The Times Have Changed

I’ve sat here trying to figure out how to write this piece for about a week. Honestly, it became much easier to write after the most recent events that happened to me yesterday. If you think working in the golf industry as a Pro Shop Attendant or similar is glamourous, thnk again. It isn’t.

When word came on May 16th, 2020 that golf was allowed to be played again in Ontario, you’d think that everyone that plays golf would feel “warm and fuzzy” inside. There’d be a feeling of relief and a sense of  happiness to just be back to playing the game or working in the industry that we love. While this may be true for some, it simply isn’t for others. 

I have no doubt that when the decision was made to open golf courses, the decision was on the heels of pressure and lobbying by the NGCOA of Canada (National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada). I’ve said it here that it was more for the shareholders and the “bottom line” after all it’s a business. They (NGCOA) devised a set of protocols to open up golf courses with protecting players and staff in mind. This involved everything from modified cups (my course has a sloppy piece of 2″ PVC in the hole where I have touched the pin in my limited action), the sanitizing of carts and frequently touched surfaces, protocols like staying in the parking lot until 20 minutes before your tee time, proper (ample) signage indicating all of the protocols like maintaining physical distancing and more.

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In my opinion, the opening of my course was rushed and ill-advised. My golf course located in the Hamilton, Ontario area is operated by a large golf holdings company. They operate over 30 golf courses coast to coast in Canada. Our opening went down exactly how I said it would within these pages. I said that we’d wake up and get a phone call stating “We’re open” and that we’d open in mid-May. We opened on the 18th of May. While there was some signage, it wasn’t nearly enough. The signage would arrive the following Friday. There was no staff orientation to get everyone on the same page. That’s developed into a problem in itself. And as far as Pro Shop employees go, the lack of protection for us was NOT in place and I noticed that right away. There is no plexiglass or clear plastic barricade protecting us from golfers coming in to pay and this alone has made me very apprehensive. But, at least we have no less than 7 bottles of hand sanitizer between the entry door, arrows directing foot traffic, and we’re using a dedicated entry and exit door. Or at least trying to.

I said in an article when we got word that we were opening, be nice to the staff. This is going to be a wild ride for us.

For the most part, golfers are okay with the protocols, especially daily greens fee players. Members on the other hand, are a totally different story. Not all, but enough of them. Getting them to employ and adhere to the “new normal” I could compare to trying to break in a wild horse. The number of times I’ve had to direct and re-direct is nauseating. I get it, old habits die hard but you also have to have the ability to adapt in life.

Would you believe that in one shift, I witnessed numerous infractions of protocols just in the brief time I would walk out from my post and get some air on the barren patio? I’ve personally witnessed handshakes, “bro hugs” on the 18th, received reports of the pins being removed, and then there was the “coup de gras”. One of our members, a guy who thinks that he runs the golf course, entered the clubhouse at the turn to buy beer. Instead of waiting his turn like everyone else, he took it upon himself to “bull” past people waiting in line to pay for their respective rounds of golf and he actually made contact with two of them. I nearly exploded. He then got his beer and followed the GM over to our usual Pro Shop to pay and walked out of the entrance door. This meant that he actually walked past those in line face to face wearing no mask. I was livid and explained my malcontent to my GM.

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The amount of verbal abuse that I have received and endured in the less than two weeks that we’ve been open has been more than my entire time working in the golf industry combined. Our carts are $30 pp if you’re a single rider. If you’re from the same household or arrive in the same vehicle together it’s $20 pp. While there has been a little grumbling over our rates from public players (they either pay it or decide to walk) the response from the members (again not all) has been appalling. I have been verbally abused on multiple occasions every shift but two of them. You see, we have a “Cart Discount Program” and by definition, it gives those that purchase it ($210 plus tax) the ability to get a cart for half the going rate. Last year, the rate was $9.50 for 18 holes per rider. A price that hadn’t changed for at least 8 years. This year the rate started $12.43. Less than half of the $30. Consequently, the ensuing swearing and verbal abuse were brutal. And then, all of a sudden, without notice the rate changed on my co-worker. It was now $15 per rider which we delayed until this past Monday. That’s two rate increases within a week and a bit. So guess what happened? The abuse has since really ramped up. If you know that the rate is going to be $30, why in the world would you not set the price at $15 in the first place?

