There’s supposed to be a glowing review of Devou Park Golf Course in Covington, Kentucky, in this space, replete with beautiful pictures of the course and surroundings, a riveting course description, and colorful anecdotes of a fun, memorable afternoon.
Instead, you get the story of why I walked off of a golf course at the turn, vowing never to return.
I’ve never wished I belonged to a private golf club more than I do today.
Apologies to those of you who have already scrolled through my Twitter rant on this very subject, but I was so incensed leaving Devou Park that I needed to get the whole episode out of my system, so consider this the long version of a short story extrapolated from the summary found on my Twitter timeline.
The thesis and, ultimately, the conclusion from today’s experiment is that poor course and tee time management from an aloof or incompetent clubhouse staff can ruin a golf course experience.
During the hour-long drive to Covington from Lexington, I was increasingly excited to play golf at Devou Park for the first time in 10 or so years. I was looking forward to putting fresh eyes on the notoriously hilly layout.
The parking contained only a dozen cars in it when I arrived at 2:50 p.m. for our 3:04 p.m. tee time, so I was optimistic that John Mark and I would be able to get around the course at our usual fast pace. (There is no range at the course and not much of a practice green, so there’s no point in getting to the course early.)
Still standing on the first tee at 3:20, that optimism was quickly crushed by the fivesome of women who went out directly ahead of us on an otherwise empty golf course.
I give those ladies credit, they sure fooled the clubhouse staff and non-existent starters and marshals: they made it one entire hole playing as a foursome and a separate single before they reunited somewhere on the 2nd hole as a proper fivesome.
Seeing the train wreck slowly developing in front of us, I returned to the clubhouse to inquire if we go off of the tenth tee instead. The very polite high school/college kid who had just begun working her shift at the counter immediately fetched her supervisor to rule on our dilemma.
I repeated our request to the assistant pro or manager on duty. He affably denied my our request, detailing that the tee sheet was full behind us from 3:40 until 6:00. Thus, we wouldn’t be able to turn from the 18th hole back to the 1st tee without getting caught up in the multiple leagues and school match that the course was hosting this afternoon.
In the abstract, this was a reasonable explanation and response from Devou Park’s staff. If only it had proven true, the course wouldn’t be blacklisted from future golf excursion destinations.
Once we got out onto the course, we could see that it was, in fact, sparsely populated with golfers, and hoped remained that we would be able to get in front of the fivesome now between us and a properly paced game of golf.
The 4th hole is a par 5 that’s handicapped as the most difficult hole on the course, and was the perfect place to play through. Mercifully, the ladies promptly let us play through as soon as we arrived at the tee box.
One birdie, one par, and two tips of the cap later, we had waved goodbye to the fivesome and were on our way forward.
The reprieve was brief, as we caught another twosome one hole later. We remained close on their heels, hoping to pass them while they stopped for snacks at the turn.
Unfortunately, that sort of luck wasn’t to be had on this day. Instead, for the first time in my life, I walked off of a golf course in a fit of rage.
As we came off the 9th green, I noticed that the twosome who’d been in front of us the last four holes were yucking it up with the pro at the clubhouse. Despite my partner needing a quick ride to the parking lot, I retained hope that I’d be able to get in front of them and have clear sailing through the back nine.
The drive to the parking lot and back proved enlightening, as there were 8 or 10 carts filled with ladies waiting for their league play to go off the first tee at 5:00, some 10 or so minutes later. I thought to myself, “Well, that wasn’t too bad once we cleared the fivesome, but we would’ve gotten in front of that league,” reflecting on what the pro had stated earlier.
Little did I know then that my head was about to explode only moments later.
It’s difficult to articulate the confusion and exasperation I experienced when, after driving past that same twosome still loafing around the clubhouse, thinking I’d made it to clear sailing, I approached the 10th tee only to find multiple groups stacked up waiting to tee off.
I could not believe what I was seeing. Where did all those guys come from? The twosome in front of us hadn’t been waiting on anybody!
Surely the clubhouse made a mistake. Certainly they weren’t sending people out right in front of us! They couldn’t have sent an entire men’s league off the 10th tee right in front of us! Could they?
