Written by Gene Oberto
30 August 2013
A few days ago my friend, Darryl, informed me that our favorite golf course, a place where he and I, along with our third, Jeff, had played scores of rounds. Yes, it was sad news to find out that Colony West Golf Course in Tamarac, Florida had closed.
We played that golf course so many times we dubbed it "The Back Yard." It was an easy choice for a tag as the Colony West executive 18 was, literally, the backyard of Jeff's house. It got so that when we would call each other to arrange a round, we would talk in a sort of code, like "The Back Yard, 2:30."
The 18-hole Championship course was 7,271 yards from the tips with a par of 71. The course was rated at 75.8 with a slope rating of 138 on Bermuda grass. Designed by Bruce Devlin/Robert Von Hagge, the Championship golf course opened in 1970.
Colony West was right in the heart of Tamarac. Tamarac was a sleepy little retirement community when Colony West was first built. The Everglades were closer to the golf course than the beach.
Today, Tamarac is a booming bedroom community with the main sports arenas for football and hockey, huge shopping centers like Sawgrass Mills and I-75 ramps connecting Naples, Miami and Palm Beach all within a few miles. Developers have been offering wheel barrows of cash to Colony West for the land for 10 years. Finally, I guess, they got an offer they couldn't refuse.
Colony West was always in excellent condition with fairways and rough cut, flowers around the course and water hazards clear of cut grass and algae. Colony West was also the home to numerous large iguanas that had escaped or been relieved of their duties as house pets.
The last time I played the Back Yard, it was hard not to notice that things had begun to change. Ownership seemed to tire of the running of the course. First, they began to push foursomes out. Wait, push is not the right word. Stuff or cram works much better. It became a home of 5 to six hour rounds with a wait on every hole. On par fives, it wasn't unusual to have three foursomes on the same hole. Then the maintenance was cut back, and the course recovered less and less each year. The once well stocked pro shop simply became a bare bones pay-your-green-fees and reload on golf balls room.
This continued over the years, and like a self fulfilling prophecy, the crowded fairways were solved as players found other courses to go and enjoy their day. No players, no green fees, layoffs, less service and your left with just a shell of what was once a thriving and enjoyable golf experience.
Now, the South Florida vegetation will take over, and Colony West will return to the acres of fica trees, Bermuda grass and razor sharp sawgrass. Sawgrass is a Cladium, the plant referred to by Marjory Stoneman Douglas', "River of Grass." How much so will depend on how soon the whichever developer's deal is finalized.
One thing that the developer cannot have will be my memories of playing with my pals on those fairways and greens. The most memorable is the time that the three of us were playing one humungohumid afternoon. As we played, the rain clouds were rolling in like they do most summer afternoons. On our 15th hole the rain began and by our approach shots on 16, it was coming down in buckets, if buckets were the size of 55 gallon drums. Man, it was pouring. The greens were flooded, and I was using a two iron to putt with. I still couldn't get near the hole.
As we moved to 17, Jeff said he had enough and went in. Darryl and I attempted to finish 17 and 18, just to say we did. Which we did, and have never failed to bring up the episode to Jeff every time we feel some precipitation.
All that is left of what was a fine golf course is our memories of the Back Yard. Another sign that the future of golf is foreboding. To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, they'll pave Colony West and put up a parking lot.
Written by Gene Oberto
27 August 2013
As if a cue was given by a floor director, the Helsingborg Open announced that the public television would be carrying the inaugural LET event live September 5-8, 2013 on SVT.
This, in itself, would be wonderful news for woman's golf in Sweden. The #1 station in Sweden has decided to carry the event in support of the women professional golfers. TV golf watchers, who are aware of the situation, know that professional women's golf is in a serious recognition dilemma, in no small part because of a lack of sponsorship and media coverage.
I wonder, though, if this action is more of a knee jerk reaction to the criticism of SVT for not covering the Solheim Cup recently, where the Swedes were instrumental in the European record breaking smack down that they laid on the American team.
In his regular blog, Tobias Bergman, editor of the Swedish golf magazine, Svensk Golf (Swedish Golf), said his mailbox was filled with views and comments on the coverage of the Solheim event.
