Tis the golf deal season

It’s 29 degrees outside (optimistically) and the greens, at least at Ocean View Golf Course, are covered with tarps.

Perfect conditions to be thinking about golf deals. Here are a couple that showed up today:

The Winter Player Pass at Riverfront Golf Course in Suffolk. It’s good through March 31 (anytime weekdays, after noon weekends and holidays). For $99, you get four rounds, cart included. 25 bucks around is not a bad deal at Riverfront (or a lot of other courses). Buy the pass at the clubhouse, or call 757-484-200. You can also request one by emailing newsompga@gmail.com.

Play ProV1s? Click here to get a dozen personalized and delivered from The Golf Warehouse for $39.99. Buy three and you qualify for free shipping. Offer ends this week, they say.


Boxing Day: As good as it gets (this week) at Ocean View

Today’s scary weather headline: Will 2017 end with a snowstorm?

Clouds over the first tee.

The answer seems to be, well, maybe. So if the low 40s are the best we’re going to see this week, we thought, might as well take advantage of the sunshine! And so Nuther-Duffer found himself at Ocean View Golf Course here on Boxing Day 2017 — with none of the usual “& Co.” who were at home warming themselves in front of the microwave.

The cheap membership effect was in evidence: When Nuther-Duffer called to ask if there was room for a single, expecting to be told as he has been so often in the past “Sure, come on out,” he was told instead, “I can add you to a twosome at 1:04.”

The good news about 1:04: That’s about the time the high temperature was going to arrive. But with sunset around 4:30, it was going to chill off in a hurry and perhaps get too dark to continue after about 15 holes.

Nice day when the wind’s at your back.

The good news about the chill: It apparently kept a lot of people home who had made tee times. Cuz the course was pretty much wide open, for a change, and Nuther-Duffer and the twosome covered 18 holes in three and a half hours — beating the darkness by a good 20 minutes.

The course itself seems to be holding up well to the weird fluctuations in temperature and to the increased number of rounds being played. It’s all brown, of course, but the fairways were tidy and the greens were in decent shape, especially for the day after Christmas when (presumably) the grounds crew got a day off.

The Ocean View bunkers, on the other hand, are still, well, the Ocean View bunkers. The best you can hope for these days is about half an inch of sand on top of the clay lining. Your wedge is going to ricochet off the clay and your ball is going to end up on the far side of the green.

Long shadows at the end of the round.

Today’s tip: If your ball’s in a Ocean View bunker, play it like it’s sitting on hardpan and try to pick it clean.

But OV is still OV — cozy and close and comfortable and a bit like the bar on “Cheers” — when you want to go where everybody knows your name.

The thieves were in the palace!

The thieves were in the palace on Sunday.

At least that’s what it always feels like when, thanks to the magic of Groupon or Living Social, Nuther-Duffer and friends manage to cross the great divide between players of city-owned public courses and the upper crusty players (if not necessarily the better golfy players) of the area’s private country clubs.

This week’s trip to the other side took us to Elizabeth Manor Golf and Country Club in Portsmouth, where the club and the surrounding working-class neighborhood are divided by a long driveway and the letters EMGCC writ large in evergreen topiary. We didn’t notice a members-only sign, but the policy became pretty clear when we got to the parking lot and the first car we passed was a Maserati.

(Which was parked next to a Lexus, which was parked next to — this is true — a Kia. Which suggested one of two things — either we weren’t the only fence-jumpers that day, or members and employees share a parking lot. Your guess?)

First, let’s address the obvious question: There’s a private country club in Portsmouth?

Yes, there is, and the explanation is that it’s been there a long time.

The EMGCC was organized in 1948 and the par-70 golf course opened in 1951.  It’s been the home of the Eastern Amateur Golf Tournament since 1957 (former winners include Curtis Strange and Ben Crenshaw). Among the founding members was Clarence “Ace” Parker, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, as well as a professional caliber baseball player and golfer. In fact, the club’s address is on Ace Parker Drive and word is he lived for years in one of the really quite modest homes along the 15th fairway. 

So the place is steeped in local history and what it lacks in shiny new facilities it makes up for in comfortable charm.

The EMGCC pro shop is an unassuming little affair in a building separate from the main country club facility. The staff was friendly and helpful and not at all dismissive of we couponers, for which we were grateful.

The course — even well into December and on a day that started with a three-hour frost delay — was in terrific shape. It certainly looked like someone had been out mowing and trimming that morning, even while the frost was still on the ground.

Nuther-Duffer isn’t quite sure what to make of the layout. Elizabeth Manor isn’t a strikingly beautiful golf course, but it is consistently pleasant. It has an open feel to it, but is fitted into a fairly small plot of land — it’s not unusual for the walk from one green to the next tee to be no more than a few steps. (So you do need to be comfortable with the sound of golf balls landing nearby while you’re playing, trusting that the folks behind you are, well, better than you.)

It’s a great course for walkers — hardly a hill to be found. In fact, other than the boomerang-shaped 15th, there aren’t many holes that you would think of as doglegs. Still, and we’re not quite sure how this happens, it’s a delightfully maddening golf course. It looks like it should be as easy to play as Ocean View, Nuther-Duffer’s home muni and comfort zone. Yet somehow Sunday’s 93 at Elizabeth Manor seemed every bit as satisfying as last week’s 86 at OV. (A rare chip-in birdie may have contributed to that feeling.)

Nuther-Duffer and Co. are hoping that the good folks at Elizabeth Manor continue their Groupon offer — $195 for a foursome (that you can trim down by 20 percent or more on those special-offer Groupon days). The coupon is good for 120 days from the time of purchase, and you can buy one a month. 

That’s a hard-to-beat offer. And if no one’s looking, you can get one of your buddies to snap a picture of you with the Maserati.

The worst best deal in golf?

How could you say no to a deal like this? For $300, you get unlimited golf seven days a week (no charge if you walk; cart rental only if you ride) at five South Hampton Roads golf courses — Ocean View, Kempsville Greens, Bow Creek, Lambert’s Point and Red Wing Lake.

OK, you have to pay $25 to play Red Wing, but that’s a pretty good discount at a very nice course.

The other courses? Lambert’s Point is a great practice facility, but its nine-hole course is one of the most challenging layouts in the area … at least for those of us who struggle to hit the ball straight. Miss one of those narrow fairways and you don’t have to bother looking for your golf ball. It’s probably never going to be in high demand.

Neither is Bow Creek, but for other reasons (no disrespect).

So aside from Red Wing, you have the quirky Kempsville Greens and the wide-open, welcoming Ocean View, which is in the best shape it has been in for years under the new management of longtime Bide-A-Wee pro Andy Giles.

And there’s the problem. Lots and lots of golfers, many of them brand new to the game, flocking primarily to two courses. At Ocean View, where Nuther-Duffer has been a proud member for 10 years or so, the course is elbow-to-elbow, all day, every day. Prior to the new deal, on many weekdays you could check in at the clubhouse, head straight to the first tee and get in 18 holes in less than three hours.

On one recent Monday, with the temperature at a brisk 45 degrees, Nuther-Duffer was lucky to find an opening in the lineup and then faced a wait on almost every tee. Teed off at 11:30 and felt lucky to get a full round in before dark.

Weekends? One pair of regulars mentioned that they’d recently played a round that took eight hours.

And it isn’t just the players who are feeling some pain. Realistically, if you’re going to sell memberships at $100 a year, you are counting on making all of your money on cart rentals, equipment sales and concessions. The bad news, according to many of the starters, is that all of those new members are walking. That’s great for community health, bad for the future of these five golf courses.

Those new folks also tend to bring their own sandwiches and buy their balls at WalMart.

Nuther-Duffer hopes this works out for everyone involved. But he has his doubts.

Stay tuned.