I’ve played hundreds of different golf courses over the years. Some of them nice, others not so much. Some of them famous, others just local munis. And yet despite the vast differences in layout and scenery (or lack thereof), these courses all have the ability to cheer you up after a poor round; provide the backdrop for you to celebrate an ace; or just continue the camaraderie indoors after your round is over.
I’m talking about, of course, that after-round watering hole…where finding the drink doesn’t involve a lost ball or two-stroke penalty: The 19th Hole. But just like the golf courses they’re attached to, not all 19th holes are created equal. Golfers want a place where there’s good beer on tap; decent bar fare; and sports (especially golf) on television.
But what makes a good 19th hole? Well, I’d say the first step is to actually have one, which believe it or not, a couple courses I’ve played failed to do. One place was actually a pretty nice 18-hole course, so I was quite surprised to find the only refreshments on premises were contained in two vending machines in the pro shop. A golf course stands to make a good amount of dough from a 19th hole, so not having one is somewhat of a poor business decision. So for all the courses out there that actually do have a 19th hole, let’s discuss what makes a good one…
Let’s talk about beer first. Courses should have a good selection on tap. After all, the 19th hole is first and foremost a bar. And while there are still many folks who love nothing more than to drain a bottle of domestic libation, increasingly people in general (golfers included) are wanting a good selection of imported or craft brew on tap. In this, many 19th holes, at least here in the U.S., fall short.
What about spirits? Again, this is a bar and someone back there needs to know how to mix a drink – especially the classics. Golf is a classic and somewhat sophisticated game – and maybe just sometimes, we golfers need to be treated as sophisticated folks. And while I’m at it, a modest selection of cigars would be a good idea too – even if we have to puff them out on the patio – which leads me to…
A patio is definitely a plus – preferably looking over the 18th green so you can heckle your pals putting-out in the group behind you. But with or without a patio, ambiance is kind of important. Golfers like to relax in a little bit of class. Too many 19th holes look like a crappy diner inside. This may not bother everyone but to me, you should put as much thought and care into the bar as you do the fairways and greens. A nice-looking 19th hole will bring in more patrons and keep them there longer.
Some 19th holes try and do too much. That’s fine if you can pull it off, but most of the time a simple tavern menu will do: A high-quality burger; tuna and/or turkey club sandwiches; a salad option; and then some appetizer-type selections (wings, cheese fries, nachos, etc.). And when golfers are sitting at the bar, have some stuff for them to snack on – the classic bar mix is great but even just pretzels will work. Folks like to munch on something when they drink – and they drink more when they eat a salty snack.
Friendliness (of both the staff and patrons)
Too many courses treat their 19th hole as an afterthought and as a result the staff does too…sadly, poor service is commonplace. But many times the staff isn’t the only problem – the regular patrons are sometimes snooty cliques that don’t like unfamiliar faces drinking their beer. Perhaps nothing feels more uncomfortable than walking into a bar where everyone looks at you like you don’t belong. Golf courses need to welcome folks to their 19th hole with open arms. Hell, all courses should advertise their 19th hole on the 17th and 18th tee-boxes.
Done right, a19th hole can be a successful bar that adds profits to a golf course. And it should offer the drinks; menu; ambiance; and hospitality people look to immerse themselves in after a round of golf. My perfect 19th hole experience would be sitting out on a patio watching golfers finishing-out on the 18th; drinking a Belgian wheat; chowing a juicy grass-fed burger on an artesian roll; and capping-it-all-off with a nice robusto cigar. But that’s just me.
How about you?