Let me tell me a story about how something so inconsequential, so incidental to the playing of golf can matter greatly to the golf course experience.
Can a scorecard matter? Not what is written on the scorecard, not the information printed in ink or the scores scribbled in pencil, but the actual physical scorecard? Yes? No? Maybe? I mean, how much different can one scorecard really be from any other one?
I would submit that they can differ, and can matter, a great deal.
This is a story of change and loathing and discrimination. Of uniformity and bullheadedness. Of branding and ambition. And of good customer service, redemption, and perspective.
This is the story of my guerilla campaign against the Lexington Parks and Recreation Department over the scorecards at their golf courses. It is the story of a battle in the larger two-front war in favor of better public golf and encouraging walking at our local courses, a distinctly American conflict. And the story of how a simple gesture brought about an easy peace.
There will be no bitching accepted from the yacht.
I walk almost all of my golf rounds, either carrying my bag or with a push cart. I do it for exercise. I do it for the pace of the game. I do it because I love the views. I do it because I enjoy it.
Walking the golf course means that efficiency of movement and a lack of clutter are important to my experience. I want a relatively light load in my golf bag and I only want a few things in my pockets. My superstitious (read “slightly obsessive-compulsive) nature dictates that I want those few items that make it to my pockets to be in the correct pocket.
One tee, one ball, divot tool with ball marker, phone, and scorecard or scorecard-yardage book combination. That’s it, nothing else
I’m not a fancy golfer. I use modern golf clubs and equipment. My golf bag says Sun Mountain on it, not Jones or McKenzie. The Cliq Gear push cart that I use screams mass-produced modernity, which pervades the rest of my golf game.
The two exceptions to such staunch utilitarianism are my leather CarveOn scorecard holder and leather yardage book cover from Bluegrass Fairways. They are very nice, crafted by artisans and personalized for me.
They are pieces of art that are incredibly functional (preventing anything paper or cardstock from deteriorating in my pocket during a round, or multiple rounds in the case of a yardage book).
It wasn’t until after I received these leather goods that I became aware that there existed near zero uniformity among and across scorecards. But it wasn’t until my local clubs switched to scorecards that no longer fit into my pockets, my scorecard holder, or yardage book holder that I ever put more than 3 seconds of thought into scorecards at all.
It turns out that scorecards are one of the simple ways that a golf club can distinguish itself from its contemporaries. Considering it is an object that will likely be in front of a golfer multiple times over the course of several hours to the exclusion of most other modern distractions, scorecards are very much the strongest branding a course can do outside of the actual playing experience.
My preference, given my desire for ruthless efficiency, favors scorecards that emphasize function rather than form. I need room to keep my score, the scores of my partners and opponents, and a little extra space to tally the wagers. And perhaps most importantly, to me, it needs to fit in my pocket via my scorecard holder or yardage book cover.
Since I arrived in Lexington in 1997, the city courses, where I play an overwhelming majority of my golf rounds, had used simple, somewhat antiquated, bi-fold cardstock scorecards. They provided all the necessary information in a compact, pocket-friendly package. The graphics were outdated and the font was a little small, but they did an adequate job.
Out of nowhere, sometime in 2018, Lexington’s wonderfully unimpressive, antique scorecards were replaced with gigantic, glossy monuments to modern convenience and effort avoidance. The new scorecards provided all of the information you could ever want to learn about the respective courses, because, frankly, they are as big as billboards.
Measuring 12 inches x 5 3/8 inches, there’s room for yardages for all four tees, hole handicaps, par, pace of play time par, a signature line for the scorer, color diagrams of each hole including bunkers and water hazards, and spaces for eight players’ scores, and the course’s new logo graphic. Then repeated on the folded section for the back nine. All in font big enough to be read from the next cart over.
It’s so big and oriented such that you don’t even have to burden yourself to write your name, or even your initials, a second time; the off-center fold lines up perfectly so that the name lists for the front also work for the back nine.
It fits comfortably on the steering wheel of a cart, but no where else. I don’t have a single pocket on any pair or pants in which these new scorecards fit without an extra, infuriating fold or two.
Same goes for my scorecard holder or my yardage book cover; absolutely useless to contain these behemoth scorecards. They sort of fit on the console of my push cart if I were using it for a given round, but were subject to blowing away, even if secured by the bungee-like thread. I basically had to carry these scorecards in a pocket of my golf bag to keep them in tact for an entire round.
It felt like a solution seeking a problem, and a slap in the face of all of the loyal walking golfers. Who had authorized the change? What did they accomplish? Did anyone even care that their shiny new scorecards actually created a new headache for a portion of the City’s most loyal customers.
My distaste for the new scorecards was palpable. And public. Each time I finished a round in a league event, I vented. I complained on Twitter. I bitched to anyone within earshot. Sarcasm and indignant righteousness were my weapons, and the entire Earth was the theater of battle.
No matter that the war was already lost and the number of people that cared was likely less than the number of strokes I required to complete nine holes.
I wasn’t alone in my disgust, though I was the most vocal.
My nonsense didn’t fall completely on deaf ears, though. The pro shops around town kept the existing stock of the old scorecards around for the walking golfers, upon request.
It was a nice gesture by the golf pros and a band-aid for those of us that cared enough to say something, petty though we may have been. But it was a solution with a timer. What happens when the stock of old, proper-sized scorecards ran out?
An End to the Hostilities
As winter approached at the end of 2019, something remarkable happened. The golf pro primarily responsible for the new scorecards reached out to me and invited me to chime in on a possible second scorecard design for courses, specifically geared toward walkers.
I was floored by the gesture. Here was the professional (that I get along with splendidly otherwise, by the way) inviting me to render an opinion on the exact issue I’d been hammering him about for 18 months. It was an act of class, devoid of ego, which I instantly appreciated greatly.
It turns out that his golf course was going thru the re-rating process, and he was going to rename the various tees, so the course was due a new scorecard for 2020. It gave him a natural opportunity to consider new scorecards with his vendor, who I’m certain wouldn’t mind a little additional work for the Lexington account.
So, a week or two later, I stopped by his pro shop, where he unveiled a package of 50+ scorecards that the printing vendor had sent him for consideration. Every style, size, font, color scheme, data combination, number of folds, and orientation option you could possibly imagine lay right there in front of us as we chatted positives, negatives, and personal preferences.
I brought along my trusty scorecard holder and yardage book cover so that I could give a full assessment in one sitting, but it really didn’t matter. What mattered most was that the cover story of examining new scorecard possibilities turned into an hour-long conversation: about golf, scorecards, walkers versus riders, courses, the business of golf, tournament experiences, personal anecdotes, our kids, the holidays, the works.
By the end of the hour, he had a good idea of what my preference would be for the characteristics of a walker’s scorecard. Will my wishes be granted? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. Other walkers, the budget, random circumstances, all could derail the idea.
However, he took the time to ask, and to listen, and for that he has my gratitude. I consider the scorecard business a closed matter, now.
An Easy Peace
I will continue to hope that Lexington’s Parks and Recreation Department will, in fact, commission a second set of scorecards that are geared toward walking golfers. I loathe that walkers are almost an afterthought in the city golf bureaucracy, with the emphasis placed on the cart revenue benefits of encouraging people to ride in carts.
I understand that directive, but I think it’s short sided with respect to course stress and infrastructure, and tone deaf to the original mission of the parks and recreation department, namely to provide opportunities for people to get outside and enjoy a game and some exercises. That’s arguably a whole other sermon for a different Sunday.
The gesture bought the pro some benefit of the doubt. It won’t silence me in the future on issues that I object to or disagree with, but it may mean I take the time to talk with the responsible party before I make a judgment and go off running my mouth about golf in Lexington (or elsewhere).
I’ve long maintained that a good conversation is one of the most precious currencies that can be exchanged between people, especially while walking or around a golf course. Family, friends, colleagues, total strangers, the who is kind of irrelevant. And frankly, so is the subject matter.
It’s the investment in another human being, their stories, their journeys, their thoughts, and their perspectives, and their willingness to reciprocate the same investment, that is valuable, and brought an end to possibly the silliest source of conflict in the history of modern golf.