• Follow the leader

    St Francis Links
    Playing the 18th at St Francis Links

    New year, new you can be the mantra for golf clubs. But, it’ll take some effort.

    2020 should be about positivity for all of us. Let’s try complain less, throw our hands up more and generally, be glass-half-full kind of people. Golf finds itself in trying times with the economic hardships hitting every facet of the industry.

    But despite all the doom and gloom, there is always reason for optimism. In life, in one’s golf game and at your local club. It’s about good habits and playing it as it lies.

    I heard a number of concerning stories about extremely slow rounds of golf in the holidays, clubs overcharging visitors to the verge of extortion which is a pity because holiday golf, while generally a bit slower as your cousin who never tees it up from January to November joins you out for a round, is supposed to be fun.

    A major bug bear of mine remains pace of play. This holiday one of my playing partners accused me of playing too quickly – imagine that!? I saw far too many examples of cart riders leaving their buggy in the wrong place when exiting the green and arrived to find my ball in unraked bunkers. Hopefully, we can point out to those around us the little mistakes that either annoy the field behind you or gobble up the extra minutes that lead to a delay in the day.

    But the big question for the new year must be about the halfway house. A foreign concept to … well … the foreign visitors playing here this summer and one that I’m finding more and more annoying.

    Why can’t you go four hours without a food stop? Or just grab and go between the 9th green and 10th tee box? Get hungry? Pack some fruit or whatever you need to graze on before you head to the golf course. Not to mention the loss in momentum. All for a pie and chips you probably don’t need.

    But I know that this battle will not be won in 2020 (despite my positivity that it will) … so what’s the alternative? Follow the leader, of course. St Francis Links, a majestic Jack Nicklaus course on the Eastern Cape coast has long since employed a telephone system whereby you call in your food order on the 9th or 18th tee box. It’s genius. Their offering is as good as any course except there’s no delay when you arrive at the halfway stop.

    You sit down and your meal is ready. No delay, no umm-ing and ah-ing about what to eat and what is available. It’s arguably the only way to ensure that the 10-minute stop which most clubs restrict the break to.

    And what’s the benefit to the club? St Francis Links exceeded their expected rounds played with a good place of play – generally around 4:30pm on a championship course with big undulating greens that always require extra care. Some might say it’s the quality of the experience that keeps people returning, or their excellent customer service. Maybe it’s playing safe in the knowledge that there won’t be any delays and that pace of play is almost always adhered to?

    Introducing this across golf clubs is a more feasible approach to eliminating pesky and unnecessary delays that take the golf from fun and enjoyable to something of a grind. Imagine turning quick halfway stops into the golfing norm by 2021?

    Stopping by St Francis? You’re better off eating something light at the halfway house because the Santa Burger is worth saving yourself for.

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