Stop letting time pass you by

By |  February 7, 2020 0 Comments
Photo: Karl Danneberger

Karl Danneberger

The holiday season is a time to get together with family and friends. In our family, it also means doing something competitive. This past holiday, my sons and I, along with their friends, took on our annual Miner 49er mini-golf challenge.

Miner 49er mini-golf challenge courses are not associated with the Professional Putter Association (PPA), under which I grew up playing and watching tournaments on Saturday mornings. Longtime TV basketball broadcaster Billy Packer announced those championship events.

Of course, putt-putt golf is still around, with most courses found in the southeastern and southwestern U.S. Putt-putt-branded courses are similar in design, with each hole set to a par 2. A score of 18 for 18 holes would be possible, an accomplishment done four times since 1959. Par for mini-golf courses varies, usually 2 to 6 par, and mini-golf has unusual challenges like putting through an elephant.

The Miner 49er putting course is a mini-golf course indoors. The two rooms I went through to get in were lit with ultraviolet light, making the course and everything around it glow. I learned quickly that a white golf ball is not the best choice in a black-light environment.

When I registered, some players were purchasing a drink with their round. I looked over the selection, which ranged from hard seltzers to New England IPAs and pastry-flavored stouts. I asked if they had a Bud Light. The response was, “We might have one in the back.”

Anheuser-Busch will be coming out with a Bud Light Seltzer in 2020. It’s a sign of age when you’re no longer part of the target market. The mini-golf customers were millennials, young couples and families. I went with the hard seltzer.

Eight of us showed up to play, all contacted a few hours earlier by group text or something similar. While it was a good time, everyone took the tournament seriously, much more so than I expected. Rules included no relief from the boards, one foot on the back flooring behind the carpeted mini-golf teeing spot — to discourage “creeping up” — and hitting a ball off the course meant a retee with a one-shot penalty. These rules were strictly enforced.

After the round, I expected everyone to get out their wallets and settle all the side and game bets. But “cash” isn’t transferred like that among these players. They use the phone app Venmo to receive and transfer cash from bank accounts. I scrambled to upload the app under black-light conditions.

I have played golf for 50 years, caddied, worked as a staff member on a golf course, continued my agronomy education through advanced degrees in horticulture and plant pathology and am now a turfgrass professor. Though I think I know what is going on in the world of turfgrass, it’s always changing.

As you get older, it’s easy to say, “Times have passed me by.” I hate that phrase, even though I’ve used it. It’s just another way of saying I’ve not paid enough attention, interacted or cared enough about changes around me. To stay aware requires learning and personal interaction outside of your normal group.

Golf course superintendents have had to adjust their management styles to a changing workforce. This adjustment comes through understanding staff expectations. I wonder if we pay that same attention to the expectations of members/golfers. Do these golfers look at the golf experience and expectations differently from those in the past? Do they want fast greens or perfect conditions? Or, do they want something different? I don’t know.

To recognize potential changes in golfer desires, take the time to play golf or walk the course with younger golfers to see what their expectations are and how they interact with the course. You may find that what you assumed to be the norm has changed.

This is posted in Columns

About the Author: Karl Danneberger, Ph.D.

Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., is a professor in the department of horticulture and crop science at The Ohio State University. He is author of the popular The Turf Doc column that appears monthly in Golfdom. Karl writes on topics ranging from Poa annua to pest control.

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