Signs of the Times in 2012

        Golf is a tough enough game without unwanted distractions. When we play an unfamiliar golf course, we especially appreciate signs at the tee boxes that show the layouts of the holes. Better yet, we prefer yardage books. Anything that takes the guesswork out of shot-making and frees us, mentally, to concentrate on our strokes, will enhance the experience of a round on an untested golf course.

        Sometimes, though, as we found occasionally in 2012, golf courses can provide too much of a good thing in the way of guidance. And for your peace of mind and your golf game, that can be a bad sign.

The kids are all right…if you don’t slice

        We played the Linkside course at Pebble Creek Country Club in Greenville, SC, with Lyn Young, who owns the club’s two 18-hole layouts -– one private (Linkside) and one open to the public (Creekside). A sign at the tee box on the par 4 dogleg right 9th hole issues an intimidating warning to those trying to cut the dogleg on the 390-yard hole: “Do Not Cut Corner…Children Are At Risk…You Are Responsible.” The sign scared me into aiming left and then, of course, I hooked the shot, leaving a long approach shot to the green. As we advanced down the fairway, I noted that the backyard of the house at the elbow of the dogleg was covered in netting anyway. And, on this day and at this time, there was no one in the backyard. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.


Where eagles cannot soar

        Arriving early in the afternoon for a four-day visit to Greenville, SC, I stopped for a warm-up nine holes at the Creek Country Club, just outside of town. The layout at the public Creek golf course was pretty straightforward… until I reached the tee box on the short par 4 6th hole and was greeted with a sign that, in emphatic language, forbade me to attempt to reach the green that was just 275 yards from the tee -– the last 75 yards almost straight down a steep hill. I followed orders well, laying up 100 yards short of the green, almost to the end of the fairway and just 15 yards short of the steep drop down to the green. This was that rarest of par 4s for a medium length hitter like me -– a reachable green -- and I was tempted to go back to the tee and pull out the driver for a go at the green and a possible eagle. But I settled for a half wedge down the hill and a routine two putts for par.


Degree of difficulty = 7

        Sometimes it is better off not knowing what lies on the other side of a fairway hill. But when a golf course announces at the tee box that such a hole presents disaster potential, you don’t take your club back with a whole lot of confidence. At the par 4 4th hole at Hickory Knob State Park golf course near McCormick, SC, the fairway disappears about 190 yards from the tee. The tee box greets you with a sign that is half-demand, half-warning about the hole’s degree of difficulty: “Please limit your play on this hole to seven strokes.” This caused our foursome, before we teed off, to drive up to the edge of the fairway where we immediately understood the Hobson’s choice off the tee box; lay-up with an iron and leave a long approach shot over muck and mire (a dried out lake bed) or hit driver and take your chances with a shorter approach off a downhill lie from gnarly rough. Either way, a triple bogey is in play, but some things are better left unsaid at the tee box.


Announcing the Blindingly Obvious

        Some reminders before the golf swing are helpful. “Take it back slow and straight.” “Head down and follow through.” Even “Avoid that bunker on the right.” However, we found the tee sign at the finishing hole at Imperial Golf Club in Naples, FL, to be helpful to a fault: “Please Be Aware of Homes to the Left.” You can hide bunkers, streams, ponds and even the occasional green from the player’s view. But homes on a golf course are pretty tough to conceal, especially from members of a private golf club like Imperial.


A Sign of Respect

        Green Valley Country Club in Greenville, SC, features a stone marker beside most of its tee boxes. Many are dedicated in memoriam to former members, paid for by their former fellow members or family members. There is even one, at the 18th tee box, for George Cobb, Sr., who originally designed Green Valley in 1955. But the stone marker at the 16th (below) is targeted to all members and guests who pass that way. Amen.