When I asked about breakfast, she directed me to the bartender, who kiddingly warned me that I was about to be knocked out by their breakfast sandwich and to come back in five minutes. The starter joked with our crew before we went off.

It was all part of a memorable experience. I look forward to going back.

I recently had the opposite treatment at a course. I took my daughter out to hit a bucket of balls. Her final junior varsity match of the season was in two days, and she wanted to get some range time in beforehand.

The course changed ownership recently, and with that came a change in staff. I walked in and saw this guy behind the counter, and I immediately got the look that said, ‘why are you here?’ It was my second interaction with this guy, and my first one was already bad. Based on his look, I asked if he was still open, and he responded, ‘for about one more minute.’ That’s a strange way to say no, so I just said OK, turned around and walked out.

My daughter looked at me like I was crazy as I walked back to the car. ‘Sorry, Sis, we can’t hit here today.’ We went back home and hit low-flight balls in the side yard. (Good news, her and her partner finished the season with a second-place medal.)

I drive by that course all the time, and I see how hard they work to make it shine. They do the best they can on a limited budget.

But what’s the point of all the blood, sweat and tears when you have a front-of-house employee who is determined to rain on the visitor’s parade?

Everyone is entitled to an occasional bad day. Maybe this guy has something personal against me that I’m unaware of (maybe he hates my column!) As I drove away, I realized that I was on the wrong end of fool me once, fool me twice. And now I have to mark that course off my list of places I will play.

Maybe I was the one in the wrong in this situation, and we should have gotten there 30 minutes earlier. If that is the case, if he would have just said, ‘hey man, I was just about to walk out and close the gate … I can’t sell you a bucket today, but we’ll be open again tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.’ I would have said, ‘right on, we’ll come back tomorrow, have a good one.’

It takes hours and hours of work to keep a golf course looking good late into the summer. And it takes seconds for the guy in the pro shop to treat a customer rudely. You can have the best greens in town, but if your pro shop attendant is running people off, it doesn’t matter.

Recently we celebrated ‘Thank a superintendent day.’ Thank you, superintendents. And if you have a front-of-house operation like they have at Rush Creek? Be thankful for that because first impressions on the golf course are so important.

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a 18-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.


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