The Nantucket Land Bank Commission voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to immediately end the practice of standing, preferential tee times for groups of players at its Miacomet Golf Course.
More than one hundred people joined the virtual Zoom meeting yesterday to discuss what Land Bank chair Neil Paterson called an “emotional” issue that had prompted dozens of golfers and community members to send emails, texts, letters and phone calls to the commission.
“Today is about fairness and creating a level playing field,” Paterson said of the vote to eliminate the practice of granting preferential tee times to groups that included both local and seasonal residents. “The perception that some people have an ‘in’ has to end. Twelve years ago we were desperate to get people to play golf. Life has changed.”
Bob Monahan, a longtime member of one of the groups, said yesterday that “ the people who are considered to have gotten preferential treatment want to do what’s best for the course. These are people who respect rules and protocols and look forward to helping the Land Bank find solutions to accommodate the growth and popularity of Miacomet.”
The practice of granting reserved preferential tee times for groups began more than a decade ago when there was virtually no competition for tee times, and Miacomet Golf could easily accommodate groups that wanted to play together and leagues with standing tee times. The practice was encouraged and embraced by the club.
But as Miacomet grew in popularity over the years and experienced the boom in interest during the pandemic that golf courses across the country have reported, the demand and competition for tee times surged. With golfers – both members of Miacomet Golf and those among the public – increasingly frustrated by the difficulty of reserving a coveted tee time, the practice of granting reserved, preferential tee times to select groups came under a spotlight over the past week.
“When this started 10 or 15 years ago during the months of July and August it was difficult for people to get four tee times close to one another, and that’s why these groups started,” said Miacomet Golf Course manager Al Costa. “Today we’re in a completely different situation.”
“I apologize for the fact that we weren’t more proactive in seeing this coming, but it came on like a huge wave,” Costa said. “We didn’t want to disband the groups and leagues because it accomplished getting more players on the golf course…But I see it. I see the unfair portion of this. Not everyone can have a group, so maybe no one should have one.”
The Land Bank released the list of individuals and organizations that have been given preferential tee times last week. Many of the people on that list spoke out during yesterday’s meeting to emphasize the evolution of the situation from one that was accepted and embraced, to something that was being scrutinized due to the demand for tee times. They said it was not something that should be considered underhanded.
“We didn’t go around the back door to get our tee times or do something nefarious,” said Debbie Lewis. “I feel like the names on that list are being vilified and it’s not right. We’ve supported the golf course in many ways and we have a women’s clinic.”
Jim Marinelli, another golfer on the list of those with preferential tee times, said the situation was the result of booming interest in golf during the pandemic – an outdoor game with built-in distancing – as tee times that were once undesirable were now in high demand.
Marinelli’s group with a standing tee time started 15 years ago “at a time the pro shop was anxious to get groups, and the time they picked for us was Tuesdays at 1:10 p.m. because it was thought at the time to be the least desirable time for anyone at Miacomet. It interfered with nothing. They wanted us to take it and for 13 years no one paid attention to us. We were there to have fun. We of course were willing to compromise with Miacomet and willing to bend for the Land Bank had they just asked us, but instead they slapped us in the face.”
“We were being construed like some elite group but that’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Marinelli added. “Our group takes anyone who asks to join. We should have treated this issue as one island – the locals, the seasonal people, the Land Bank, and (Miacomet Golf manager) Al Costa. They let the stress build up for a year-and-a-half. I don’t envy the Land Bank because it’s a valid issue, but it should have been done in a thoughtful way.”
A potential solution to the surging demand at Miacomet – the possibility of utilizing Land Bank funds and property assets to add another nine or 18 holes – was briefly touched upon during yesterday’s meeting.
“The real issue here is the demand,” said Robert Grinberg. “We need to look at building another nine or 18 holes on the island.”
Paterson, the Land Bank chair, said there would likely be challenges associated with adding holes at Miacomet, but there have been discussions about potentially expanding the nine-hole Old Sconset Golf Course off Milestone Road that is also owned by the Land Bank.