Whether you’re looking for your first league, advancing from an E-club or simply eyeing greener pastures, Colorado has 544 possibilities for you
By Susan Fornoff
Have you noticed how hard it’s been to get a prime tee-time the past couple years? The work-at-home crowd and post-pandemic newbies have packed Colorado courses to near capacity at almost any time, any day, even at private clubs!
There remains, however, one sure way to guarantee a game: join a club or a league. You’ll enjoy the benefits of a CGA membership and USGA Handicap, but you’ll also have better access to a regular tee-time without setting an alarm or surrendering your beloved Scotty Cameron putter.
“Finding a group of people you enjoy being with, both on and off the course, brings so much opportunity, joy and camaraderie to the game,” says Kate Moore, the CGA’s Director of Competitions. “It’s always fun to see when a group of women from the same club participate in CGA tournaments, you get to see matching outfits, them having bunches of fun and cheering each other on, especially at team events.”
This time of year, public course leagues and traveling clubs, for men and women, are bolstering their rosters for the 2022 season. Some, like most of the private clubs in the region, have waiting lists. But many would like to be your friend right now, or anytime throughout the season.
With 544 active clubs and leagues in the state, how can you be sure of making it a perfect match? Well, as anyone in a relationship can tell you, much depends on your idea of perfection. With that in mind, whether you’re a newbie looking for your first league, an E-clubber looking for a home club, or an avid golfer considering a change, here are a few joiner pointers.
- Know what you want.
Go ahead and write up a little profile, the way you might on one of those dating websites and be who you are. If you can’t stand rules sticklers and sandbaggers, look for a club that plays for small prizes or bragging rights, aka “FUN.” If you always play better with something on the line, look for a league with regular competitions. If you’re not a morning person, steer clear of the club with those 7 a.m. Saturday tee-times so many other players covet. And if you want to socialize after rounds, find a club where players regularly plan on a 19th hole.
“The Wellshire Men’s Club (Wellshire.com) is VERY social,” says Wellshire membership chairman Steve Rooney, with emphasis on VERY. “We have a ton of fun on the course and can be very competitive, but post-round, a player’s ability and handicap are non-topics and we just have a good time.”
- Be practical.
If your boss is going to flip when he or she finds out about your Wednesday morning golf league, look for evening or weekend play. If your significant other says, “Honey, you play quite enough golf as it is,” consider a twilight couples club. Also, know what country club managers don’t always say: If it takes longer than 30 minutes to drive to the clubhouse, you’ll need powerful motivation to stick to it. Start with the golf course nearest home and ask in the shop about their clubs and leagues.
- If you can’t stand the idea of playing the same course all the time, consider a traveling club.
“We are a club without a home and travel to a different course each week,” says Mack McCormish, president of the Front Range Golf Club (frgclub.com). “We welcome all golfers who love the game and tournament-type play, with each player playing his own ball for 18-holes.”
For women, Aurora’s Working Women’s Golf League rotates its regular Saturday or Sunday events between SpringHill, Saddle Rock, Murphy Creek, Aurora Hills and Meadow Hills, and the LPGA Amateurs Colorado schedules different courses on different days of the week. The LPGA Amateurs in Denver has weekend events and weekday league play at a variety of courses. (chapters.lpgaamateurs.com)
- Assess your game.
Saddle Rock-Murphy Creek Men’s Club (SR-MC) president Craig Stephenson says there’s a common refrain among members who don’t return the following year: “The two courses we play at Saddle Rock and Murphy Creek are a tough test of golf skills.”
SR-MC doesn’t have a minimum handicap requirement. Most men’s clubs don’t, but many women’s clubs do. This might be because nine-hole leagues are common launch pads into the game for women, not so much for men. At Wellshire, for instance, the men’s club is open to players of every level and age, but the women’s club requires an index equating to a Wellshire course handicap of 40 or less. “If the prospective member does not have an established handicap,” says membership director Ruth McIntyre, “she would provide three 18-hole scores and submit attested (witnessed) scorecards. We then determine if her scores equate to a handicap of 40.”
Man or woman, recommends Stephenson: “Look for a league where the courses you play challenge your skill level but aren’t unfair.”
Beyond handicap, there’s the question of whether you typically play by the Rules of Golf. Or at least know how to.
“Typically, players that don’t return are those that are still in the learning process,” notes Meggan Johnson, president of Aurora’s Working Women’s Golf League. “It’s somewhat stressful to play following the rules when a player is still learning.”
- Do your homework.
Kate Moore suggests when you are ready to join a local club, “when reaching out to facilities, I would ask about what time/day of the week they play, is it an 18- or 9-hole league, handicap range of the members, do they travel to other courses, have some competitive league events.”
You can go further to find out: What are the club’s handicap requirements? What are the fees, both to register and then to play events? How long and challenging are the tees the club uses? What are the facilities like?
And with a little digging you might discover how highly the Saddle Rock-Murphy Creek Men’s Club (sr-mc.com) values good manners. “We don’t screen prospective members,” says Stephenson. “They just need to be an amateur and agree to play by our Code of Conduct.”
- Set up that first date.
If you know someone in the club, ask if you might play with them as a guest sometime. Or reach out to the president or membership chair: Often leagues make provisions for new prospects to play with a member or an officer, usually in the back of the pack so that pace of play does not become an issue.
Have all your questions ready and prepare to be screened in return.
“As president, I usually get the new member inquiries, so I offer to meet to play a round,” says Kira Gagne, president of the Broken Tee Saturday Women’s Golf Club. “I also pose some questions to the prospective player: Tell me more about your golf experience? How often do you generally play? What are you hoping to gain by joining a league? Do you like playing 9- or 18- hole rounds and where?”
Of course, the tryout round can intimidate first-time joiners. Just like on a first date, you’ll want to be on your best behavior and follow the cues of your companions to secure that return invitation.
Speaking of dating, Colorado remains behind the curve when it comes to co-ed clubs and leagues. We’re still into our men’s clubs and ladies’ clubs! Trailblazers are welcome however:
You and nine other players can easily start a club or league of your own. (CLICK HERE TO START A LEAGUE).
Just remember, now you’ll be the ones arranging the tee-times.