Ain’t had enough fun

November 18, 2011

Longtime readers of this column may recall that for a two-year stretch near the turn of the century, I served as the club president at Shawnee Country Club.

On occasion I would write about something going on at the venerable golf course, in addition to the occasional tournament results. However, I avoided discussing any of the private club’s business affairs.

A few weeks ago, the members at Shawnee voted to put me back into a full term on the board. The other directors then decided that I should be the club’s president once again. I accepted.

I’m still not going to discuss the club’s private affairs in this column, except to note that Shawnee is not immune to the challenges facing nearly all golf courses in this country, including but not limited to other courses in Sussex County.

Golf participation has diminished over the last 10 years in nearly all sectors, whether the courses are private, like Shawnee, or open to the public. According to the National Golf Foundation, for example, rounds played dropped by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the 2009 numbers.

There are several explanations for the reduced rounds, none of which strike me as providing a complete answer.

The general recession certainly hasn’t helped, of course. There has also been a definite drop in the number of young people picking up the game.

The time and expense commitment may seem too daunting, when it may seem to be just as much fun to play golf on an Xbox or other gaming system.

The one age group that hasn’t seemed to experience the same degree of reduction in playing numbers nationally is the same one that has been adding to Sussex County’s population - the middle-aged and what are now considered early stage retirees.

Folks in that category seem to have the time, the inclination, and the other resources to remain active participants in a lifelong sport. With continued migration to the area from that particular demographic sector, Shawnee and other Cape Region courses might just weather the current downturn in the golf economy.

I expect that Cape Region private and public golf courses will redouble their efforts to hold onto their existing player base, and to add to those numbers as best they can.

My own commitment to this effort fits the lyrics from “Ain’t Had Enough Fun,” by one of my favorite bands, Little Feat:

“Right 'round the corner, right over the hill
Somebody's waitin' for some new thrill
They can wait there all of their life
Spinnin' them wheels 'til the time is right
As for me, I think I'll jump right into the fight.”

I also believe that being club president this time won’t have quite the same effect as it did 10 years ago. Back then, my official handicap rose about six strokes during my term. I started playing solitary rounds on Sunday afternoons, when the club was nearly deserted. To paraphrase baseball legend Satchell Paige, I didn’t want to look back because someone might be there.

This time, I expect to greet the members and their guests with a smile on every occasion, and to welcome the opportunity to chat up the place and the benefits of becoming or remaining a member.

Should be a good time.

Be careful out there
A recent Ruling of the Day at the United States Golf Association website reminds golfers of the hazards of being a little too loose while out on the course.

Golfer A lifts his ball on the putting green, but accidentally drops it. The ball then hits and moves Golfer B’s ball on the green, while in play and at rest.

The rules folks decided that in this situation, the dropped ball is considered equipment. Therefore, Golfer A receives a penalty stroke in match play for hitting B’s ball. In medal play, however, there’s no penalty. In both cases, B’s ball must be put back where it was before A’s ball hit it.