2014 golf leagues are now underway — at least for some golfers

One of the great features of the game of golf is the fact that it can be enjoyed in so many different ways. Some golfers are more comfortable playing by themselves, though I don’t. For me, part of the fun of playing golf is to share the experience with my friends. That includes the good, bad or frequently mediocre golf.

Many golfers like to play during the week whereas others only have time on the weekends. Certain golfers like to challenge the course to see what kind of score they can post. Others like to have side bets, the winning of such being more important than the score one shoots.

I used to play with a group on Thursdays that traveled to different courses each week. We always played a scramble format because a few of the golfers were not comfortable playing their own ball for a full 18 holes. Today I play with a traveling group that does play their own ball. All golfers have a chance to compete for prizes as each plays to his own handicap.

Still, many golfers enjoy competing in a league, where you are not only trying to tame the golf course, but also going up against an opponent. You can double bogey a hole and still win it, though I’m not sure there is a lot of satisfaction in that achievement.

Now that the weather has improved, those various golf leagues have begun and league golfers are stoked to be back on the links playing the game that they love. Unfortunately, not all league golfers are playing this year. It has been brought to my attention that some golfers have been excluded from leagues that they had been playing in for years. Let me explain.

It is not necessarily uncommon for leagues to shift venues. For any number of reasons leagues will take their play to a different course even if it’s only to break the monotony of playing the same course week after week, and year after year. Switching courses is not the problem. How a league departs is at question here, and why I am taking the leaders of those leagues to task.

In a move reminiscent of the Colts leaving Baltimore, a couple of different leagues decided to leave area courses to play elsewhere. Again, leaving is not the issue – how one leaves however is. The leagues did not inform the course where they had been playing for years that they were taking off. What is worse, not all of the golfers from the previous year were invited to go along. Those golfers were not only uninvited, they weren’t even told about the move. In my opinion, this is wrong.

I have played in two different leagues during my career. The first one started with my softball teammates deciding that playing that game had become a little too difficult. We were aging and golf seemed like a good way to stay together for friendly competition. It was, pure and simple, a blast.

More recently I joined a scratch league when a buddy of mine asked me to do so. He was honest with me. The guys we were going to be playing against were younger and better than us. More than likely we would get our rear ends handed to us every week, but it would still be fun. I did question his definition of fun, but I agreed to give it a try and turned out he was right.

The challenge of playing against guys that could hit the ball farther than I could see was indeed fun. Occasionally we would get the better of our opponents, but more than likely we would end up on the down side of the scorecard. We still looked forward to playing each week and that’s what’s important.

So when I found out that some golfers had been excluded from playing in a league that undoubtedly many were looking forward to, I felt compelled to say something to those responsible.

Let me begin by saying that I’m guessing some of the league golfers that changed courses probably did not realize what effect their silence on the matter would mean both to the course and the golfers left without a league. Indeed, many may not have even been aware of the way the move took place.

Golf courses cater to its leagues. They close the course to other potential golfers so the loyal league members can tee it up each week. That loyalty should be a two-way street. By not informing the course of the pending move, the course may well have lost other badly needed business. If someone had called about starting a league on a certain night, they likely would have been told that they could not play on that night. The course already had a league booked – or so they thought.

I know for a fact that one of the “sorry about your luck” golfers had been asked by an old friend to be his partner in another league. He politely refused, citing a commitment to “his” league. By the time he found out that he had been excluded from the league, his buddy had already lined up another golfer.

These situations could have been prevented had the powers to be behind the departing leagues been more up front. Bringing the moving vans in under the cloak of darkness didn’t make the Colts look very good. Being secretive about the two golf leagues changing courses doesn’t make anyone look good either.

To those responsible, let me suggest that if it happens again, please do things differently. You certainly have not violated any law, but as is usually the case, there is a difference between what you have the right to do, and what the right thing to do is.

It would have been entirely proper and appropriate to inform the golf course that you might move and to tell all your league members about the plans. After all, you would have preferred to have the same courtesy extended to you, if indeed the golf shoe was on the other foot.

Al Stephenson is The Advertiser-Tribune’s golf columnist.

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