The event was carried on the "for pay" golf channel on cable. After the public channel SVT had carried the Masters and British Open, the feeling was that SVT (or TV10) should have carried this international team event. The contest was, eventually, carried by a "free" cable channel. At the last minute, Eurosport, a sports channel available all over Europe, did pick up the coverage. While most golfing Swedes speak English, there seems to be a necessity for any golf coverage to have a Swedish speaking announcer. It's here where Eurosport's coverage received the most criticism.
From the comments on the blog, it seems that the last minute pick up was problematic with the announcing. Seemingly, unable to get an announcer who covers golf on a regular basis, Eurosport had their darts/snooker commentator do the job. To put it kindly, he was roasted and run out of town on a rail.
Unfortunately, the reason the feed from the USA is not used here in Sweden is because of the overly jingoistic slant from the American announcing teams and the fact that Sweden has no interest in the obscene amount of various American TV shows being promoted and ad spots crammed in by any US coverage on any US network.
Bergman steers clear of the criticism by saying, "I find it hard to comment when I was there (at the Solheim)." He does say that he thinks that the Ryder and Solheim Cup events should be carried because, "Personally I think the Solheim Cup (and the Ryder Cup) events should be on SVT. More than, say, the Masters at Augusta, or the other majors (Easy there, Tobias.) No (golf) format is more understandable and rarely do emotions show more clearly or are as wonderfully touching than in match play. I am pretty confident that those events would draw a lot of viewers."
He gives SVT a pass by saying that as a public channel, it must cater to all of Sweden's interests and due to budgets and schedules, something has to lose. He does lay the blame at the cable provider of the "for pay" golf channel, Viasat. He says that, "Generally speaking, it's hard to ask for something free when it comes to TV rights, because they (the rights) cost money, and I really think that it is great that we golf idiots are offered so much on a single channel that still does not cost a fortune." The channel costs about $20 a month, and shows both the European and American tours, no matter how boring the event.
Tobias does offer this criticism, "Rarely has it been clearer how women's golf is ignored, although we have seen some of the woman's Majors before. This time it was more serious and judging by the reactions I've gotten in my mailbox, I think that Viasat made an own goal by not sending the coverage to free TV."
Bergman continues, "Secondly, I believe that the mistreatment of the Solheim was the blow that leads many women golfers who are interested in watching to terminate their subscriptions to the golf channel that missed one of the year's absolute big golf stories that could have attracted people to the TV and Viasat."
Bergman's premise is correct that it shows how less woman's golf is covered, not just on TV, but in all the media. Any weekend look at the daily sports page will have full page coverage of a major men's golf event and a small write up back on the page right before the scores are listed. The monthly golf magazines (including Svensk Golf) gives most of its women's coverage over to the fashion sponsors or the instruction pages.
That being said, one must wonder why (beside the knee jerk attempt to placate a female demographic) would the very first Helsingborg Open want any TV coverage? Isn't one of the important factors in whether a golf event survives, increasing sponsorship to increase purses is a need for attendance?
Certainly, the Helsingborg Open will receive coverage, but it seems that fans from Stockholm, Northern Sweden, Gothenburg and Denmark are saying to themselves why travel all that way and spend all that money on lodging, food and entry when I can suck on a beer and munch chips in front of the flat screen and watch it here at home? Is it possible that the Swedish Golf Federation and SVT are seemingly cutting off the nose to spite the face.
Quickly showing a local event will still not solve the problem of covering women's golf in the media. It would seem to me that if the SGF is serious about drawing women to golf, there are a lot more places to start the quest. After all, you have two years to find a solution for the next Solheim Cup
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Blogs We Like
Aussie Golfer - #1 Golf Blog Down Under
Chapeau Noir Golf - for golf's sartorial splendid
Der Exilgolfer - Golf in Schweden - Reports on Swedish golf - with a German slant.
Dogs That Chase Cars - Irreverant and satirical take on golf
foundgolf.com - "…a golfer’s guide to the internet."
Golf Course of Rhymes - A delightful, if quirky, look at golf through the ages in poetry.
Golf Girl's Diary - "The fun, flirty, fashionable golf blog" which is everything SGO is not.
Golfer In Kilt - Swedish ex-pat playing golf in Texas
Randall Mell - writes features and opinion stories on golf's professional tours for Golf Channel.com.
Scheffler's Golf Kolumne - Wolfgang SchefflerFrankfort 's Frankfurter Allegemeine
The Waggle Room - "Your best source for Golf news, analysis, rumors and opinion from the fan perspective."
Why 18 Holes? - website on not setting arbitrary number of holes