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 http://www.golfnow.com/. 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 http://www.golfnow.com/, 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...