Getting a tee time at Miacomet Golf, the island’s only public 18-hole course, has been nearly impossible for most golfers this summer, that is except for a small group of people who have been given reserved, preferential tee times. The practice has been going on for years apparently, but the Land Bank, which owns and operates Miacomet Golf, just discovered it this week and was not pleased that individuals were being given preferential treatment at a public recreational facility.
“It appears that some people have a preferential arrangement that is not available to everyone else,” said Land Bank Commission chair Neil Paterson. “The board is dealing with this with a sense of urgency. It’s not transparent at all. Any misunderstanding of how the system works will be clarified with open tee sheets, so you can see who plays golf when. It’s a public golf course, and everyone should have an equal chance to play.”
The list, obtained this week by the Current, includes 15 names as well as the Westmoor Club who together control 42 standing tee times each week in which 132 individuals get to play a round. They don’t have to call or go online to try to get a tee time like the general public or even members of the course. The tee times are set in advance of the summer.
The commission will be reviewing the matter again on Sept. 14, when Land Bank executive director Jesse Bell said she intends to recommend that the practice of giving a small group of people advance, preferential tee times be discontinued immediately.
“Clearly the idea of giving preferential treatment in the form of standing tee times to a subset of users is antithetical to what the Land Bank stands for,” Bell said. “Public recreational facilities demand fair and equitable access.”
Al Costa, the general manager of Miacomet Golf, said the list of people given advance, preferential tee times has existed for at least 10 years, and began when it was far easier to get a tee time. This summer has been the biggest ever for Miacomet Golf, he said, and the demand for tee times has far outpaced their availability.
“Is it fair? Life isn’t fair,” Costa said. “There are a lot of things that aren’t fair in life. I disagree with disbanding it, but it’s a Land Bank decision, and whatever they decide, it’s their decision.”
Discontinuing the practice, Costa said, wouldn’t make it easier to get a tee time, since all those individuals on the list would simply add to the number of people seeking a tee time through the normal channels.
“We have about 180 members and non-members who know they can get one tee time per week and it was a good thing for them and the course and me,” Costa said.
How could I get on the list, I asked?
“You wouldn’t,” Costa said.
“It’s got to a breaking point where we have to do something because we have a huge supply problem and huge demand, so the question is now what do we do?” Costa added. “A lot of golfers want to play. These groups were more of just having fun, and the players changed over the years. There are people who are saying, ‘if i can’t have a group, no one should have a group.’ The problem is we don’t have enough tee times to give out to those groups. I suspect at the end of this season, those groups will be disbanded and then we have to start again.”
The arrangement was disclosed to the Land Bank Commission by the Miacomet Golf Committee, a group of 11 people led by island resident Chris Perry, which presented a series of recommendations to the commission earlier this week. One of those recommendations was: “Eliminate the practice of reserving advance, preferential tee times for ad-hoc groups and individuals.”
With record numbers of people seeking to golf at Miacomet and more than 600 names on the waiting list, Perry said now was the appropriate time to raise the issues with the Land Bank Commission.
“It’s just an attempt to streamline the tee time situation and make it more fair and equitable,” Perry said.
Miacomet Golf’s hybrid structure, in which it allows memberships even though it is a public course, adds another dynamic to the situation. There are 130 tee times for members and 130 tee times for the general public each day, and there has been immense pressure for both this summer. Miacomet Golf also sells resident cards that provide discounted fees for year-round residents to play a round, and more than 540 people have purchased those cards.
And it’s no wonder – at the course’s standard rate of $160 to play 18 holes during the season (May 28 to Sept. 30), Miacomet is one of the more expensive public courses in the state. Even so, more than 16,000 rounds have been played to date at Miacomet this year, prompting the Land Bank to consider freezing the number of members and the membership waiting list for two years.
The recommendations was another proposal from the Miacomet Golf Committee, which stated “there are currently too many members for the available number of tee times…There is no reason to allow additional sign-ups (to the wait list) at a time when the membership is already too large.”
The number of food and beverage covers for the year at Miacomet has topped 30,000, more than 200 percent above what had been budgeted, and Costa credited the new clubhouse building that opened in early 2020.
“I don’t need to tell you – you all know it – Miacomet has become an extremely popular golf course,” Costa told the commissioners. “The new building (clubhouse) is the thing that has tipped the scales. We aren’t out there beating the bushes to get customers. They’re just coming.”