Customer Disservice at Sugarloaf Mountain

| August 18, 2010 | 20 Comments

Sugarloaf MountainOver the weekend a friend and I decided to play golf out of town in the Orlando area, as I often do in the summer when the rates are low. Summer in Florida is very hot and humid as you might imagine, but this summer has been especially hot and miserable in Central Florida. Every morning I look outside and the thermometer over my garage door registers 95 to 100. In the shade. With temperatures in the mid nineties every day and the hot sun bearing down on you, it can get pretty uncomfortable. It’s imperative that you wear sunscreen and drink plenty of fluids to avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration.

With that in mind, I often bring a few bottles of Gatorade to the golf course with me in case there isn’t a beverage cart or adequate drinking water on the course. It’s hard to imaging that a golf course in central Florida wouldn’t have a beverage cart in operation during a hot summer day, but it happens. In many cases the snack bar will let you borrow a cooler to store your drinks and keep them cool, and some facilities even have coolers on the golf cart. Believe me, courses with coolers on the carts get bumped right to the top of my play list in the summer!

On Sunday, my friend and I drove the 75 minutes or so to Minneola, Florida to play a Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore design called Sugarloaf Mountain. This highly acclaimed design was voted as one of the best new private courses in the USA by Golf magazine in 2008 before the downturn in the housing market decimated their real estate sales and they were forced to open to public play. The club is now managed by Hampton Golf. Carved out of the rolling hills and featuring elevation changes up to 250 feet, it’s a nice departure from the typical flat Florida golf, and always a treat to play. I’m not a negative person. I don’t like to bash anyone or anything, and this website wasn’t created as a forum to air my grievances, but our experience Sunday with the staff left me very disappointed and I feel compelled to share the story.


We arrived at Sugarloaf Mountain golf club and checked in. We went out to the range to get warmed up and hit some chips and putts before the round. At that point, about 30 minutes before our tee time I went inside to get some ice for my drink. I asked the attendant if there would be a beverage cart on the course, and he said no. In absence of a beverage cart, I asked him if we could get a cooler to keep our drinks cool. This is when things started getting strange. Rather than tell me yes or no, he asked me why I wanted a cooler. I was caught off guard by this question, since he had just informed me that the beverage cart was not in operation that day, the sun was out and I’m sure he knew that it was blazing hot outside. I told him we brought a few extra drinks and wanted to keep them cold for the 2 hours or so that we would be on the front nine in the heat. He then started to explain the unfortunate policy that far too many golf clubs are putting into practice – that in order to get a cooler we would have to purchase drinks from them. I understand the course is in business to make money, and because I brought my own drinks they would lose out on that precious two or three dollars that we would have spent buying drinks. (Yes, I’m being slightly sarcastic.) This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this policy and I didn’t protest.

I went back out to ask my friend if he wanted to see about getting that cooler and I explained the situation to him. He intended to buy a drink anyway, so I agreed to buy a Gatorade as well. We went inside and asked the attendant for a Gatorade and a Diet Pepsi, and he proceeded to get them. Then my friend asked if we could get a cooler for those, and again the guy said “Why do you need a cooler? I can just give you cups of ice with your drinks.” We went back and forth with him a few times in a not so cordial manner and finally left without a cooler, or our cool. It was obvious to me at this point that the pro shop employee knew we brought some extra beverages (I told him honestly), and he was hell-bent on not giving us a cooler for fear of losing out on a few bucks in sales.

What this brilliant individual didn’t seem to understand was that we were going to buy drinks anyway, and probably buy more at the turn, even if we brought our own. It’s damn hot in Florida, and it’s not uncommon for me to drink four to six bottles of fluids in 18 holes. The man in the pro shop could have taken the high road and sold us some drinks, given us a cooler and everyone would have been happy, but instead he chose to be confrontational and rude and refuse to give us a cooler over a few measly dollars. It’s not my problem that the beverage cart person didn’t show up for work on a Sunday, and I can’t control the weather. It is these reasons why I always bring extra drinks, just in case. I’ve had heat exhaustion and dehydration – It’s not fun.

This employee doesn’t get it, and someone needs to have a talk with him about basic customer service. It wasn’t about the drinks, or the few dollars that they cost. It was all about his attitude towards us after I told him we had our own drinks and wanted some ice to keep them cool. He used an analogy to explain his position, which he barked at me: “It’s like bringing your own steak to a steakhouse!” I’m sorry, but that’s pretty lame. You can call me a douche-bag all you want for bringing a few extra drinks, but Sugarloaf Mountain Golf and Town Club sells golf and golf memberships, and they rent golf carts to play the course. Those are the major sources of profit in golf operations. If they really depend on the revenue from selling $3 Gatorades to stay in the black every month, I suspect they are in big trouble. In fact, I have unconfirmed reports that Crescent Resources (that owns many courses managed by Hampton Golf) and Landmar – the developer of Sugarloaf (and other Hampton properties), are both in bankruptcy court. Landmar also happens to be a subsidiary of Crescent Resources. Hmmm. Besides, it’s more like bringing your own wine to a steakhouse, and many steakhouses encourage that! They understand that they may lose out on selling wine, but they’ll make more in the long run because people really go there for the steak!

