This is a Golf Club That You Would Never Leave
Our recent survey was a real eye-opener, revealing many things about what you consider makes a good course. There were also plenty of areas of concern for you, with joining fees, increased subscriptions and slow play among your bugbears.
It got us thinking about what makes the perfect golf club, the one that you would never consider leaving.
Naturally enough, it starts with the course. If you are going to be playing the same 18 holes for 52 weeks of the year there are going to be certain minimum requirements that will make you want to keep coming back for more.
Fairways like carpets, well-maintained tees, bunkers filled with soft white sand and perfect greens are the starting point. It also helps if the course is one with lots of challenges, such as lakes and ponds, out of bounds - these are hazards that help to ensure it plays differently every time and keeps your attention.
Winter is a fact of life but the course you will never want to leave will be open all year apart from when there is snow on the ground. There will not be awful temporary putting surfaces and you will not have to hit tee shots off mats. Ever!
Personally, I love tree-lined layouts because when you stand on the tee at par fours and par fives you have to stop and think before automatically reaching for the driver. I am lucky enough to have recently joined a golf club that is located about three miles from Norwich city centre but boasts wonderful countryside views. Sometimes, you should just stop and take it all in and realise how lucky you are to be able to get out there and play this wonderful game.
For me, the furniture is important. I am not talking about the tables and chairs. I mean the tee markers, the rakes in the bunkers, the flags, the bins. My favourite tee markers are mini-logs and there is something special about flags embroidered with the hole number and also featuring the club’s logo.
My ideal course will have a halfway house, and it will be open all year. During the winter you will be able enjoy a hot tea or coffee, a cup of piping hot soup and a bacon sandwich. During the summer you will be able to buy an ice-cold drink. And you will be able to phone ahead to pre-order.
The perfect golf course will have a regular maintenance programme and each every time that work has finished you will feel that it has been done for the right reasons and that they have improved the layout.
Many of you raised concerns about how often your courses had been closed because of bad weather. Climate change means we are seeing more rain and rising river levels. You want to know that three or four days of rain will not lead to your course being closed - or that it will be a quagmire, with you losing golf balls in the middle of fairways.
And what about the rough? I have always believed that good shots should be rewarded. Equally, if you miss the short and prepared there should be some sort of price to pay. But you don’t want to go from fairway to rough that is six inches deep. Rough should be graded. Quite apart from anything else it adds to the appearance of the course. And if your drive is so wild that it misses the semi-rough then you should be penalised.
The sort of golf club I would never leave has friendly and welcoming staff. It has a club pro who knows his stuff, is a wonderful and empathetic teacher and goes out of his way to learn the names of his members. And you don’t feel like you are being ripped off each and every time you buy something from the shop.
When you walk into the bar, the staff also know your name and know what you want to drink, and will not charge you £7.50 a pint. If you are planning to have a bite to eat you will know that the food is actually edible - and does not cost you a fortune. And it will be home cooked and use local produce.
The clubhouse will be warm as toast during the winter. For me, the perfect clubhouse is a traditional one, with several leather seats and sofas, wooden panels, trophy cabinets and a TV in the corner with Sky Sports Golf on permanently.
There will be a booking system that is efficient and you will be able to get the tee-times you want. And when you turn up to play at the weekend you know that it is not going to take five hours to get round because the membership understand etiquette and will let faster golfers play through.
The perfect club will have some sort of reciprocal deal with a nearby course or courses that allows you to play there for an extra cost.
The changing rooms will have lockers, enough of them for every member who wants one. There will be ample hot water in the showers, shower gel and fluffy white towels provided as a matter of course.
If you are a golfer of a certain age there will be an active seniors section. It will cost you next to nothing to join, will offer you the opportunity to play regular weekly competitions and team golf. And you will make friends for life as you get to meet like-minded people.
There will be an active social calendar that encourages members to use the clubhouse in the evening - quiz nights, 80s nights, dinner-dances. Members and their partners will mix with each other.
The junior and women's sections will be treated exactly the same as every other member.
When your annual subscription demand arrives you will not feel that you are being taken for a ride. You will happily pay it because you feel that you are getting value for money.
What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/