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Golfers get angry when cart is put before the course

Monday, August 27, 2007

Players irked when public courses ban walking.

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- A Long Island woman is boycotting her favorite course. A man in Florida has published a book and filed lawsuits to defend his rights. A former golf executive thinks the game, under these circumstances, shouldn't even be called golf.

"It ought to be called 'cart ball.' It isn't golf," said Sandy Tatum, a golf purist who once served as president of the U.S. Golf Association and won an NCAA golf championship at Stanford.

A growing number of cities and counties are mandating the use of electric or gas-powered carts, believing they are needed to speed play and therefore allow more golfers on the course.

Officials in Nassau County, on Long Island, came under fire last month when they announced that carts would be required for anyone wishing to play its premier municipal 18-hole course -- Eisenhower Red, a Robert Trent Jones-designed loop that annually hosts a PGA Champions Tour event.

It is not known how many courses around the country have similar policies. Evidence suggests it has become more of an issue in densely populated areas where people are competing for tee times.

Nassau County officials argued that Eisenhower Red is so popular that carts are necessary to keep up the pace of play. They contend that anyone who wants to walk can still use the county's two adjacent 18-hole courses at the park named in honor of one of the country's best-known presidential duffers.

Of course, the added income from golfers paying up to $29 each to rent a cart won't hurt the bottom line for the county.

"We're not doing it for the money," deputy county executive Peter Gerbasi said after the policy went into effect. "We're trying to make the course more available to more people."

Adrienne Danzig of Westbury isn't buying it.

"I love to walk," she said on a recent summer morning as she prepared to grab her pull cart from the trunk of her car. "I think golf is made for walking unless you're at a resort where you have to walk a mile to the next hole. I've played here for many years, love to walk, love the Red Course, and they have completely destroyed this option."

Rich Martorana of Massapequa said it was wrong to insist on carts, especially on a public course. He also questions whether carts have actually made for quicker rounds.

"I use carts with my friend all the time," he said. "However, you shouldn't force people on a public golf course to now take up a cart. And it doesn't speed up play. It hasn't improved anything. ... I think the county is simply making money on the deal."

Beyond the fiscal benefits for the county treasury are the physical advantages, said Brett Ostrager of Woodbury.

"Being a physician, I think it's good exercise for people to be able to walk the course," he said. "If people follow the rules of the game, I think the pace is probably the same. ... Most people that walk do know the rules of the game."

Tatum contends that charging extra for carts inhibits people from all economic classes from enjoying the game.

"One of the important problems we are trying to address is how to make golf accessible. Add that to the cost of golf and you deprive some people from coming out," Tatum said.

Dan Zurla, a retiree from Port Orange, Fla., wrote a self-published book, called, "A Civil Right: The Freedom to Walk a Public Golf Course," and has filed lawsuits with little success against the municipalities of Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach and Port Orange, which have mandatory cart policies.

He argues that his constitutional right to liberty has been infringed by policies that prevent him from walking the links. He wrote an opinion piece that appeared in Sports Illustrated last year, supporting the rights of walkers.

"Requiring golf carts changes the basic nature of the game and deprives people of their liberty to choose," he said. "Governments cannot make walking illegal on public land without a good reason."


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