Grouchy Course Marshals = Bad Customer Experience

Written by: Tony Korologos | Friday, September 14th, 2012
Categories: BoneheadsGolfHackers

In today’s economy customer service is very important to any business.  Most golf courses are really struggling and rounds played is down.  Naturally it is very important for courses to do everything they can to make their patrons enjoy their experience in hopes that they continue to be patrons.  Course conditioning is naturally important as are the amenities.  Customer service is just as important, if not more.

Grouchy Course Marshals

Once a player or group of players is out on the course, there are only one or two people who work for the course that interact with them.  A beverage cart or snack bar attendant is one, but the most interaction is likely from marshals out on the the course.  I seriously doubt that most courses have any idea what their marshals are doing.  My home course for instance, struggles with marshals.  In this particular case, the marshals are out ball hunting.  They’re not paying attention to the players or pace of play.  They’re just looking for ProV1’s in the bushes.

In a recent round I had a very distasteful experience with a very grouchy marshal.  Here’s the setup.  My dad who is 75+ joined me and two golf buddies for a round at a very nice resort course.  We had a 10:27 tee time but one person had troubles making it so we pushed back our time with the pro shop to around 10:45.  The pro shop had no problems and there were no groups behind us for a while so they didn’t mind.  So when we teed off there was a gap of about 27 minutes in front of us, assuming they did tee times every 8 minutes.

By the time we reached the 2nd green a cart came up from behind us with two riders.  On the 3rd tee I politely asked the twosome to play through us.  As it turned out, there was only one set of clubs.  A daughter was riding along as her father was enjoying a round as a single player.  They were equally polite, played through and we never saw the single again.  Naturally a single is going to play far faster than a foursome.

A few holes later, somewhere around the 6th green a twosome of women approached us.  They did not appear to be in any hurry as when we attempted to wave them through on the next tee, they sat in their carts talking.  On the 8th tee the course marshal stopped us before teeing off and this was the discussion.

Marshal: “Are you guys having fun?”

Me: “Yes.”

Marshal: “Well the group behind you isn’t having any fun.  And none of the groups behind them either.   I messaged you to speed up and you’re holding up the whole course behind you.  You’re 20 minutes behind.”

Me: “We started 20 minutes late.  We’re playing at a decent pace for a foursome.  We are happy to let the twosome play through behind us.  And what does ‘messaged you’ mean?”

Marshal: “I sent you a message on the cart’s GPS screen.”

Me: “We don’t have it turned on. I’m using a laser for my yardages.”

Marshal: “You need to get it moving and catch up with the group in front of you.”

Golf partner: “You mean the single?”

This whole discussion soured our entire group for the rest of the day.  The marshal’s attitude was really not pleasant.  Looking behind us, there was another twosome and a threesome behind us.  I can’t believe that the management would stack twosomes and threesomes behind a foursome and expect the foursome to be on the same pace.  We finished the front nine by 12:55, two hours and 10 minutes.  This is not bad for having two players who have never played the course and one senior player.

Had the marshal more politely said, “Would you guys mind picking up the pace a bit?” we wouldn’t have had a problem.  And we’d already offered to let the twosome play through.  That same twosome followed us the rest of the round with no complaints.  Later the drink cart lady told us that the marshal was a grouchy guy.  If I’m the owner or manager of the course, I don’t want him representing me and souring my customers.


16 responses to “Grouchy Course Marshals = Bad Customer Experience”

  1. Three Guys Golf says:

    What also drives me crazy is Marshalls who park 220 yards and stare at us teeing off or stop right at the Tee box. Geez, don’t they have somewhere else to be? They should check their pockets at the end of the day. I honestly think they spend 80% of their brain power searching for balls.

  2. Three Guys Golf says:

    oh, and the flip side of your experience is the “too friendly marshall” who because he knows who you are thinks you want to chat him up for 10 minutes every 4 holes. Dude, if I wanted to play golf with you, I would have invited you to play…

  3. John says:

    You have to name names or nothing changes. What course was it. I dont want to play a course that does not focus on, or train, marshals in customer service!

  4. Mark says:

    Well-told story, Tony. In our review of the Daytona Beach Golf club it was the starter. I know we golfers live to provide a pleasant day for the Marshalls and club staff. 😉

    There’s a question out there seldom addressed. That is the difference between keeping pace and keeping up. Asking a foursome to keep up with a single is wholly unrealistic. Finishing in 2 and 10 is admirable as a foursome and represents a good pace. If there’s two twosomes behind a foursome they should be joined up and play a few before they complain; compare apples to apples.

  5. Jim says:

    My friends and I are probably a little slower than average. My main complaint is how courses assign tee times and groups. It seems that most of my local FL courses book lots of twos behind fours, instead of pairing them up. I understand that some folks don’t want to play with strangers, but sometimes its fun to mix it up with other golfers. We always let the faster players through, but so many times it seems that we let pass wave after wave of twosomes… Then, it ultimately takes us even longer to finish ourselves!

  6. Legalbgl says:

    The key here is that you have to tell the course. The course manager needs to know that his employes are ruining the experience for their guests. Otherwise, this marshall is employee of the month and no one is the wiser. We had a bad expereince with a marshall once and one of my playing partners phoned the pro-shop from the 8th hole. The marshall saw me looking for my ball for a few minutes in the deep rough, and proceeded to tell me I was taking to long. When I told him if I dropped now I still couldn’t hit as the group ahead was still in the fairway, he started to tell me that I should not look that long for a ball. He then went to one of my playing partners and then yelled at him for standing over his ball and not hitting (again the group in front hadn’t cleared the fairway.) The head marshall had to meet us on the next tee and ended up giving us a free future round.

  7. John says:

    You know where I had a bad experience…Pebble. I was playing with my wife, that is going to slow you down. Then we had a guy couple, who were about 18’s.I was playing to about a 12 at the time. It is Pebble, and it’s not easy, and I didn’t see where we were holding up anyone all that much, because for the most part, play is about the same. No one really knows what they are doing, it’s $500 per round.
    And the marshalls… could not have been more rude. All they did was try to move everyone through the course as fast as possible. No matter if anyone was behind you or not.
    It started messing with my game. On the 13th, I let the guy have it. “Listen here, ass@#$#, I’ve paid almost a grand for this round and you’re making it miserable …BACK THE F@#$ OFF!!”
    That is pretty close to verbatim, and Well, now my wife is pissed. The guy gets all red faced, and speeds off. I played those last 6 holes in relative peace though. It really ticked me off.

  8. Wow John. Not cool to hear the Pebble story! I’m not going to name the course this time. I was given some free passes to play the course by a client. In the interest of not making a stink which might put him in an uncomfortable position, I’m keeping the name secret.. .THIS TIME.

  9. We did tell the management. This is possibly why we later saw the marshal speeding by us in the parking lot and looking away as if he was an ostrich burying his head in the sand.

  10. Yes Mark. We couldn’t believe the stacking of twosomes, which made it very tough for us to play and feel comfortable. We had twosomes breathing down our necks all day.

  11. Keb says:

    My husband and I and our couple friends who were here for a long weekend played Fuzzy Zoeller’s Covered Bridge across the river in Indiana on Friday. $75/person with a cart, which was fine and the course was quite nice. However, we were greeted by an older gentleman as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. He opened the back of our car and started pulling clubs out saying, “Which one is driver? Which one is rider?” And he’s pissed because we’re still getting out of the car and not answering as promptly as he would apparently like us to.

    When we got that straightened out and he got two bags on his cart, he said, “Go in and pay and make sure you take your receipt to the starter or you aren’t going out on the course.” Jeeze. I felt like he thought we were going to try to sneak out without paying or something. As he took off with our clubs, my husband realized he had tucked his socks in his golf bag so he couldn’t even put his shoes on before we found our cart again. I could have almost understood it if we were running late, but we were there at least a half hour early. What a bad first impression.

    We would have happily spent our $300 at another course, and it’s likely that next time we will.

  12. Dan says:

    2:10 for a foursome with no-one in front of you? Did you all shoot fifty and lose 4 balls a piece?

    R&A pace of play guidelines – “Two-ball rounds should take no more than 3 hours 10 minutes; three-balls should take no more than 3 hours 30 minutes, and four-balls no more than 3 hours 50 minutes.”

    • Thanks for the comment Dan. In case you weren’t aware, golf in the USA is generally nothing like playing in Scotland. Using R&A guidelines on resort courses in the USA like the one we were playing where there can be 1/4 mile between green and tee, is apples and oranges. And I shot 73. 🙂

  13. longiron says:

    I once filled in for a day as marshal at a pretty expensive private club and I can tell you it is a thankless job. There are members who think they should be able to play a foursome in 3 hours and some who want to take their sweet time. The club’s goal is 4:15. A lifetime member told me it has been an issue for his 25 years there. A group playing on pace will tell the marshal to “tell the jackrabbits behind us to get fk’ed, we’re on pace.” Try passing along that message.

  14. Taft says:

    Looks like this is a thread for pet peeves and here are my two big ones with regards to marshals/pace of play:
    #1 – Putting ANYONE out in front of me as I am making the turn. I understand they want to make money, but especially when I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to play and then I get stuck behind 2 guys and their wives
    #2 – The opposite of your situation where a marshal wouldn’t say anything to anyone but just cruises by you without even making eye contact when you are stacked 3 groups deep on a par 5 with 3 open holes in front of the first group.

  15. Taft you nailed #1. My home course does that all the time. They’re always squeezing nine hole players out in front of the re-rounders. #10 looks like a cart parking lot sometimes.





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