Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Not "Singing" the Sycuan Resort Praises...

When I played the Willow Glen course at Singing Hills in El Cajon, California a decade ago, it was an absolutely amazing experience. Fast forward ten years, the facility has been renamed the "Sycuan Golf Resort". It continues to boast the Oak Glen and Willow Glen courses and also an 18-hole par-3 course called Pine Glen. It truly is a beautiful property, but I was bitten in the ass by lousy course conditions today, which I did not expect at all.

We booked the Willow Glen course using an online service called The $55 green fee (about a $20 discount) included a powercart and our 7:52am tee time gave us a chance to finish before noon. The game plan for the four of us was to grab lunch afterwards and then play the Pine Glen course, just a leisurely afternoon together to sip a few pops and hit some irons.

Well, the Willow Glen greens were outstanding...cut and rolled and just tremedous. The fairways and tee boxes, however, played like at least two-inch rough! Seriously...probably two inches. We had more trouble finding our golf balls in the fairway than we did when we hit it in the rough! What a colossal letdown, especially at a facility I pumped up to my wife and friends. So much for my "cred"...

In retrospect, their is a learning opportunity here. Call it my "four-step" program to ensure a positive golf experience. Here goes...

1. Check out the golf courses and green fees online at, then write down a couple of options that interest you.

2. DO NOT BOOK. Obtain the phone numbers and phone the golf courses first. Ask if there is any course maintenance scheduled for the day you want to play, be it aerating greens or, in the southern USA, any overseeding work.

3. Obtain the name of the person in the golf shop that you have spoken to. (You may need this if you find that you have received any misinformation or, you may wind up speaking with an "all-star".)

4. After speaking with the golf courses, return to the online booking website and confirm your choice and tee time.

At the Sycuan Golf Resort, I checked in at the golf shop about 20 minutes before our tee time, ascertained that the staff were not busy at all, introduced myself and handed over my credit card to pay the green fees for my wife and I. The gentleman who assisted me advised there had been a frost delay (it was 51 degrees Fahrenheit on the exterior temperature guage in our vehicle at 7:30am) said we could tee off right away, and also told me we were the first group on the Willow Glen that day. I asked about the pace of play expectation, never did get a definite answer, and then the fellow advised they did not have a starter on the first tee. He gave me a scorecard and pointed throught the window in the direction of the first hole.

Admittedly, he was friendly and did his job. But really, not much more than what I would call the "the bare necessities". And on that note, I am sure getting sick and tired of golf professionals who aspire through their actions to perform at minimum service levels. You know, if you want to function as nothing more than a "clerk", then just be one and lose the business cards with your organizational affiliation!

There was no, "welcome to El Cajon"! Where are you folks from? How long are you here? Have you played here before? Do you know we have three golf courses? Reading our greens can be tricky...are you interested in any hints? But really, why wouldn't he tell me about the course conditions we were about to experience?

Now, I am a huge proponent of people taking "personal responsibility", so I am willing to accept that in this case, there was a measure of responsibility that was up to me as the consumer. But, we have an online booking service here that did not display its "overseeding" icon. We also have shop staff at the Sycuan Resort that ignored an opportunity to provide course conditions information at check-in. I am left to wonder if this might have anything to do with us booking online at a discounted rate, rather than at the regular rate through the golf shop by telephone?

After a crummy golf experience, due entirely to the "knarly fairway rough", I elected not to speak with anyone in the golf shop afterwards. I would have stopped in at the golf shop after the front nine, but the ninth hole does not return to the clubhouse area. After 4.5 hours, I had effectively developed a pretty negative attitude anyway.

At the end of the day, the Sycuan Resort did lose a $100 lunch and another $120 in green fees on the Pine Glen course. We couldn't get outa there soon enough!

So next time, I will be that "pain-in-the-ass customer" on the phone who will be asking the busy shop staff six or seven detailed questions before I make the commitment to attend their facility. Sorry guys, if you're not going to be proactive and give me the information in advance, you are leaving me no choice but to occupy your valuable time with a bunch of questions that ultimately relate to how I choose to spend my golfing dollar. Case closed...


  1. Mr. Erickson - My name is Holly Kennedy, and I am a PGA Member as well as the Tournament Manager for Sycuan Resort. Needless to say reading your blog made me cringe, but I am actually writing to thank you for taking the time to detail your experience here yesterday, and consequently bringing a couple of very important issues to our attention. I am in my 16th year here at the resort and I could not agree with you more that Sycuan Resort is truly a beautiful gem of a property, and one that I have been and remain extremely proud to represent. Our mission for golf operations, and for that matter the hotel, food and beverage, and catering departments, is to provide “Service Beyond Expectation”; I am very chagrined that we did not meet this standard for you and your group yesterday.
    This is our first year partnering with and as such, our first time going through the overseeding/Fall maintenance program while partnering with an online booking agency. As naïve as it may sound, I was not aware that they offer an “overseeding alert” icon on the page and that we actually had the ability to inform our guests in advance of course maintenance. The first thing on my “to do” list today was to notify our IT dept., and as I write I am waiting for a return call from our rep at to get back to me and activate the alert. Thank you for sending me in the right direction.
    In response to your experience with our professional staff I am pleased that he was “friendly and did his job”, but that is a far cry from our mantra of Service Beyond Expectation. After being in the business since 1992 and proudly being a member of the PGA of America since 2000, I am fully aware of the importance and power of providing a guest with an exceptional customer service experience – something you unfortunately did not have a chance to experience with us yesterday. It goes without saying that this staff member will be put on full alert regarding his interaction with you, and I will be using this situation to remind, retrain and reinforce the expections we have of our staff in regards to providing exceptional customer service.
    Mr. Erickson I understand that you are from out of town and that we may have lost the opportunity to have you back to Sycuan Resort again, but I do hope that you will give us another try on a future visit to San Diego, and give us the chance to provide you with the positive customer experience that I know we are capable of providing. It would be my great pleasure to have you and your group back to Sycuan as my guests – I do hope you will take me up on the offer.
    Holly Kennedy, PGA
    Sycuan Resort

  2. Holly...Thanks for your response. Will contact you next week to discuss. Glen E.

  3. I look forward to speaking with you Glen. And am also happy to report that we had the GolfNow overseeding icon up and running by the end of the day.

    Enjoy the rest of the weekend