Just Say Nine to an expanded golf course

Essay by Ed Quillen

Tourism – March 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

The hot issue around Salida these days appears to be a land trade between the city and the state highway department that could result in an expanded golf course.

The arguments have been passionate on both sides, with opponents predicting habitat destruction, increased water pollution and similar environmental horrors. Others point to a greenbelt and guaranteed open space if the golf course doubles in size.

But they’re both missing the real point.

Before I get to that, though, I should clarify my feelings about golf. Other than the miniature variety, I’ve never played the game. Mark Twain observed that “golf is a way to ruin a good walk,” and that sounds valid to me. Over the years, I have occasionally felt a compulsion to knock balls into holes with sticks, but I’ve always been able to find a snooker table in time.

As someone who grew up with severe attitude problems which render me unemployable, I see golf as an extreme form of Babbitry or worse: Rich White Guys gathering on the greens to exchange sexist remarks, share complaints about their uppity minimum-wage chattels, and engage in conspiracies to fix prices.

But on the other hand, some of my best friends play golf. They don’t fit the stereotype at all; some have assured me that golf on a sparkling fall morning with a head full of controlled substances is an experience second only to sex — and it lasts longer, too.

They’re probably my friends because they tolerate my quixotic pursuits like reading dictionaries and keeping a ’65 Dodge on the road, and I put up with their frivolous and decadent pastimes, like snow-boarding and golf.

That said, the real issue isn’t environmental. It can’t be, because there are always environmental grounds to oppose anything from indoor plumbing to a cadmium smelter. Given the premise that “anything humans do is destructive to the environment,” the only logical conclusion is that we wicked specist humans should cease all activity, and among the activities to be halted would be public discussions of community issues.

Think of the hearing process, of the gasoline consumed by attendees and the consequent air pollution, global warming, and Gulf wars. Then there are all the xerographic copies of agendas, proposals, and evaluations — making white paper means chopping trees down and sulfur fumes, while that Xerox copier is churning out ozone and forcing more electric generation with all its effects. Continue this analysis, and it’s obvious that the whole process of modern environmental protection is, itself, a substantial threat to the environment.

So let’s blow off the environmental issue, and focus on the important matter, the cultural issue. One major argument for the bigger golf course is that it will attract more tourists (always a good thing providing that you own a way to get into their pockets) and that it might encourage more people to move here (another good thing, if they’re buying one of your low-down, easy-payment, utilities-available parcels).

We can probably assume that having 18 glorious holes, as opposed to a meager nine, will bring more people to Salida. But what kind of people will it attract?

If resort areas like Vail and Santa Fe are any indication, a world-class golf course lures precisely the sort of condescending arrogant scum — wait, let’s be politically correct here — precisely the sort of People of Money whom we moved here to avoid.

Do we really need yupscale swine who panic if they might miss a vital message from their brokers because their cellular telephones don’t work here? Does Salida’s future require us to import fashion-conscious snobs who wouldn’t be caught dead in last year’s sporting clothes? You want some more manic Type A drivers on our roads, racing from the World’s Highest Golf Course in Leadville to St. Andrews of Westcliffe with a Salida stop-over, so they can later brag on how they got in 54 holes on one summer day?

That’s the real issue. There are many resorts which cater to the well-heeled and the status-conscious with challenging golf courses. There aren’t that many places where recreation remains a diversion, a cheap change of pace, rather than a profit center.

So here’s my compromise on the golf-course issue. Go ahead and expand it to 18 holes. If our golfing friends want a better course, and they’re willing to support it, why should we stand in their way? Despite their peculiar hobby, they’re good people.

But no one will be allowed to mention that Salida has an 18-hole course. All propaganda, from chamber brochures to Summer Fun, will bemoan the sad “fact” that Salida has only a nine-hole course.

Visitors may still discover and enjoy the 18-hole course, but they won’t be People of Money who came only to golf. They’ll be people who come to ski, raft, hunt, fish, hike, explore, loaf, mooch off relatives — that is, people who come for sound traditional reasons.

Violators who breach local security by mentioning 18 holes will be beaten with nine-irons before they’re hanged from a lamp post — assuming we can find a lamp post downtown that won’t buckle in the process.

With this minor exercise in censorship, local golfers will enjoy a better course and short waits for tee times, and meanwhile, Salida won’t attract the wrong kind of people. This makes so much sense that it is no surprise whatsoever that not one of our local politicians has come forward with this ideal solution.