Monday, March 09, 2009

You tell me what's wrong with this picture. I flew into Miami International Airport (insert Henny Youngman saying, "And boy, are my arms tired!") and thought I'd stop in at the Melreese Golf Course, a municipal track operated by the city of Miami. It's basically just down the street from the rental car lots in an area that is not well-off -- most of the neighborhood's homes have bars over the windows.
It's noon. It's a Monday. It's beautiful -- 82 degrees, light wind. The course looks to be in outstanding condition, especially for a muni. When I ask if I can play a few holes, I'm told, sure, the course is wide open. In fact, it is all but deserted.
The girl working the register asks if I'm a Florida resident. Nope. She rings up my greens fee. That'll be $158. What, I say? State residents play for $78, non-residents are $158. Do you have a nine-hole rate, I ask? No. I totally understand trying to keep a public course available for use
by local golfers. They should get a big discount. It's their course.
But this isn't a local discount, it's statewide? What good does that
do? You think anybody is going to fly down from Jacksonville to golf
Melreese when there are 1,200 other courses in the state? City
residents should get the golf discount.
So I settle on hitting a bag of 60 range balls (that's what the sign in the shop says) for $6. When I dump the bag out on the practice range, it doesn't look like 60 balls. I count them. There are 47. I'm 13 short. That's more than 20 percent I've been shortchanged. And while many of the balls looked white and shiny, too many of them just didn't get up in the air and go, no matter how well I hit them. Mushy range balls are a fact of life in golf. Getting 20 percent less product than I was promised, that's something else.
After I hit balls, I chipped and putted on the practice green (which was in very nice shape) for more than an hour. A couple of German guys who'd been hitting on the range did the same. They eventually left. So did I. I spent less than $10 at the course -- I bought range balls, plus a drink and crackers. I gladly would have paid $80 to play, but not $158. So due to excessive pricing, the course got zero.
Melreese used to be an example of how to run a muni. Improved conditions usually brings more play, more golfers. I was there for 90 minutes and saw no one tee off. I saw a couple of twosomes, a threesome and a single already on the course. The old parking lot was closed due to construction of a new clubhouse and, I presume, a new cart barn.
Somebody has to pay for that. But it's not going to be my $158.
What's wrong with golf? Gee, I can't imagine.

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