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The 'Do's' & 'Don'ts' of being a Good Golf Patron

By: Dave Castleberry


Editor's Note: Dave Castleberry is the head pro at Cedarcrest, a municipal 18-hole layout in Marysville, Wash. The course runs through, on average, well over 200 golfers a day, seven days a week. In Dave's first installment in a series that will allow him free reign to write what he wants about his noble profession, he lands on of his major peccadilloes: dealing with people requesting tee times over the phone, an activity he performs hundreds of times a week. Here are Dave's suggestions for proper tee-time protocol.

In my many years as a golf professional, I've come across many folks who wish to become better golfers. Well, I have some bad news, if you're anything like 99% of the rest of the world, it's not going to happen - you're stuck where you are.

Alas, it's not because golf professionals are bad teachers. On the contrary, most of us could teach Helen Keller to hit a beautiful high draw over water to a tucked pin and "Fore!" to the poor unsuspecting group she just hit into. No, it's because most of you are bad learners. Helen Keller could be taught, but many of you can't.

Yet there is some good news. While your dreams of becoming a better golfer may be lost, I can help you to become a better golf patron. With that in mind, our first lesson will be "The Do's and Don'ts When Calling the Golf Shop."

I will begin with the "Don'ts" as that list is much longer.

No. 1. Don't let me know that making a reservation for a time at 7:12 or 8:56 seems a little goofy. You are not the first person to figure this out. We realized that having tee times on the exact minute was impossible a long time ago, as did the eight people standing in line waiting for me to end my phone conversation with you. Get over it and move on.

No. 2. Don't ask if I have anything a little closer to 1 o'clock when I offer you a 1:04 tee time. Remember, if you have to make a golf reservation at a public course, then you aren't important enough that four minutes of your life is going to matter. In fact, no one is that important. Besides, you're going to spend four minutes looking for your ball on the first hole anyway, so it's a wash. Take the 1:04 tee time and move on.

No. 3. Don't call the golf shop without having at least a general idea of when you'd like to play. There is nothing more annoying than being asked on Monday what tee times are available on Saturday. Do us a favor and narrow it down a bit so we can both move on.

No. 4. Don't act like I'm lying to you when I tell you that the first time I have available on Saturday is 1:36. It's Friday afternoon and you're in shock that you weren't the first person who thought it might be a good idea to play golf on the weekend. Accept the fact that there are 80 other people out there who called much earlier in the week to make their tee time. Now take the 1:36 time and move on.

No. 5. Don't be an idiot when I tell you 1:36 is the first time I have available. This is an extension of "Don't No. 4." Of course I mean 1:36 in the afternoon, you moron! Just because it's 11 a.m. and the only thing you've done all day is change the water in your bong and made a mental note to buy more Cheetos doesn't mean the rest of the world has started golfing after midnight. Now hang up the phone, so I can move on.

No. 6. Don't tell me your name is Bob and expect me to know who you are (or, for that matter, care). I've spoken to over 300 people today, many of whom are probably named Bob. Starting the conversation with "Hi, this is Bob," does nothing but waste time. Keep in mind there are still eight people in my golf shop who want to be checked in so they can move on.

No. 7. Don't be shocked when other people may have a different interpretation of what "early" means. "Early on Saturday morning" to most of the world means sometime around 7 a.m. Your response to this time of, "Whoa, I was thinking of something more like 10:00 or 11:00!" tells me you keep roughly the same hours as Robert Downey, Jr. It also tells me you are not the type of person I want on my golf course. No tee time for you. I'm moving on.

No. 8. Don't tell me you have to call your buddies to see if 8:48 a.m. will work for them when you request an 8:30 tee time. I can help you out here. If they like you, then yes, they will play at 8:48. But if you're the type of person who needs to take a poll to determine if 18 minutes makes that big a difference, your buddies are probably going to tell you they have to help their wife pick out a throw rug for the living room and can't play at that time. Hint: They aren't really helping their wife do anything on Saturday; they're playing golf with real friends elsewhere. Make some new friends and move on.

No. 9. Don't ask me what the weather is like. It will be much more efficient for you to go to the window and look outside than to pick up the phone and bother me with that question. I also don't know if it's going to rain or if it's going to stop raining soon. Nor do I know if the frost will be gone when it gets warmer, or have any idea when that'll be. If you don't trust your local meteorologist, then why trust your local PGA professional to give you the weather? Get the message? I'm a golf pro, not a weatherman. Now put an umbrella in your golf bag and move on.

No. 10. Don't call me at 10:28 telling me you're going to be late for your 10:32 tee time. I know this already, as do the three guys you are supposed to be playing with who are standing on the first tee ready to tee off. Let me define tee time for you. It means the time you will be teeing off. It doesn't mean the time you should show up to play. If that's what was meant we would have called it "idiot pulling into the parking lot time." By the way, when you do show up, don't ask me if I can give you a ride out to the second hole. I have other people to help and I need to be moving on.

And now for the "Do's":

No. 1. Be polite and simply ask me if I have anything around 8:30. Accept the time that I give you as being the closest thing available to 8:30. If I tell you 8:56, that means I don't have anything around 8:15 either. I can do the math. Now do you want that time or not? You do. Great. Give me your name and number of golfers (five is not an acceptable answer by the way) and we can both move on.

That's it. It's that simple. Practice with a friend if you'd like. And remember, we really do care - we just wish you didn't make it so hard sometimes.

Dave Castleberry is a member of the PGA and currently the head professional at Cedarcrest Golf Course in Marysville, Wash. Born in Fort Lewis, Wash., Dave and his family moved to Marysville when he was 2 years old. After graduating from Marysville-Pilchuck High School, he attended Washington State University where he earned a degree in Communications in 1995. He began his career in the golf industry on the maintenance crew at the Plateau Club in Sammamish, Wash. Dave spent three years on Plateau's crew, the last two as the irrigation technician before becoming a PGA pro in the year 2000. He spent three years as an assistant pro at Plateau before moving on to Sand Point Country Club in Seattle in 2004. During his time at Sand Point, Dave served as chairman of the Western Washington Assistants' Committee and was named Assistant Professional of the Year by his peers. He began his tenure as Cedarcrest's head pro in March 2007. He currently resides in Lynnwood, Wash., with his beautiful wife of three years, Jennifer.