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Letter to the Management of The Links at Continental Ranch - 10/14/2002

Parvenus and Putting Pigs in Clover

Piolline and I, who admittedly make up something of a motley twosome when it comes to the business of golf but are far from the worst you'll see out there, attempted to broaden the scope of our weekly game yesterday and were greatly dissatisfied with the outing. I had hoped to be over the keyboard this morning writing a glowing review of The Links at Continental Ranch - a course north of Tucson that, according to the e-brochure I happened upon, features "wide, undulating fairways which are accentuated by tall stands of native grasses, which not only give the golf course the authentic Scottish look and feel, but also help make par an achievable score."

However, since I wasted the best part of the golfing day and never got to blade one over their lush greens, I am unable to provide that service and am instead forced to whine like a five handicap litigator about shoddy treatment, misrepresentation, and dress codes. I'll reveal the details of the venture here so that others of similar ilk might be spared the misunderstanding and frustrations that await them should they choose to visit the Links. 

It all started when Piolline and I acted against our better judgment and attempted to take a break from Tucson's excellent public courses by jumping on the freeway and heading just north of the sewage treatment plant to try this course that the brochure said "has been designed to look, feel, and play like true links courses of Scotland." (Right off the bat I'll say that although we've never teed off at St. Andrews or Royal Troon, we have to seriously doubt that the experience includes belching trucks and blowing dust from an adjacent major highway and the wafting scents of human waste being treated upwind)

I had awoken early in the a.m. on that fine fall day and tended to my ablutions while waiting for Piolline to figure out which of his houses he was waking up in and navigate his way over to retrieve me as we had agreed. Instead of pacing in the driveway as I sometimes am wont to do I decided to jump online and, since it is currently the season for overseeding, check what golfing options were and weren't available. I was innocently reading about which courses had just been cut back and which were on the mend when the fate of an errant click led me to The Links website. Once there I was promised that they "offer golfers a high quality, challenging golf experience at an affordable rate."

That sounded okay to me but since "affordable rate" can be something of a relative term, I decided to investigate a little further. Eventually, I ended up looking at the following screen:

Thank you for your reservation.
We look forward to seeing you.
You are confirmed for the following tee times

Course: Links at Continental Ranch Tee Time: 10/13/2002 08:07 AM 
# Golfers: 2 
Total Reservation Fees: $0.00 
Total Greens Fees - Links Pass Online Special - $50.00 
Cancel By Time: 10/12/2002 08:07 AM 
Confirmation #: 13733924 
Fee Policies: -- Greens fees are due at time of play.

What the above information seemed to be indicating was that Piolline and I could go for a short drive in the country, take in some fresh scenery, and then hack up a new course for exactly the same price we usually pay to duff it at the old standbys. As the morning wore on and I eventually ended up having to go fetch Piolline myself and extract him from the clutches of a gaping green whale, I found that I was already half way across town and decided we might as well give The Links a try.

The scenery, as it turned out, was some of the Southwest's worst and the drive fraught with construction zones and pot holes but we eventually snaked around the A.M/P.M and gravel company to find our way up to the course. While walking in from the mostly empty parking lot, we noticed that the actual Links themselves appeared verdant and well watered. Piolline seemed impressed at the oasis-like quality of the plot commenting that only a few years ago, the acreage was occupied by an expanse of craggy, sun-baked dirt, skirted by the aforementioned sewage center, a strip mine or quarry of some sort, and Highway-One-Oh heading off to Shaky Town. I headed to the Pro Shop to settle the deal leaving Piolline unattended on the putting green.

"That'll be 105.94" announced the rosy cheeked attendant manning the register once I had given him my name.

Since I hadn't thought I would be needing it when I left the house, I had failed to print out the above reservation information and now had to assume that I had misread it somehow and the fifty dollar price was per player. Looking at my watch and realizing that it was, by now, too late to get on any of the courses back in town, I grudgingly handed over a still smoldering from Vegas credit card while muttering that I thought it had said fifty dollars for two golfers when I got the tee time.

"Nope" said the GQ staffer, "that would only be for members. Oh and Sir, it's cart path only today."

Cart path only? Why even bother to ride if you have to constantly park 100's of yards from your ball?

"I'm a member on the McGilroy account," a prune faced woman in plaid paisley shorts was announcing from behind me, "and I'll be playing with a guest, a Mrs. Eunice Cobb. We are going to play golf at eight o'clock this morning."

Ah heh. Just in front of us. An inauspicious beginning indeed.

I retrieved Piolline from the putting area and he pronounced the greens so lush and slow that they would effectively throw our games off for good when we returned to the city. Since my game isn't anything to write home about anyway and my putting in particular had been unimpressive of late, I wasn't all that worried about that aspect of the day but did notice for the first time that Piolline had eschewed his traditional and lucky Hawaiian shirt for a new looking, long-sleeved, blue number, with some sort of zig zaggy Charlie Brown design across the front.

"New shirt?" I inquired as we climbed aboard the cart and headed for the first tee.

"Why yes," beamed Piolline, appreciating that I had noticed. "It's as cottony as it is comfortable."

"I can see that." I said.

"Excuse me sir," a peach fuzzy youth in Dockers held up a traffic cop like hand and waved us to the side of the path. "Could you pull over for a second? Is that the only shirt you have with you this morning?"

"Are you saying you want me to pull off of the cart path?" I said. "I'm not falling for that one."

"That's right. Off the path. Now sir would you, by chance, have another shirt with you?"

I thought he was talking to me at first as I still wore the same over shirt with big breast pocket for cigars and chips that I'd returned from Vegas in the night before and which, as I looked down to notice now, seemed to be sporting the remnants of a sloshed B-52 or something on the shoulder. The peach however was eyeing Piolline.

