One Day Managing a Golf Range

I consider myself a very lucky guy, not because I can break eighty on a regular basis, not because I lived to see Sergio win a major, and not because I can still remember my partner’s name.  No, the reason I’ve been able to remain relatively sane might be due to the fact that I’ve been able to escape my entire working life without working a retail job and having to deal with the public.

My professional life was spent selling to doctors and hospitals. No drama, complaining, swearing, threatening, my customers either ordered my products or not. My friends and relatives have never ending horror stories about working in retail.  I guess I can understand, because there was that one day at the golf range where I worked as an independent teaching pro when I was asked to work behind a counter. That was the day when I came to understand why our civilization teeters on the brink of Armageddon.

The range owner’s panicked call came around 7:00 one morning, exclaiming that the manager and staff were sick, could I please manage the range for the day. With great trepidation I arrived to meet with the owner so he could show me how to use the cash register and visa machine, which immediately rekindled painful memories of trying to learn calculus, a truly failed enterprise.  Before I had the chance to get everything organized, the first customer walked in around 8:30 quickly demanding two tokens for the ball machine. OK, I can do this; it’s going to be an easy day.

Following a blissful five minutes of peace with my coffee came a knock at the clubhouse door from my one customer, “The ball machine only gave me 85 balls, there’s supposed to be 90 balls”.  Oy.  He actually counted every ball and lodged the first complaint of the day. Welcome to retail. Now I had to walk out on the field and throw him 5 extra balls. (I can now include customer service rep on my resume).

Twenty minutes later came the second patron, a young mother with her son for a game of mini golf. My smile was followed by an apparent faux pas:  “Good morning, no school for the little one today?” Mom’s eyes turned into laser beams with that “none of your business” look burning me to a crisp. As if she was hiding something. Was this a kidnapped child, mini golf simply a ploy to keep him appeased and obedient?  Stomping out the door with two putters and balls in hand she returned to the shack (our clubhouse) a few minutes later, frustration leaking from her pores. “He wants a different coloured ball, gimme that red one. And I need another pencil, why don’t you have sharp pencils; you should know how to run a proper facility!” I looked at my watch, 9:15. The day had just barely begun and I was ready to murder two people. I had never hated any of my medical customers before. Was it the retail world or the retail world of golf?

The range soon became busy, and navigating the cash register was getting easier until oops, someone flashed a credit card. I stumbled and bumbled with the dreaded machine, finally apologizing profusely before asking him politely if he could pay with cash. His smile turned to semi rage as he mentioned something about collecting air miles, stormed out of the parking lot in a mad blaze of screeching tires heading for the other range up the street.

Forget him. Time to leave my duties and pick balls from the range since we were running low. The balls were supposed to have been picked the night before. Fortunately I knew how to drive the picker, but I forgot I was going to be a target for those wise guy golfers who love to aim and fire. It felt like a war zone and I feared the cheap meshing on the tractor that the range owner never wanted to replace would give way. Karma would come back to get me for the hundreds of balls I had fired upon ball pickers and their poor drivers.

Upon my return to the shack, trying to tend to the impatient panting customers waiting to buy tokens, I looked over to the hitting mats in horror and could not believe what I was seeing. A boy about ten was hitting balls on the grass tees while his father was hitting balls off the mats. The mats were roped off, which to any normal breathing human being living on planet earth meant they were closed. Just in case they didn’t get it, there were also signs posted on the mats.

Here’s the crazy part; the mats were situated directly behind the grass tees about twenty feet back at a slightly higher elevation.  You read this correctly. The father was almost directly behind his son hitting balls just to the right of his son’s head. And you might have guessed the other part, he was hitting a driver. I RAN to the guy trying to collect myself and yelled in a not so nice tone of voice, “Mister, what are you doing? Not only are the mats closed, but you’re going to kill someone, in particular, your son.” His response has, to this day made me wonder how we still exist as a species. “I’m very accurate. I’ve never hit anyone.”

At that point I wanted to take a tee, place it in his child’s mouth, tee up a ball and ask him to prove it. Instead I just relaxed, told him to hit on the grass tees only, and proceeded to call him a moron to his face as I walked away still shaken and stirred. (He subsequently complained to the owner, but that’s for another day).

As I walked back to the shack, the woman and her young son came off the mini golf still angry, and apparently upset that the boy beat her. She mumbled something about the lousy pencils and the fact that she’d never be coming back here. It was only 10:30.

I have more to tell but limited space, I suppose the point of this article is that since golf ranges are now opening up across the land, please be kind to the poor schmuck you buy balls from, they aren’t well paid and may be suffering from abuse. Whether it’s from working with the general public or the crazy golfing public is still under review. Fore!

David Goodman
David is an overgrown kid still who still believes he can play a decent game of squash and hockey when he’s not on the course or range working on his game. Long gone from the medical industry, David loves studying the social/psychological implications golf has on the lives of its participants.

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