Last night, I had an issue with a Member that I’ve given several lessons to and given some latitude towards. He can be best-described as a difficult member. He showed up over an hour early for his tee time. Below is an excerpt from the note that I sent to my GM.

…I explained to him that he was really early and that he had to return to the parking lot and that we had to adhere to the 20-minute rule. He flew off of the handle and went on that he was able to get the cart on Saturday and return to the parking lot (it was me and then it was 30-minutes early) he also explained that he was going to go over to the range etc and I explained to him that all of the practice facilities were closed as the signage clearly states. I am proud to say that I was calm and composed when I talked to him in an attempt to deescalate him. However, inwardly, it was a much different story. I had tingling in the left side of my face, pressure in the left rear quadrant of my head, numbness in the left arm, and at times afterward, I had issues with my speech. All very reminiscent of September 2018.
I had a second issue right after from another member about the cart rates.

For all of the flak that I’m taking, I really don’t hold my GM responsible. I love Richard. He’s a good guy and I think of him as a friend and I love working for him. I like to think that when I was the Director of Golf at another golf course, the employees felt the same way. Many followed me on IG well after my tenure was over. Rich does the best that he can with what he’s given.

Seriously though, if I had to point my finger at anyone, I totally blame corporate for this. It’s not them facing the adversity. I would love to see anybody from corporate handle what I’m facing. Our servers are actually relieved that they haven’t been pressed into duty other than working the door. They’ve told me “I can’t or couldn’t do what you’re doing.” Well, Sarah and Leah, I’m not sure that I can go much longer either.

In this time, I have been sworn at repeatedly and had my ethics and integrity questioned. The latter happening after explaining to Frank (the cart rates) that I totally understood where he was coming from. I was empathetic and sympathetic to his concerns. He told me “You don’t (expletive) understand and you don’t (expletive) get it”. Here’s a newsflash and this isn’t for just you Frank. To all of those that have “lit me up”. I don’t set the (expletive) prices nor do I generate any income from it. I’m just a pawn behind the (expletive) counter trying to earn a paycheque while trying to make you happy by providing a service.

Then there’s the Marshals and Starters.  Many of them think that they’re paying a membership fee at the course. For one 6 to 7 hour shift they get golf privileges. On top of that, they also receive a golf cart (a $30 value). The funny thing is that they are the first ones to whine and complain about things. On one day this year with a long line-up out the door he wanted to pay $7 for a handicap system that has nothing to do with the Pro Shop. He was just standing there blocking the washrooms (traffic control) and blocking those from paying. I asked him what he wanted, and he explained that he wanted to pay for the handicapping. I asked him “Keith, can you do it tomorrow or the next time you come in?” he responded “No, I have to do it today” he didn’t have to and that led to a heated exchange where he informed me “I’ve waited in line for 20 (expletive) minutes. I tried explaining him that we had bigger issues at the moment. People were trying to pay and our Moneris point of sale machines weren’t working and I was trying to get them running and registering people to play manually. Writing down names, what they were paying for and hoping that they’d come back. I paid for him out of my pocket that night before I left.

Furthermore, the Starters.Marshals tend to be the first to break protocol. Regarding the 20-Minute Rule, on Monday one said “What difference does it make?” when he arrived at the course early for his tee time. Ernesto, if you aren’t going to abide by the rules then you should be the first one to find your way out. How can you enforce the rules if you don’t abide by them yourself? Last year, you and another Marshall cut in front of people, placing yourselves on the 5th hole in front of me and a bogged down tee sheet. Your partner, Tony, then unceremoniously hit a drive up towards the Par 3 9th tee to “warm-up” there golfers on #8 green. I personally witnessed that. Believe me, you shouldn’t be in any capacity at the golf course. If I were GM, I’d unceremoniously turf your ass and would have done so last year. Now you’re giving your fellow Starters a difficult time when they’re trying to uphold the COVID-19 protocols??? Shame on you. So yeah, of course, I gave you shit on Monday afternoon after you ignored Doug with your cavalier attitude.

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Speaking of income. I’m making $.50 above minimum wage. Heck, the amount of work that I’m doing for such is as follows. Not only am I checking golfers in and making tee times, but I’m also taking in league application fees, filling out league applications, signing up members or adding plans to memberships, taking food orders, serving food, serving beer, and taking flak for a company that I know that doesn’t give a “Flying Rats Ass” about me and more. Speaking of which, crap, after I had my stroke in 2018 they failed to give me a record of employment for a month and a half so I could collect benefits. I literally had to chase them down.

As a result of the stress and abuse in the less than two weeks that we’ve been open. I’ve experienced Angina on three separate occasions where I had to use my Nitro-Spray and suffered a TIA (Trans Ischemic Attack) last night. So I ask this. At which point is enough… enough?

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

My First Round of 2020 is in the Books

Have you ever been so happy about something that you couldn’t wipe the smile off of your face? 

Well, that’s exactly what happened to me yesterday. I’ve experienced this sort of euphoria before, most notably it was when I was fishing with my father, any time that I’m fly fishing especially on small streams, and yes I’ve had this sort of feeling before on the golf course. Yet, I didn’t have that feeling after getting my first Ace last year. That felt triumphant as I watched the golf ball disappear into the hole, but then that joy practically evaporated when I realized quickly that there was nobody to high-five or that witnessed the feat.

Yesterday was different. Golf courses opened up in Ontario this past Saturday which meant that I was now back to work. I opened and welcomed the first golfers onto the golf course that morning and I had plans to play my first holes of 2020 after that shift. That never came to fruition because our tee sheet was the busiest of any that I’ve ever seen in my years working in the industry. As it turns out, 250 golfers hit the golf course at Scenic Woods Golf Club that day. Only 16 people were “no-shows”. While I was disappointed to not play I was okay with it, after all, that day was about Members and Guests.

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I’m no botanist and I don’t know what kind of tree this is. But the morning was gorgeous.

Then Sunday happened. Sunday was pretty steady as far as the tee sheet went. The morning brought out golfers. Clouds gave way to sun and that sun would give way eventually to rain. A system that was supposed to dump 100 mm from Sunday to Monday. Upon finishing my shift, I knew that I was going to play at least 4 holes. I was stoked, and I was just ecstatic to find out that my GM was going to join. Rich, is a great guy and a lot of fun. So we loaded up our respective carts (I was going to walk) and made our way to the 1st tee.

I won’t give a play by play of what happened but I will say that my 1st tee shot of 2020 was not what I had expected. If I was going to miss, I predicted on social media that it would be the low left. Instead, it was right of right and my opening tee shot using a Tour Edge Exotics EXS 220 that I’m testing for review ended up on the landing area of the 4th green. Oops! So I pulled out the  3-Wood for my recovery and dag nab it, it went right into the fescue on the right side. A dropped ball, a 7-Iron (also a club that I’m testing the Exotics EXS 220h), and a pitch later. I one putt to card an opening bogey (the hole is a Par 5). The start wasn’t what I expected.

After 4 holes my GM and I went out separate ways. The rains had started to move in on the 3rd hole and instead of packing it in, I decided to play the Front 9 while entertaining thoughts of playing more. The rain got heavier and I left after 9 holes. My friends, there are better days ahead.

Admittedly, I struggled with the Exotics EXS 220 driver and 3-wood as I haven’t made a swing with anything longer than a 7-Iron since January 27th. I would figure out my issue by the time that I got to the 8th and the solution was obvious. I wasn’t releasing through impact because my grip pressure was too tight in my bottom hand. What a dumb-dumb right?! Now my short game, that was also unexpected as well. But for many different reasons. Another article for another day.

All that I know is this. Regardless of how it went yesterday and I did settle down nicely, that 9 holes were the most gratifying, satisfying golf that I’ve played in my life. Sure, I’ve come back from serious health issues and I was happy to be back on the course after recovering in those instances. Heck, in 2019 I came back from a Stroke, and that was an amazing feeling. But yesterday, that was different. I couldn’t get the smile off of my face.

It’s amazing what we take for granted when something is taken away from us.

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

Golf Operations in the COVID-19 Era

Saturday, May 16th marked the first day of the golf season in Ontario. It was an exciting day as the 2M Ontarian golfers in Ontario got the opportunity to choose, whether to play golf or not.

