A new year and different experience at Chestnut Hills Golf Club

My buddies and I went to northeast Indiana this past week for the 23rd Annual Foxy’s Fort Wayne Fling. Each time we make this trip it is expected that we will return to places (courses, restaurants and beverage dispensing establishments) that we have had good times at in the past. We also will make it a point to find a new place where we will likely meet a new contingent of friendly, interesting people. This year was no exception.

We stayed for the second year in a row at Don Hall’s Guesthouse Inn. This was the place where we ran into the Canadian women golfers last year. We were informed at check-in that they too had returned, but it was a week before our soiree. That was disappointing as the women were a real hoot, but we like the motel. The Guesthouse Inn has a restaurant that serves great food. It is possible to eat prime rib three nights in a row.

Nearly every year we play Cedar Creek Golf Club on our first day. An awesome layout located in nearby Leo, we look forward to playing the course. We also made Cherry Hill Golf Club our destination for Ryder Cup competition as we did last year. Another great course that features an island green, the two teams tied for only the second time in the more than two decades the event has taken place. Yes, there was a reference made to kissing your sister.

On our last night in town, we found a new place to wet our whistle. In one of those “it’s a small world” moments, we found out that the young lady that was working was not a Fort Wayne native. She actually came to the area from a small coastal town in Oregon some seven years before. When I inquired as to the name of the town she responded by saying it was a small town that she was sure I had never heard of.

When I insisted she try me, the word Florence was uttered. Now, some times I have heard of places because I was a geography teacher. Occasionally, I have visited some seemingly remote places. That was the case with Florence. When I informed her that I actually ate huckleberry ice cream in Florence, she nearly fell over. She pointed out that she used to work in the store that serves the purple concoction. Small world indeed.

It was with some trepidation that we headed for Chestnut Hills Golf Club Friday, our last day to play. Perhaps some context is needed here. John Fox was the planner for our golf trip for 21 years. When he retired to Arizona a year ago, a new commissioner was given the reins. Our new leader decided to schedule a round of golf at Chestnut Hills.

This was the course that John Fox had called several years ago, setting up tee times for twenty Fling golfers. When we reached the course at our specified time, the green fees price he was quoted had gone up ten dollars. Foxy was fuming and asked to speak to a manager, who didn’t seem to care that we were upset. We had to pay up or not play. We paid, we played and we vowed to never come back.

The new commissioner was unaware of the previous situation, thus our feeling of trepidation. We weren’t sure what to expect, but it seems things have changed at Chestnut Hills. The weather was shaky as we entered the parking lot. We talked to the guy at the desk, pointing out that with several golfers in their 60s and 70s, playing in the rain was something we’d prefer not to do.

The man was great. He suggested we wait to see if the weather would improve. He would make sure all four of our groups would be accommodated if and when we decided to play. This was a far cry from the treatment we received some 10 years earlier.

For this golfer, there was a bonus for spending time waiting for the weather to clear. Seems Chestnut Hills has a course dog, a small terrier that had a black and white face. An artist could not have painted this puppy’s face any better. The right side was all black and the left side was all white. More importantly, the dog decided that sitting at my feet and being petted for the better part of an hour was a great idea. I’m not sure which of us was more content.

We had no idea if we would get any golf in with the stormy weather that hit the area this week. When the rain stopped, we hit the links and were able to play the entire round. The course was beautiful and the staff was so cordial. I had a chance to talk to the man at the desk after the round and what I found out was interesting.

He told me that the course had gone into bankruptcy a few years ago. I guess the way they treated us was the way the treated everybody. I think there is a lesson in that. The new owners and staff have made some improvements to the course to make it more player-friendly.

More importantly, they treat people the way they should be treated, as welcomed guests. Thanks to the folks at Chestnut Hills Golf Club, the Fling is likely to return to their fine course.

It was with sadness that the gang exchanged good byes. We will not see some of the guys for quite a while, maybe not until next June. The Fling will return for something old and something new. Perhaps I can find a place to buy huckleberry ice cream.

Maybe I could share it with a black and white little terrier.

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

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