Hacking the muni at Bobby Jones Golf Club in Atlanta
A beautiful characteristic about golf is how many varieties of the game one is able to find. Baseball is baseball, football is football-the two games themselves don’t change that much. But go to a prestigious country club on a Saturday morning and then head to the local municipal golf course on a Saturday afternoon. At the country club you will see people in Polo shirts practicing the eight-step swing or rehearsing the latest “secret” of golf; at the municipal course, you will see bearded men and women with beer bellies hanging out of their Tennesse Volunteers jerseys rehearsing the only swing thought they care about: grip it and rip it.
At a country club the scorecard will generally say something along the lines of “USGA rules govern all play,” and one can expect to tee off in the neighborhood of his or her scheduled time. At a muni, things can sometimes be a little different.
Take Bobby Jones Golf Club. Incongruously placed in one of Atlanta’s most upscale neighborhoods, the course most likely gets its name from a local plumber rather than from the greatest amateur golfer ever to have lived. If nothing else, playing here is always an adventure. One Saturday morning I had an 8:30 tee time for two players, but the starter had us begin on the fourteenth hole for three reasons: there were six - yes, six - groups waiting on the first tee, the 14th was close to the clubhouse, and the tee had no wait. It was like a grocery store when someone waves you over to aisle five because aisle three has a long line.
After we got through the first four holes (all of which were basically under water), we made the turn (I guess that is what you would call playing 14-18 and then proceeding to the first hole) and found another four groups on the tee. Luckily, we were able to pair up with a twosome who was just teeing off, so it only took us 40 minutes to play the 450 yard par five. We stayed paired as a foursome and discussed how long a prison sentence the head pro should receive for charging over $20 for greens fees. At about the 3 and a half hour point of our round, when we were playing our 8th hole, I looked over onto the 5th tee, and saw four swings that made me cringe. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a bad swing, but what I saw from the last person to hit is every golfer’s worst nightmare. She teed up a ball, took at least 4 practice swings, addressed the ball, waggled to get her feel just right, and topped one about 8 yards onto the next level of the tee box. Rather than just walking down to her ball and hitting it, she walked back to the cart, got a different club, repeated the practice swings, and hit almost the same shot. It was excruciating to watch, and what made it even worse was that we had to wait another 20 minutes for them to finish the hole. Playing through the group at this point would have been fruitless, as there were at least two groups on each other hole.
During this minor lull in the action, I took a chance to check out the scorecard. While I was reading over the course rules, I was left in shock by what I saw in print. The 5th rule read, “Fivesomes allowed on golf course.” It was still early and I had not slept much, so I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, told myself I had been imagining what I thought I just saw, and slowly read the card again: “Rule 5: Fivesomes allowed on golf course.” At this point, I laughed so hard that my stomach began to hurt. Don’t get me wrong - I am not totally against a fivesome on the course, and in fact I sometimes believe that playing a fivesome actually helps speed the pace of play. But printing it on the scorecard? This would be like Taco Bell printing, “Our ‘beef’ is not of the highest quality,” at the bottom of the menu. Everyone in the world knows this is the case, but there is no need to put it in writing.
Next time I play at Bobby Jones, I’m going to try to make a tee time for a fivesome to see what they say. Perhaps if we’re lucky, we’ll actually get to start on the 1st hole. Whatever happens, we’re guaranteed to have a blast. A bad score won’t really bother anybody, and we can rest assured that we’ll have a good story after the round.
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