The first day of golf in Ontario also marked my first day back to a golf course where I’ve commenced my third season. Scenic Woods Golf Club is a golf course near Hamilton, Ontario that’s operated by GolfNorth Properties. GolfNorth Properties operates and manages 32 golf courses from coast to coast. Including the newly added Salmon Arm in British Columbia, The Ridge at Manitou (Ontario), and Cape Breton Highlands Links in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

It was nice to be in the Pro Shop first thing this morning greeting and welcoming members and guests back to the game that we love. All in all, the day ran pretty smoothly, other than a couple of system-related issues. We had a crammed tee sheet. From the first tee time available from 8:00 am until 6:45 pm there wasn’t a tee time to be had. Opening day with stellar weather, are you kidding me? I don’t even know if there was a cloud in the sky after the morning fog was penetrated and burned off by the sunshine.

One thing, however, became readily apparent. From a golf operations standpoint, the COVID-19/Pandemic era has brought a different feel to the game. Seeing the Starter’s spraying down golf carts with sanitizer with a sprayer like you’re spraying weed killer. Policing, ensuring that people are social-distancing, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces hourly (bathroom doors, etc), golf carts routinely only having one rider (and asking if golfers are from the same household), controlling washroom traffic, watching four carts roll down a fairway as a foursome and so much more.

The weirdest things for me are wearing rubber gloves (it just feels odd to type with them), for my second shift I’ll be wearing a mask and being a high-risk I’m therefore executing my due diligence because the exposure rate to people is still quite high, and not shaking anyone’s hands to welcome them back (social-distancing). The latter because I’m a very engaging person. But I will also say this. I have never been so nervous about sneezing.

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A packed tee sheet equated to no golf today for me. And that’s okay.

Right now, there’s a real learning curve for golfers and staff members alike. Our clubhouse layout is almost tailor-made to handle the check-in process. You enter the main entrance, pay at the lounge/bar terminal instead of the Pro Shop, and inform the customer to exit out through the lounge door behind them. One-way traffic. At one point, I jokingly stated that I felt like a flight attendant and instructed as such. “You have one exit to exit the clubhouse. This exit is directly behind you.” complete with hand gestures. There were a lot of corrections as far as reminding people about where to exit after it was explained but like I said. It’s a learning curve and we’re creatures of habit. But we’ll get it. Dare I say it, this is going to be the “new normal” for the foreseeable future.

Upon the conclusion of my shift, I had plans to play my first holes of the year. That failed to happen as there was nowhere for me to squeeze in. That’s quite okay though. Today was really about the Members and paid public players getting out. It was just great to see a full tee sheet and a full parking lot. Sunday will see me get on the course after my shift. It’s supposed to rain, and even if I only play a few holes, that’s perfect for me. I’ll be golfing.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay vigilant.

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

 

 

 

So, Today is the Day – Golf Returns

Honestly, I feel like a kid at Christmas time. Or maybe, it’s the excitement of the first day of school.

In so many ways, I feel an excitement looming over me much like I used to on Christmas Eve, during my early much more innocent years. For 2+ million Ontarian golfers like myself, we are finally getting the opportunity to take our golf clubs for a ride in the car and walk or ride the fairways for the first time in 2020. It’s a day full of excitement and anticipation.

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By the time this is published, it will be Saturday and I really hope to be asleep, counting the proverbial sheep as I fall into a deep slumber. My day will start at 5 am as I wake up and take my trusty Labrador Retriever for a walk. Afterward, I will shower, wake up my wife, drive her to work, and then point my truck in the direction of Scenic Woods Golf Club. This is my third year working at the golf course and for GolfNorth Properties. I really enjoy the membership out there.

But as I write this short piece,  there’s nervous energy that’s starting to consume me. I admit, that I am a little bit nervous about reporting to work for the first day in the “COVID-19 Era”. Mostly, this nervousness is my own doing because I’m a high-risk individual for contracting the virus. I’ve been safe up to this point, and the reason for that is that my exposure to others has been quite minimal since January 29th.

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GolfNorth has listed the protocols that will be put into place for everybody involved. That link is below. Ultimately, the onus is on all of us to ensure that we all remain safe and healthy. This “thing” is very far from being over. We need to be vigilant.