Because of one employee’s bad attitude, Sugarloaf Mountain have lost me and several of my friends as loyal customers and Hampton ExecGolf Card members. Hampton Golf manages several fine golf properties, and I have never had any issues until this incident. I have always enjoyed playing on their courses and the staff have always been professional and friendly until Sunday at Sugarloaf. The bottom line is the kind of treatment we got from this pro shop employee was very disappointing, and in this case because of the extreme conditions outside it could have been downright dangerous. I hope the course takes action to remedy this situation, and I invite any representatives of Hampton Golf to comment below. If you have had a similar experience at any one of Hampton’s golf facilities, I would encourage you to let them know about it at: (904) 564-9129


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Comments (20)

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  1. Dave Foley says:

    I have to say that I am not sure I agree with what you had transpire. Almost every course I know has a policy against food and drink from outside and you were trying to skirt the rules and wanted to bring your own drinks.

    Sure you bought one, but the only reason you wanted to use the cooler was for other drinks which is against their policy. Otherwise, I mean lets be honest, who needs a cooler for two gatorades.

    Sure the attitude may have stunk, but it all centers around the other side of things, which is the customer always feels they are right…Except when they aren’t like in this case. If you were not trying to break the rules and bring in drinks from the outside rather than support the course, none of this would have ever come up.

    Customer service is no where like what it used to be, we know that. But this to me sounds a little like a guy in the “media” ranting because he did not get his way when it came to bringing in free drinks. I’m sure you see it differently since you wrote the blog piece to get even. But its just my opinion as an outsider. I don’t work there, but do work at a golf course.

  2. John Duval says:

    Thanks for your comment Dave. Like I said – it wasn’t about the drinks because I would have bought some anyway, but the guys attitude. I’ve worked at golf courses and if he had taken a minute to explain that he’s not allowed to give out a cooler unless “X” amount of drinks are purchased, I would have understood. Instead he was confrontational and unprofessional, and it caused a scene.

    It’s also true that I’m using my status as a blogger to “vent”, because I have a right as a consumer and a duty as a blogger to point out bad service when I get it. I don’t write many negative posts – in fact I think this is my first – but I feel that some in the golf industry are in need of a wake up call when it comes to what’s important to customers.

  3. Bill Hackett says:

    I too enjoy the lower rates in the summer. It seems to me that you caused the confrontation with the individual who explained the policy to you. I feel you thought you were above the club policy that was being enforced. Whether you were honest or not the policy is what it is. I too like to bring a cooler but if I’m told no outside drinks or food then I’ll support the club within their frame work. I’m sure Sugarloaf is not going to miss you, because it’s a business and they’re there to make money like every other business. People like you want Augusta National conditions but only want to pay the cheapest rate you can. Courses can’t operate that way. I say this because you stated that clubs with coolers on their carts are on the top of your list. Well that tells me you could care less about anything they have to offer as long as you can sneak want you brought onto the course. That’s not supporting the facility and that’s what they need. Whether it’s one dollar or twenty dollars, the coures need all the help they can get to maintain their playing conditions.

  4. Mike Steward says:

    Dave & Bill,
    I agree with you guys 100%. Sorry John, I respect your opinion, but to quote one of the other commenters, if you were not trying to sneak drinks in and break the rules, none of this would have happened.

    You can use the “danger” thing if you want to, but again, the club offered to sell you drinks and I have played the course and there is water all over the place if you choose not to buy any. Instead, you wanted to bring in a cooler and drinks that you purchased ahead of time.

    And to top it off, you tried to dupe them again when you bought 2 drinks and then figured you could fill your cooler up with your own stuff and everything would be okay. It sounds as if you wanted their ice too.

    This will be my last time visiting this blog, because its apparent what is going on here. You want the company to see this, chime in, tell you that you are right because “the customer is always right” and give you something.

  5. John Duval says:

    Mike,
    Thanks for your comment. I guess I didn’t get my point across as well as I thought. I’m not asking for anything for free from Sugarloaf Mountain or Hampton Golf. My friend and I brought two 20oz bottles of Gatorade with us (one each) that we never got around to drinking on the way over. It’s not like we were trying to “sneak” a personal cooler full of drinks past the club, and we didn’t try to dupe anyone. In fact I told the guy in the pro shop that I had them when asking for the ice, and later when attempting to buy more drinks from him. I didn’t think I was being unreasonable considering there wasn’t a beverage cart on the course. I also said that the issue didn’t really come down to the policy on coolers or bringing our own drinks, but the way the employee handled the situation. He could have explained the policy clearly and we would have been fine, but he took a sarcastic and condescending tone, and that’s what we had issue with.

