Being an avid golfer and a past supporter of Bennett Valley Golf Course, I was amazed that more money is being spent to hire a consulting firm to diagnose and fix problems that they did not even address.
We don't need to hire a consulting firm to find out what the problems are. If someone in a decision-making capacity with only a basic understanding of a golfer's mentality had visited any or all of the other golf courses in Sonoma County and asked a few of the golfers why they weren't playing at Bennett Valley, the answers would have been revealing, and the solution to Bennett Valley's problem inexpensive.
I actually did this at Foxtail Golf in Rohnert Park and Windsor Golf over the past 10 days. First, Iasked 10 golfers at each course if they ever played at Bennett Valley. Of the 20 golfers questioned, 17 had played there and liked the course, but they all said something to the effect of, a 5-to-6-hour round of golf is ridiculous.
In a nutshell, the problem is defined: I used to play there, but it takes too long, and you have to wait between every shot.
The last time I played at Bennett Valley was in 2012 (when there weren't many players and the parking lot was half full). I left after nine holes because it had taken three hours and 20 minutes to play that many holes. That's more than a six-hour round of golf.
I can typically play 18 holes with four people, walking the course, in less than 4 hours at every other course I play. When I complained to the course management at Bennett Valley, I was told, 'This is a public course, and we can't enforce any time restrictions.'
I've played many public courses in many states, and I have never seen a course that doesn't have golf marshals enforcing the basic rules of golf, one of which is time restrictions on players who are playing too slowly.
Want to fix the problem? Put golfers on the clock, and put marshals on the course to enforce the rule. I would be happy to play there. It is one of the most enjoyable and well-maintained golf courses in Northern California. But I don't enjoy a round of golf that requires me to wait five minutes or longer between shots.
So I won't be back, nor will any of the golfers I play with, until this problem is fixed.
And for the bean-counters, I estimate that just for my foursome, this amounts to lost revenue of more than $1,900 per year (at Bennett Valley's old rates). And that's not counting the lost revenue from other purchases such as golf balls, clothing, food and beer. Then, of course, there's the lost revenue from us not being there for the 19th hole.
In the meantime, good luck to the city of Santa Rosa with its 'bean counting' efforts. It has done nothing that will increase play at Bennett Valley. In fact, what the city has done will actually decrease play and revenue even further.
Just fix the slow play problem and we'll all be back at Bennett Valley.
<i>Ken Ruff is a Santa Rosa resident and an avid golfer.</i>