GolfNorth COVID-19 Protocols

Many courses while opening, are not necessarily prepared to be open. The decision to allow golf and ultimately open came from out of the blue like a lightning bolt. So that said if the conditions aren’t to your liking. Keep it to yourself. Just be happy to be out there playing golf in the first place. Be safe and be kind to the staff. If they ask you to back-up because you’re encroaching on somebody, please don’t get “butt-hurt” and get mad. We’re just doing our job to ensure the safety of you, other golfers, and us (staff). We’re in this together.

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My shift will come to a conclusion at 1 or 1:30. I’m actually not too sure when it will be. All that I know is this. When I have any sort of inkling as to when my shift will be over I will be heading out onto the links. It might be 4 holes or it might be 9. We did get hit with rainfall today. All that I know is this. I’m going to relish being out there. At that point, my other work will be getting put in. Time to put my swing to the test that I’ve been working on while on the UTNT Practice Centre For Deprived Golfers. Also, I do have testing of products as well. Please see my WITB video to see what I’m up to and what I’m testing.

If you’re getting out for the first time today. Stay safe, stay healthy, be vigilant, and most importantly have fun!! We deserve this.

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

We’re Back Baby!! – Golf in Ontario

Initially, I had plans to post a press release or two today but some much bigger news came to the forefront that placed those plans onto the backburner.

Well, I think the title says a lot. Golf is back in Ontario, and I cannot express how happy this makes me feel inside. While the announcement hasn’t officially come down from Premier Doug Ford’s government, and while I’m at it, that announcement will come later on today I found out shortly after 2 pm on Wednesday.

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The sun rising over Scenic Woods Golf Club

Not to toot my own horn, but golf resuming in Ontario has gone down exactly as I had predicted some time ago. I said mid-May and the course that I’m employed is opening on Saturday, May 16th. Right in line with the May Long Weekend, which is typically when things really get going at the golf course. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter which golf course I’ve worked at, this has typically been the case. Other than for the “die-hard” types.

So, I received the phone call today at 2 p.m. from my General Manager at Scenic Woods Golf Club, which is run by GolfNorth Properties. The message went a little like this.

“Alex, it’s Richard from Scenic Woods. We’re opening really soon, as then sooner than expected. I was wondering about your availability. Gimme a call, Please!”

At the time, we were already out and about driving, so I couldn’t take the telephone call. So upon hearing the message, and seeing that I was already halfway there. I drove out to the club with Crystal. Upon pulling in, crystal said to me. The course looks great!! It really did, and quite honestly, it was the tonic that my eyes needed. So I pulled up to my customary parking spot, got out, walked around to the front door, and then I heard Crystal call out to me, “Over here”.

So we called out to each other (“Yoo… Hooooo) and we met. He explained to me that there was a conference call with other GM’s and the “powers that be” for GolfNorth. It was determined that we were opening Saturday, May 16th. I’ve been mentally prepared for the call and to have to go into work on a whim.

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One rider per cart.

I’ll be working that opening shift and I cannot wait to welcome golfers back to the golf course with a smiling face. I, no, we’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Of course, restrictions (golf restrictions) set out by the Ontario government will be in place. Things like and not limited to.

  • Social-distancing being strictly enforced
  • No range or putting green
  • No congregating around the first tee
  • Stay in cars until 10 minutes before your tee time
  • Inverted or Pool Noodle/PVC in the cup.
  • No rakes in bunkers
  • No ball washers. (Soak a part of your towel with bottled water, water from a water hazard or similar)
  • One rider per cart. Unless you’re from the same household
  • Strict sanitizing in place
  • Limiting areas of contact (including but not limited to no locker room access or bag storage)

Food and beverage will be limited to take out and a very limited menu. Also, to start we’re running with a total clubhouse staff of four. My GM and three others including myself. Unfortunately, this means that our serving staff who are all university students (except for one) will not be working. Hopefully, the lounge will be able to re-open soon for their benefit. Of course, we’ve lost events that were planned (Member and Corporate events alike) because of social-distancing but leagues will commence June 1st.

As we open, there might be some learning curves. Please be kind to the staff and others. Please be safe and respect social-distancing. Please don’t blow this for us. Things are finally looking brighter.

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The calm before the storm. No ball washers, no tee blocks. The 10th goes to the left. The 5th fairway in the background. (Photo Credit May 14th by Crystal Toth)

Ah yes, golf is back. Oh yeah, when my shift concludes on Saturday, you know where I’ll be. Right to the first tee.

Until The Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee