On the Green

Gearing up for the golf season

by JERRY KONCEL

Spring has sprung!  Winter is done!  It’s time to get ready for the golf season.  Take those clubs out of the closet or basement, get those shoes cleaned and polished, make sure your clubs are free of dirt, and check your golf bag to make sure you have enough golf balls, tees, and gloves.  Take a look at your summer apparel and see if you have enough shorts and shirts to clothe you as you play more golf this year.  It’s time to gear up for the coming golf season.

If you’re like me and a thousand other golfers who have lived most of their lives in Chicago, you know that when the birds start chirping, the trees start budding and the grass starts turning green, it’s time to play golf.  And more people are playing golf than ever before because of the pandemic.  More and more people are turning to golf as their outdoor outlet for exercise and socializing.

The call to play more golf this year is far different than it was two years ago.  In April 2020, we were just in the beginning stages of the pandemic.  Little did we know how this virus would affect our world, and our ability to cure it (or at least contain it) was still in its infancy.  Today, we are seeing masks removed, and the arrival vaccines and booster shots that can’t cure the COVID-19 virus, but at least can stop the severe hospitalizations resulting from it.

What is happening on the golf front?  Well, the most obvious sight is that there are more people playing golf than ever before.  Some of these people are new to the game.  Others have only played it a few times a year and now they are eager to play golf on a weekly basis.  This means that the courses are more crowded and getting a tee time is not all that easy.

At many courses, permanent tee times on the weekends are all gobbled up.  There may be some open tee times during the summer when people go on vacation, but for the most part, all public, municipal and semi-private courses are full of golfers from the rising of the sun to its setting.

And make no mistake about it, the length of time it takes to play a round of golf is also rising.  For example, it used to take our foursome around three hours and 45 minutes to play 18 holes on courses 1 and 3 at Cog Hill.  It would take slightly more than four hours to play the Ravines or course 2.  Over the past year, those numbers seem to have increased by about 15-20 minutes on courses 1 and 3, while they have increased by 30 minutes on the Ravines.

On the positive side, Chicago is blessed with a plethora of very good public, municipal and semi-private golf courses.  Simply take a look at all the golfing opportunities you have within a 50 miles radius of downtown Chicago.  For example, who wouldn’t want to see the view of downtown Chicago from Harborside International?  Who wouldn’t want to drive to the either the golf courses in Lake Geneva, WI, on the north and west or to Michigan City, IN, on the south and east?

I want to take this opportunity to thank all those people working at local golf courses, pro shops and off course facilities for their time and effort in making golf such a great game.  For those of us who have played golf since our caddy days, we can write novels on the different ways the game has changed over the decades, but the friendly voices of the people behind the counter at pro shops welcomes us to a challenging and exciting game.

Before leaving, I should note that playing golf is getting more and more expensive.  It is not only costing more to play an average round of golf, but buying clubs, bags, shoes and apparel to play the game are also getting more expensive.  If you want to get good at the game, or at least better, you need to take lessons and practice, both of which are costing more.  But there is this reminder: don’t let the increased costs of golf get in your way of enjoying this game that you can play from age seven to77.