"Yes it is and I'm pleased that you like it. Everybody seems to be commenting..."

"It has no collar," spake the youth.

"That's what I like about it as well," said Piolline. "You see it's in the Henley style which provides for me the comfort in a finely made garment to which I'm accustomed without sacrificing fashion or...."

"I'm afraid I can't let you on the course with no collar," blurted the youngster with all the confidence of his ilk. "If you had a shirt like his, well then you'd be fine." We all looked at my shirt together in wonderment at its preferable status. "It's a Pro Shop decision," the youth said grabbing the rail of our cart as if we might try to make a break for it. "You better go in and talk to them."

"I'm sure we can work something out," reasoned Piolline as we re-parked the cart and headed in to negotiate sartorial approval. He had been eyeing my shirt on the short ride to the club house and staring in particular at the collar which, he now pointed out, featured some lingering horseradish au jus mixture and what appeared to be mashed in cigar ash. "The idea of the rule obviously is not to keep a guy like me, wearing a new fashionable shirt, from playing, while a guy like you is given clearance but rather to keep the riff raff and their tank tops from ruining the sights and sounds.... and smells of the finer courses. What is that foul stench by the way?"

"I told you, I just got back from Vegas."

"No, it smells like fertilizer and ammonia or something."

"I think that's exactly what it is," I said, remembering the sobering trip I had once taken with an environmental biology class to the sewage plant down the road.

"Well, at least the greens are lush and the price is right."

"Uh not exactly."

Piolline may have had a bit of an edge to him when he darkened the Pro Shop doors for the first time after having learned that he was suddenly in the high rent district and was being told is so many words that he didn't belong but I didn't notice it particularly in his demeanor. He approached the desk casually, juggling the three scuffed balls he still had with him from his time on the putting green.

"We can't allow you to play in those clothes," I heard the clerk say. "But what I can do is offer you fifty percent off on one of our golf shirts." He indicated a rack that hung with what appeared to be a collection of referee jerseys intermixed with some painfully bright, sherbet colored, collared tunics so hideous to behold that I had to look twice at his freshly scrubbed face to see if he was serious. I ambled over to the rack and read a sticker that said 80 dollars. I gave Piolline the surreptitious thumbs down.

"Um, no thanks on the new camisa," said Piolline leaning towards the cashier as if he had something to ask him in confidence. "Say big fella, doesn't your site on the Internet say 25 dollars a piece? I don't think I want to pay fifty some dollars for a round until I check out how my dogs like walking these moors."

"There can't be any dogs on the course," said the cashier

A truck horn sounded in the distance. With that traffic noise and stench it seems like the perfect place for them, I thought to myself.

"And that price only applies for members," begrudged the staffer.

"And how does one become a member?"

"It's twenty five dollars."

"Exclusive," remarked Piolline.

"Are you thinking of joining?" The clerk looked as if mortification was fighting its way up from under his own collar to show itself on his face.

It was too perfect. How long does one walk around with their favorite movie lines in their head, hoping beyond hope that they'll get a chance to use them one day? The opportunity had finally come and neither of us could pull the trigger although we looked at each other and thought in silent unison - "Join? I wouldn't join this Snobbatorium. This place sucks! That's right sucks! The only reason I'm here is I'm thinking of buying the place."

I can understand that you would expect more of two Goliard editors but Piolline already owns enough crappy, over watered land on busy streets around the area and I'm not in the market either. We let the opportunity go by without comment. Maybe we're getting old.

"Well how's about you credit my buddy's Visa card the one oh five and we'll get back on that freeway out there and just head on back down to the city." Piolline offered pleasantly. "Looks like this morning is shot but maybe we'll be able to salvage the day and get on somewhere this afternoon. I think El Rio has memberships for a couple dollars. And I'm pretty sure you get a hot dog."

"Membership does have its privileges." I said.

After fifteen minutes of three pros trying to figure the refund transaction on their register, I finally had my voided voucher and stepped out into the rapidly brightening morning behind Piolline to gather our accoutrements from the cart. The red faced head pro, who I recognized from the website, came charging out after us.

"Are you going to pay for those logo balls?" he stammered.

"What?" We all looked at the smudged and scuffed white orbs in Piolline's batting gloved paw.

"Are those Links logo balls? Were you just going to walk off with them?"

I had noticed a perfect pyramid of balls on the counter presumably adorned with the courses exclusive insignia and could see it now through the window. It remained in tact.

"Yes, you see what happened was I brought these up here with me thinking I'd actually get a chance to play golf." Piolline started, taking a step towards the buffoon who had just ascertained that his dollar ninety nine cent Pinnacles had not been purloined but perhaps one Noodle, a Top Flite and a Titalist Pro-V were about to be bounced off his ruddy forehead. "But after driving all the way up here and dicking around with you people and your pompous, archaic rules for the last hour while the chances of getting on another course fall by the wayside we......" The door slammed in our faces as the pro retreated like some fat badger into his hole.

I took Piolline by his cottony blue elbow and guided him the round about way to the car before things got as ugly as some of the shirts on the sale rack.

We returned to town and played a perfectly pleasant round at Dell Urich where we learned that after eleven a.m. the price drops to fifteen dollars. I took 7.50 off Piolline who was perhaps still shaken by his brush with the nouveau riche. After collecting, I dropped him back off at his whale.

I had looked forward to playing the Links. It's wide open spaces had always looked inviting when I passed it on the Freeway heading out to the dump, or Phoenix or somewhere and since my drives seem to have an uncanny knack for finding the trunk of any nearby conifer or deciduous it seemed to present the opportunity for a lower score since there are no trees to be found anywhere on the course. On the other hand, any grass you can see from I-10 tends to look enticing and trees provide shade and make gentle whispering sounds. Besides, who gives a big lake of sewage? It's only golf.


Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved.