How to get the best tee times

  • Article by: SCOTT GILLESPIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 7, 1997 - 11:00 PM

The Planner wakes up in a cold sweat just after dawn and stumbles toward the phone. The pressure's on. The Planner's golf buddies have entrusted him with the biggest responsibility of the week -- getting a Saturday morning tee time at the ever­popular Lush Acres.

The Planner knows that Lush Acres begins taking Saturday reservations at 6:30 Wednesday mornings, so he begins dialing the clubhouse phone at 6:29:30. No luck. The line is busy. For the next half hour, the Planner hits the redial button dozens of times before he finally connects with Tad, a chipper clubhouse employee who breaks the news: "Nothing available Saturday morning, but we can squeeze you in at 2."

The Planner declines the later spot, knowing that at least two of his partners have family obligations Saturday afternoon. "Maybe we'll play Lush Acres in late October," the Planner thinks.

A cherished tee time

Many Minnesota golfers can relate to the Planner. For most weekend players, securing a morning tee time is a challenge akin to hitting a 1­iron. It's hard to think of any business that turns down as many customers as a popular Minnesota golf course during the summer.

The morning weekend tee time is the holy grail because it allows a golfer to play 18 holes and still get home in time to enjoy other weekend activities during Minnesota's short summers, not to mention mowing the lawn and painting the garage.

Early­morning golfers find the greens in better condition and, generally, the pace of play is quicker because more experienced players are likely to hustle for early reservations. (The foursome of once­a­year hackers with a cooler full of beer typically doesn't tee off until after noon.)

Getting an early weekend tee time requires homework, persistence and sometimes a little luck. Expanding the list of courses you'll consider can help. And you might want to spend some money on a patron card or membership program that may give you an edge over the competition.

Minneapolis resident Scott Anderson plays less summer golf than he would like, in part because desirable weekend tee times are so hard to get. In addition, some of Anderson's friends have patron cards at Braemar Golf Course in Edina, where only city residents can buy the cards. Still, Anderson occassionally will drag himself out of bed to drive to Hiawatha Golf Club at 6:30 a.m. on a Wednesday to make a reservation for the following weekend.

Hiawatha, a city of Minneapolis course, requires that weekend reservations be made in person, and Anderson said it's not unusual for a line to form at 6:30 a.m.

"If you don't get the early tee time, you don't get out until 10 or 11. And by the time you're done playing, the whole day is shot and you're in the doghouse with your family," said the 38­year­old father of two.

The long drive

Unlike Anderson, many golfers are willing to traverse the metro area in search of the perfect tee time. At Baker National Golf Course in Medina -- one of the most popular Twin Cities courses -- 60 percent of those who play the course drive 25 minutes or more to get there, said Michael Turnbull, PGA head pro and course manager. And many do it every Saturday or Sunday.

For $80, golfers can buy one of 600 tee-time reservation cards sold by Baker National. This year, nearly all of the cards sold out in two days, Turnbull said.

The general public can make reservations three days in advance at Baker, which fills 75 percent of its available tee times each year. However, a tee-time cardholder gets one extra day, and for every card in your group you get another day. For example, a foursome with three cardholders can call for a tee time six days in advance.

The chances of a foursome with just one cardholder getting a prime weekend tee time are slim, Turnbull said, because many groups of cardholders stick together from year to year.

"We have a pretty loyal following," he explained.

"I wanted to create some value for this tee time card," he said. "It's a little bit cumbersome for us, because we get people calling us every day [for reservations]. But I think it creates more value for people. Just one card isn't going to get you on."

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