Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Queuing to tee up at the Bethpage State Park Black Course

The USGA 2009 US Open golf tournament begins tomorrow, June 18. The host golf course is the Bethpage State Park Black Course. You have to be pretty skilled to qualify ("Entries are open to professional golfers and amateur golfers with an up-to-date men’s Handicap Index® not exceeding 1.4 under the USGA Handicap System™. ")

But if you just want the experience of playing on the same course as the top pros, the Black is a public golf course. You could just sign up for a tee time. Or could you? It turns out not to be quite so easy.

Just as markets can unravel, so can queues. A reliable symptom is people waiting on line overnight, especially if they have to wait for more than one night. Getting a tee time at this particular famous public (i.e. not rationed by price) golf course on Long Island seems to qualify: Parking All Night at Bethpage, Hoping to Drive. Note the well developed rules for regulating the queue, which include a rule meant to prevent the substitution of capital for leisure.

"Bethpage has five public golf courses: Black, Red, Blue, Yellow and Green. But the bulk of tee times for the courses, particularly the famed Black, can be hard to get through the phone-reservation system, which has 70,000 registered users. At least one company floods the system each night with hired callers, then resells the times as part of golf packages.
Yet there is one way to ensure a time at Bethpage Black, a major-championship course with $50 fees during the week, $60 on weekends, and double that for non-New Yorkers: get to the parking lot and spend a night. Maybe two. Maybe more."
"A sign there explains the complex rules of the “Walk Up Car Line.” Most important is that someone must be at the car for part of every hour. For the Envoy, on this Saturday afternoon, that person was Steve Atieh, 25, from Basking Ridge, N.J., who planned to play the Black course with two brothers and a friend.
They teed off 39 hours after arriving, about 11 hours after their car battery died while the radio broadcast a Yankees game."
"Steve Tomasheski was sitting in space No. 3 when someone offered $1,000 for it. He declined, afraid to disappoint his playing partners. Please do not tell his wife."
"At 7 p.m., Michael Azzue, an assistant supervisor at Bethpage, arrived in a cart. “Who’s No. 1?” he said, shouting. Azzue attached a plastic bracelet around Atieh’s wrist. At least one person from every car must be present when a supervisor arrives between 6 and 9 p.m. That person must be one of the golfers the next morning, to prevent hiring a nongolfer to do the waiting, which used to happen."

Apparently it is repugnant to pay someone to wait in line for you, although the story suggests that there is some demand for this, and people who arrive a little late (and before the monitoring kicks in) sometimes buy places from early arrivals.

Endnote: "Success has many fathers...", here's a story on a dispute about who really deserves the credit for designing the course. (Credit is a subject worth a discussion in its own right. In my experience, success in complex design projects often does have many fathers, with lots of people contributing in critical ways.)

No comments: