Fairway Robbery I just wish they'd call some of these courses what they really are, like The Fumes of Toxic Acres.

June 23, 2002

You know what I'm sick of? Preposition golf.

I'm talking about all these courses with prepositions in their
names--The Experience at Marina Meadows, or The Challenge at the
Peaks of Del Frisco. And the more e's in the name, the more it
costs you. Play a round at The Linkes at Olde Harbour Centre,
and you're in for $200, easy.

As if the names have anything to do with the courses. "Have you
gents ever enjoyed The Tradition at Elk Crossing before?" the
phony-grinned "director of golf" will ask you while he's dinging
your AmEx for $175.

"No, pal, we haven't," you want to say. "And I'll bet a week's
pay we don't enjoy any elk out there, either. Unless the Wal-Mart
next door sent them over."

I just wish they'd call some of these courses what they really
are. The Lakes at the Landfill. The Fumes of Toxic Acres. VISA
Experience at Overmowed Pasture.

It's all so precious. You drive up to a Preposition, and 12 guys
in matching plus fours descend on your car like Bombay street
urchins, whisking your bag out of your trunk before you can get
your shoes out. Next time you see the bag, it's got a pewter tag
that's slightly larger than an oxen yoke and can't be removed
with an acetylene torch.

You get in a cart that's complete with a water mister,
mango-scented towels, personal rake, Italian ball-marking coins,
global positioning system and a video on which Arnold Palmer
suddenly pops up, saying, "On this hole you'll want to hit a
220-yard high fade over the pond, but be sure to get it on the
fourth level to give yourself a chance at a birdie." Yeah, Arnie,
like if I hit a 220-yard shot over agua, I'm going to be pissed
I'm not on the right green level.

But you don't get to play golf yet. First comes the 20-minute
lecture from a "course host," who used to be just a marshal
before Conglommo Golf bought the joint and started throwing
prepositions around. He's always in plus fours and a headset and
thinks he's Barney Fife. "Gentlemen, here at Bent Pine Ridge at
Pelican Sanctuary we have some very strict guidelines for you to
follow." One is, Don't even think about taking the carts off the
cement path, because if you do, you will be shot by one of the
course hosts. Which is another way of saying, "Enjoy your
six-hour round, folks."

Then out comes another Plus Four who takes pictures of your
group and will have them all laid out for you in a leatherette
album when you make the turn. It'll be only $45 a photo, and why
not have your first divot framed, too? You want to scream, "We
really just want to play golf, not buy time shares in the Swiss
Alps!"

Every now and then the "mobile refreshment center" will drive
up, and you'll have to pay $6 for a single "malted beverage,"
and the "mobile refreshment hostess" will look like you shot her
kitten if she doesn't get to keep the $4 change.

The malted beverage will make you have to visit one of the
"comfort stations" that are usually miles from the nearest
"teeing ground." And there aren't just three teeing grounds
anymore, there are six, so that the average chop feels like a
florist if he doesn't play from the "bronze" tees, even though
the course plays 2,000 yards longer than he can "enjoy."

Every tee shot is a 230-yard carry over absolutely off-limits
"native grasslands," which means even if you see your $6
Titleist sitting in there, you can't step three feet in to get
the ball. If you had this kind of native grasslands in your
front yard, the neighbors would be leaving notes wondering if
you'd like to borrow their Weed Whacker.

The front nine is longer than the March of Dimes, and at the
turn a Martha Stewart picnic breaks out, in which you end up
with an arugula sandwich, a bag of organic beet chips and a $4
iced tea in a bottle designed by I.M. Pei.

And you always end up shooting a radio station--a KOOL 105 or a
WAVE 102--and lose four sleeves and have to tip $5 to each of
the plus-four urchins who clean your clubs, which only hacks you
off worse because you know you never hit any of your freaking
shots on the club face anyway.

As you leave, it's everything you can do to keep from flooring
your 1984 Taurus through the wooden security arm, across the 2nd
and 11th fairways, spinning doughnuts on the 18th green and
racing past the director of golf, screaming, "Enjoy that!"

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)