The friendly young man behind the pro shop counter said he was happy to extend the hotel guest rate of $89 to 10 of us at the River Marsh golf course at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, MD, last Thursday. Although a bit pricey, I had read some nice reviews of the course, which was designed by Keith Foster and runs along the Choptank River on what is known as the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I figured the fee was relative to the layout and condition of the course.
I was wrong. The green fee, apparently, was what the traffic would bear. I have no complaints about the River Marsh layout, which featured typically wide resort-course fairways but enough bunkering and marshland to keep things interesting and challenging. (It was reminiscent of a Tom Fazio or Rees Jones layout.) And the greens, though slow, were large, interestingly contoured and with smooth bent grass; more about the greens below.
At 9 a.m., the employees in the area where the bags of clubs were supposed to be loaded onto carts seemed totally confused, as if a rush of people had showed up 30 minutes before the club was to open for play. Our group wound up loading its own clubs onto the carts 10 minutes before our tee time, even though three red-shirted resort employees were standing around, apparently discussing how to handle the four or five foursomes in the area. The practice range was closed because of heavy rain the night before; the small practice putting green was a bit ragged, especially around the edges, which we hoped would not be the case out on the course.
Wrong again. You don’t expect the collars of greens at the peak of grass-growing season to be intermittently bare or marked by different grasses, but most of the edges of the greens on the course made replacing your ball a couple of feet away mandatory for a clean chip or putting path. All the greens looked as if they had been bombed with tiny cannon balls, such were the depth of the divots made by spinning approach shots onto the soft greens. Many of these pockmarks appeared to be at least a week old.
Greens with unrepaired ball marks are the burden of any resort course; infrequent players don’t understand or care about golf etiquette since it is not their golf course, and they do not feel the need to make the repairs for the golfers who follow. Shame on them, but that’s the way it is. Those confused and under-utilized employees at the bag drop could certainly be trained to fix ball marks toward the end of the day. But apparently, even in the height of the vacation season, the destination that calls itself a “Hyatt Golf Resort” doesn’t see the need to make the investment to justify its four-to-five-star rating on some web sites or its fairly lofty green fees.
At one point I had to chuckle as I spied two supervisory looking people surveying the course in a cart, stopping along the way to point out one needed improvement or another. They easily could have been out there all day given the number of blemishes our group encountered.
Golf courses suffering from problems with temporary turf conditions should consider a program of “dynamic pricing.” Professional baseball teams have taken to doing this, lowering their prices when the home team hosts a lousy competitor and raising them a little when a pennant contender is in town. In that regard, a condition-challenged course like River Marsh at the Hyatt should reduce its rates while the golf course is in iffy shape and raise them when it is restored. If that young man in the pro shop had said to me, “We are pleased to offer your group a special rate today,” I might be planning a return visit in the future. How special a rate? Something like $39 would have done the trick.