California's ill-considered attempt to convert municipal courses to affordable housing is expertly explained by John Reitman in a recent news article featuring Craig Kessler of the Southern California Golf Association. Craig played a key role in helping to defeat the bill, defending municipal golf and citing the critical role the muni plays in recruiting future players. In Reitman's article, Craig said, " . . . municipal golf is the meat and potatoes we all grew up on . . ."
That's a smooth way to get a point across, cleverly wrapping a message in the language of the commoner. (French royalty pre-1789 considered potatoes suitable only for peasants and pigs.)
Over the years, I witnessed a number of trends that weakened golf, from foundations pushing for too many courses to real estate developers disguised as golf business consultants. The rocket ball didn't help, nor did the golf cart, which morphed from an aid for those with a doctor's excuse into an essential source of revenue. The jackassery we see on the course nowadays is a direct result of increased beer carrying capacity of golf carts blended with phones, loud music and civilization-destroying social media.
… seizing munis to repurpose them for housing will only destroy what little green is left in the concrete canyons.
The concept of seizing munis to repurpose them for housing will only destroy what little green is left in the concrete canyons. Kids in these areas will lose any access to entry level golf and the animal population will shift from hawks and deer to pigeons and rats.
Privately owned public course owners might react with glee at first, since many contend that munis have an unfair advantage: Munis don't pay property tax. However, under the current anti-small business agenda, the Mom & Pop courses could still stumble even after the munis have been deconstructed. What would be left except for flimsy stack and pack apartments, increased hard surface runoff and less oxygen?
Only those courses that require powdered wigs in the dining room, that's what.
But I have a solution. Way back in '89, after I resuscitated a dead course, an investor who owned 40 acres in North Atlanta asked if I would build a Par 3 course for him. I had other ideas. After some testing, I proposed an altered version of Jack Nicklaus' brilliant Cayman Ball course, adapted for an urban area. I was positive I could get 18 interesting scaled-down holes on the property, instead of nine boring par 3s for the regulation ball. Because of the light weight and non-lethal characteristics of the Cayman ball, the course would coexist with glass covered skyscrapers, Mercedes, BMWs, and the soft cranial structures of city people.
In our tests, we discovered it was great fun to play a 170 yard Par 3 as a strategic par 4 and a 300 yarder became a risk/reward par 5. The ball was so lightweight that you could catch a ball hit by a driver in your bare hand. The ball floated, making the practice area and the irrigation pond serve the same purpose. Also, it was difficult to ding a car door with a Cayman ball. (Dad and I tested that concept on the golf pro's Audi.)
We are a target for the Rad-Greenies…
Our investor was unconvinced. After a quick demo round, he sold the acreage to a bunch of powdered wig types. I understood, but things are different now. We are a target for the Rad-Greenies, the parks instead of golf activists, and apartment builders.
Consider this: What if we compromised and sacrificed 9 holes of a muni under pressure to the bureaucrat priests? We could then convert the remaining 9 holes to a Cayman type course, creating an excellent entry level golf experience that would not require carts, a huge budget and intensive grooming. It would play fast enough for lunchtime golf and give new players the confidence to venture out onto a big course without feeling the intimidation so often mentioned by beginners. They would be learning real golf, not the current bowling alley pinball version.
We need an unconventional plan for the increasingly congested urban areas to retain golf. If we don't do something, we could lose a key golf recruitment portal in the highest concentration of population.
In the event someone with real power decided to resurrect the Cayman ball concept, we at Rockbottum CC made a short film many years ago, known as "Painless Balls." In this film, Buddy tests non-lethal* balls. *Note: The serious injury shown in this film was not the result of Buddy's reluctance to wear groin armor. He was issued a copy of a golf magazine to shove down his pants, but he mistakenly protected the wrong side.