Didn’t they see us coming up the 9th fairway? On the 9th green?
Yes, the professionals at Devou Park Golf Course, managed by Billy Casper Golf Management, by the way, had sent an entire men’s league off the 10th tee right in front of us as we made the turn.
The League was sent off the 10th tee exactly two hours after our tee time. Never mind the 20 minute delay we had waiting on that fivesome, we’d made up ground against the clock.
For those of you unfamiliar with how logistics on a golf course work, most courses expect a golfer to play an 18-hole course in just under four and a half hours. Devou Park is a very short and not terribly difficult golf course, so expecting a twosome to play nine holes is in two hours is realistic.
Which means, unless the course planners expected us to take more than two and a half hours to play the front nine on a weekday afternoon, which would be an extraordinarily and painfully slow pace, they set us up to run into the men’s league at the turn. In other words, they screwed us. And they didn’t care.
Maybe if I’d been cut in front of by one twosome just trying to sneak in 9 holes, I could have understood the decision to send them off the back rather than making them wait behind the ladies’ league going off the first tee.
But it wasn’t just one group. IT WAS AN ENTIRE GOLF LEAGUE! Yes, multiple groups of multiple golfers basically cutting line upon the instruction and with the blessing of the course’s management.
I’d be torn between thinking the course management was plain rude or incompetent, except that we’d be sold that whole song and dance about not being able to go off the back in the first place.
I immediately headed to the parking lot, aware that my blood was then boiling far too hot to have any hope of remotely enjoying the rest of my golf round. I stopped to confront the manager about the situation, with more of a morbid curiosity of what he’d say rather than with any realistic expectation that I’d get any satisfaction.
I asked him point-blank, “Did you just send a league off the 10th tee?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” he responded, with a look that revealed he clearly didn’t remember me from before, or care that I was going to be stuck behind them.
“Really?” I quipped, even more dumbfounded than before.
Without batting an eye, like it was going to give me some sort of comfort, he continued, “Well, those guys usually play pretty fast. If you want to wait, that’s up to you…”
I just walked away mid-sentence; I’d heard all I could stand to hear from that guy. Nevermind that there were 10 or 12 guys in the groups that been sent directly in our path.
We’d reserved the tee time for 18 holes at least 24 hours in advance; it’s not like we were two walk ups pleading with the course to try to fit us in.
Ripping into the guy wasn’t going to make it any better, so I just walked away. It’s a public golf course, open to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet so inclined to play there. My only real recourse, other than griping to you, Dear Readers, is to vote with my feet and my wallet.
So, I’ll never set foot on Devou Park Golf Course property again. And that will be the end of that.
I’m just shocked that a course that is “professionally managed” would be so incompetent as to allow this kind of thing to happen.
I don’t mind them hosting leagues. I don’t even mind them hosting multiple leagues simultaneously. Or high school matches for that matter. Regulars and league members are the lifeblood of a public golf course.
But if you are going to tie up space on a course like that, then don’t offer tee times to the general public that are going to be in direct conflict with those leagues or matches. And if you tell me that I can’t go off the back because there will be a conflict at the turn, then there damn well better be an actual conflict.
I guess I’m as pissed off that we were misled or outright lied to when we requested going off the 10th tee to begin our round. There wasn’t any mention of a league going off the back right as we’d be making the turn from the 9th to the 10th hole.
The course took our money, provided us a cart, and then forgot about or discarded us. Maybe the golf economy is exceptionally strong in Northern Kentucky, and a course can be so arrogant as to treat its customers like that.
Or maybe the opposite is true. Perhaps Devou Park needs as many greens fees as it can get, consequences be damned. Either way, it’s a crappy way to operate, and, as it turns out, a little further than I’m willing to go for the game.
To Dave Peru, the general manager’s credit, after my Twitter rant obliterating the course for my experience, he did reach out and ask that I call him to “discuss my experience.” Maybe I’ll call him tomorrow after I’ve calmed down.
Maybe I won’t bother, because I’m not going back there under any circumstances.