One of golf’s many problems is that we get such great coverage of picturesque tournaments like the Masters every year.
All those red, pink and white azaleas beamed into our living room by way of our 42-inch television screen. You can almost smell them.
The course itself is immaculate, tucked between pine trees and dogwoods. Every fairway blade of grass trimmed to specifications, every green shaved like a pool table top and greener than the most perfect felt.
It’s golf in America. Isn’t it?
Then you head out to the local Rocky Ford Par 3 Golf Course and find the reality of municipal golf.
It’s not Augusta National. It’s doesn’t have the budget.
I played the Par 3 on Wednesday, and it’s a wonderful, little course where kids can learn, seniors can stroll at their own pace, families can just knock it around and solid golfers can work on their short game.
Those on the architectural tour might find the small clubhouse interesting, but the course itself was not designed by Robert Trent Jones, as was Otter Creek. It’s more like a first-grader’s splatter painting than a Picasso.
I mean no disrespect. Within less than 50 acres is an 18-hole course, albeit many of the holes are about 100 yards, give or take 10 yards. You can stand on a tee and hit to a hole on the front nine while another golfer stands five yards away on the same tee, hitting to a green on the back nine. It’s the shoehorn school of golf.
I’m not sure whom to credit for the term, but it is what it is.
It’s also the kind of course America needs.
For just under 10 bucks, you can go to a movie or you can spend two to three hours walking around a golf course, swatting that little, white ball closer to the hole. It’s the kind of place where you won’t get chastised for stepping in a playing partner’s line or belching in the middle of a swing.
In contrast, you still have a tee, a hole in the green and a target. A bad swing remains a bad swing, and a good one is rewarded. If you can get around the Par 3 by playing par golf, you’re a pretty good golfer.
Over the years, I have lived in places where they had courses like the Par 3. The key word is “had.”
The scenario often is the same. A city wants a golf course more at the Otter Creek end of the spectrum than the Par 3’s side. Nobody asks someone to build a golf course complete with a couple of brown blotches through a few of the greens.
When the shiny, new course is constructed, the old, shorter, craggier course is plowed under and covered with picnic tables.
It’s all just a nice upgrade, right?
Depends. What’s in your wallet?
If you can pay $30 and up a round for the well-groomed course, you are a happy camper. If not, you might cut down your favorite hobby to three or four times a month.
With the introduction of the First Tee program here in Columbus and all the local courses catering to juniors to develop more golfers, the city must understand that it has a gem in the Par 3, even if it has its bumps and bruises.
It offers an affordable way to attract people, at a low cost, to a sport that often is considered elitist. It gives kids a place to learn the sport in a low-key environment.
Although it might not be as pretty as Greenbelt or as challenging, the Par 3 serves an important function that has become more rare in golf courses. As our Parks & Recreation Department finds new leadership, I hope that remains in focus.
My fear is that we try to “fix” the course, adding irrigation systems and raising costs with additional water use, only at a later time to close it because it has become a financial drain due to the increased upkeep.
I just found the course. Give me time to play there.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.