It was a fun weekend. Slowly finding my irons, but the putter continues to sustain me this season. I've been putting lights-out, in good part due to our greens staff finally lowering the blades a little and getting the greens a tad quicker. The one complaint I do have, however, is the condition of our bunkers.
Last season they reconditioned our bunkers, and in the process they put entirely too much sand in them. So when they rake the bunkers each morning and turn the sand up - it's 50/50 whether you get a ball that's playable or one that is sitting down if you happen to find one of them. Now I know they're technically hazards, and I know that based on the extreme difficulty given their current condition - I should avoid them. But at the same time I'm a fairly decent bunker player, from both the fairway bunkers and the green-sides. I hit the ball pretty cleanly, ball-first contact. There is absolutely no reason for a ball to be half-buried in the middle of a fairway bunker 6/10 times. And I don't care how great you are hitting the ball - you cannot hit good shots from fairway bunkers if you're forced to hit the top 1/3 of the ball to avoid contacting the sand through impact, and I've faced this situation no fewer than a dozen times over the past 6-7 rounds. But the worst situation is when you hit an approach shot and the ball rolls into the green-side bunker... there's so much sand up around the lips and edges that the ball hardly ever makes it down into the flat areas, not only sitting down but also requiring you to stand outside of the bunker with the ball well below your feet.
I got into a fairly heated debate with our head pro Saturday about it. I played reasonably well that day, shot 75. I go into the shop and just casually mentioned to him, "Hey - the golf course overall is in really nice shape. Fairways are nice, greens are rolling great, etc... but the bunkers have way too much sand in them. I understand that they're hazards, but I also know that hitting from a fairway bunker shouldn't be more difficult than hitting a ball sitting down in 5 inches of deep rough. I should at least be able to get the club somewhat cleanly onto the back of the ball when it's lying in the middle of the bunker."
He just laughed and said, "Boy, it's a good thing you're not playing on Tour. I think our bunkers are just fine. I just played last week and I didn't have any problems whatsoever." I said, "Well, I can't dispute that obviously, but you must've found the 50% of the time when luck is on your side. Also, as you're well aware - I'm not a tour player. I'm spending $7000/year to be a member here, and I've played long enough to know the definition of "fair" as it relates to course conditioning." But he wouldn't let me have the last word on the matter.
"Mr. France, very little of the game is based around the concept of fairness. You hit the ball in the fairway, your ball lands in a divot, you have to play from there if you're playing by the rules. It's not a matter of fairness. Furthermore, I disagree with the opinion that they're unfair. Like I said - I played last week and had no problems."
At this point I really was taken aback at the degree of arrogance I was hearing. "When I came in here, I didn't ask you YOUR opinion of the bunkers. As someone who pays a significant amount of money to be a member here - I came in to tell you MY opinion. And since a good portion of YOUR duties here are to listen to occasional concerns and constructive criticisms from the members you and your staff support, I must ask you this important question: whose opinion matters more in this particular discussion - mine or yours?" He said, "Yours, of course."
I replied, "Well.... there you go. When you've got dozens of members coming in to give you feedback on stuff, I know some of it is probably trivial in nature. Sometimes it's just a product of a frustrating round and someone is venting their frustrations. But this isn't one of those occasions. I played fairly well today and did so despite getting completely f**ked in the arse the three times my ball happened to find the middle of a fairway bunker. And if this was something completely rare - I'd shake it off and think nothing of it. But it's been like this for the entire season, and although I know the conditions well in advance and understand the need to avoid them - finding a fairway bunker should still be a better option than to hit a tee shot OB or in a water hazard in play on the other side of the fairway. But heres where "fairness" enters the picture - if it's a water hazard - the penalty is still basically the same - 1-shot. You should not be penalized for what amounts to a full stroke for finding what would otherwise be a routine fairway bunker shot."
He finally conceded the last point, nodded in agreement and said that he would personally go out and "inspect" them himself. He also said he would email my concerns to the greens superintendent, and I made it a point to ask him to also convey that the greens and fairways looked great. I don't overlook the importance of letting the greens staff know that their good works doesn't go unnoticed, and I also understand that in the grand scheme of things - bunkers with too much sand are often perceived more positively than bunkers with no sand, and bunker conditions in general seldom take priority over other course condition concerns. But if you're playing a course that has a significant amount of sand bunkers, it absolutely does need to be addressed. At some point anyway.
Quite frankly our bunkers were more playable and better quality before they reconditioned them last fall, and they've had more than enough time for the sand to settle and compact like they should.
Other than that, I love my club. It's privately owned, my annual dues are relatively low for such an awesome facility because the owner reinvests and is always upgrading. We've got roughly 400 members and although we aren't nearly as prestigious as the other two private clubs in the area - it's funny when I invite friends who are members at these other two prestigious clubs to come play there... they're like, "Man... this is such an awesome track, beautiful facility, can't believe you're getting this for under $10k/year!"
I guess I just need to better appreciate that for what I get in return for my investment - it is an incredible value and I shouldn't complain too much.