Letters to the Editor

Meet the golf course ranger

The spring peak season for most Myrtle Beach area golf facilities is coming to a close. This is the time of year, along with the fall season, that the livelihood of golf in the area realizes its largest monetary gain as opposed to the rest of the year. In these few weeks, the courses are, for the most part, sold out with the abundance of golfers traveling here from the Northeast as far up as Canada. Courses staff employees to cater to the needs of the influx of players ranging from pro shop assistants, bag drop, starters and rangers, greenskeepers and driving range attendants. All strive to provide the best accommodation so the golfers can relax and enjoy their experience.

I would like to focus on the course ranger, or for a more trendy title, player assistant. The responsibility of these individuals is to provide customer service and to monitor the pace of play. When a golfer purchases a green fee for a round of golf, he is also paying for a specific time limit to complete his round. Generally a course will specify a 41/2-hour time requirement. This is more than an enjoyable pace of play. When players exceed this time limit, especially early in their round, it can easily cause a dilemma for the player assistant at which time he must present himself to these players and "encourage" them to increase their pace. Should this become difficult, it will cause the players behind them to decrease their pace of play and usually results in frustration. When this situation becomes unmanageable, the foursome or foursomes that are 15 or more minutes behind, and have at least one hole vacant in front of them, could and probably should be forced to skip a hole to catch up with their pace. This is rarely done because the mere mention of skipping a hole most likely will cause them to play ready golf and to increase their pace of play.

The player assistant is in a precarious position of hearing complaints and criticism from the players who are having to wait. For the most part, when players are asked to pick up the pace, they do so without any fanfare. But there are the few who announce that they have paid a premium golf fee to play and do not want to be bothered. The result being anywhere from 5 to 51/2-hour rounds. Slow play can have a "domino" effect inasmuch as it only takes one slow foursome to back up the entire course. However, the keyword here is "patience" as the player assistant is doing his best, with his experience, to shape the course so that all players are served.

Player assistant duties also include retrieving lost clubs, helping to switch out carts that are having problems and picking up debris on the course that somehow drops out of players' carts. These are just a few of his responsibilities.

A player assistant generally works eight hours a day but is subject to extending this should the amount of play warrant more hours. He averages two to four days a week depending on the season. He circles the course starting at the 18th hole and around to the first hole. He does this several times a day. He may carry water, especially in the spring and summer months, to keep the players hydrated. Most player assistants are retired, in their 60s and financially secure. They probably have golfed most of their lives and have settled in Myrtle Beach, which provides them with a mecca of golf courses. Those who work at a golf facility do so to have something to look forward to. They make friends with their co-workers and play golf with them. Although the job can be demanding when dealing with pace of play issues, it is enjoyable for the most part. The job is rewarding that when the day comes to a close and the players have expressed that they have enjoyed their round of golf and look forward to coming back.

The writer lives in Conway and is a player assistant at a golf facility in Myrtle Beach.