  6. Wow this is a more intense discussion than bunkergate.

    I too bring “emergency” provisions. I remember playing in the Nevada desert when it was 115. NO beverage cart. Fortunately though they had water ever 3-4 holes. I actually bring gatorade mix with me. So if I’m in need of hydration, like playing for a couple a few hours in 115 degree heat, I can make my own sports drinks…

  7. Jason says:

    The issue here is the unknown. You want a cooler when you bought no drinks or 2 drinks or whatever. The staff or guy in the shop thinks you have a bottle of crown or a 12 pack of beer in you bag………think about it. If you were at my course I would be thinking that you were trying to bring in your own alcohol not your own sports drinks. A pretty big revenue source for golf courses is the F and B operation especially when the rates are cheap. As a former Head Golf Professional at a Resort we paid 57 cents for a beer which we then charged 4 bucks for…….huge profit margin. Mellow out Bro and stop using you blog for a place to vent your frustrations.

  8. Dave Foley says:

    Sorry, but that doesn’t fly with your post. You really mean to tell me that you needed a cooler and ice from an establishment for 2 bottles of gatorade? They offered you ice for the bottle you purchased and I am sure would have gladly given you another cup of ice.

    Let me start with this. Your post says it could be potentially dangerous and you had to have your fluids. And that you even bought one from them, but needed an entire cooler for the ONE Gatorade you brought with you? I dont buy it, sorry. And you said in your post that you were NOT planning on buying one from them when you said this “He intended to buy a drink anyway, so I agreed to buy a Gatorade as well.”

    You had no plans of purchasing a drink from them until your friend bought one. And sorry, nobody is buying that you needed a cooler for your 1 drink that you brought with you.

    And you can say it only matters about the way he handled it, and I will once again say that nobody would be in the situation if you were not trying to break the rules and in my opinion from the tone in this post, I would agree with the employee. The fact that you just dont see that you were in the wrong and Im sure condescending in your attitude.

  9. Lisa Taylor says:

    WOW! You guys must not have read what I just did because I thought it was pretty clear that John was posting about the service, NOT the rule. Even if he did break the rules and that is what caused the bad service, this guy was wrong in the way he handled it. Had John walked in and bought a few drinks and then asked for the cooler, I think he would have still reacted the same. Seems to me that he just did not want to do it and that was that. It would have been much better to just give him the purchased drinks and let him have the cooler. I have had to deal with people cursing in my face and remain professional and I have done that without an attitude, as this guy should have done even if the rule was being broken (which it wasnt since they bought drinks). I think he had a ‘I am gonna show this rich guy a thing or two’ attitude and that was that. Bad day does NOT equal bad service…no matter what.

    This is John’s blog; a web log of ones thoughts, activities, opinions and concerns; therefore he blogged about what had happened which is perfectly logical to me. I did not see anything leading me to believe that he wants a free anything…just venting in my opinion.

  10. Steve Heroux says:

    Lisa, you beat me to my thoughts. Like you, I did not think John’s blog was about the rule, but about the service. These previous comments are ill-advised with the way they took his blog in my opinion. Some good points were made, but to me….the guy in the pro shop didn’t handle it the way he should have to keep a customer happy. Sometimes, you have to maybe “tweak” the rules a little bit to keep a customer happy and if I were in his shoes, I would have done that by giving him the cooler. For crying out loud, it’s not like there’s gonna be a million people asking for a cooler like that. John’s business (and his friends) should have been thought of here and this employee did not act in the best interest of the golf course management here. This course will now lose hundreds of dollars now over having a little problem about a guy just wanting a cooler and a little ice. John, don’t know who you are but “right on” brother – I’m with ya on this one.

  11. Ryan says:

    Hi to all,

    First of all I want to explain I was walking in the clubhouse after finishing up my round of golf when these two gentleman were in the pro shop. I am no way related to Sugarloaf… only enjoy the great golf you receive on a high end championship golf course for Casselberry golf club rates. Since the rates have dropped at Sugarloaf Mtn we have started to play here pretty much every week or every other week. I frequent golf courses such as Shingle creek, Eagle Creek, Harmony Golf Preserve, Metrowest, etc. The quality of the course you get at Sugarloaf for the price is unprecedented in my opinion and they are giving it to us at cut throat prices. I walked into the pro shop too see these two gentleman in the pro shop. One man was asking the pro shop attendant for a “bucket of ice” or a “cooler with ice” as their would be no cart girl. You have to understand in my opinion there is no reason to bring your own drinks on a golf course in the first place. You are not allowed to bring your own drinks to disney, universal, movie theatres, Bars, etc. These are establishments which make money on concessions and it is a rule by most golf courses to uphold this as they are here to make money. It is hard enough to make money at 25.00 a person when everyone is asking for free ice and bringing their own drinks. Figure 100 players a day bringing two free drinks- 2.50 a drink x2= 5.00- club makes a 50% profit 2.50 a person times 100- 250 dollars in a day they have lost! lets say just on the weekend you lose 500 dollars a week- 2000 dollars a month! A big deal and then they can’t afford to give you golf at 25.00 and it goes up.

    Now to get back to the pro shop. The pro shop attendant proceeded to look a little skeptical(which I would as it is club policy not to allow outside drinks) and proceeds to ask them what they want with the bucket of ice. Beers, soda, gatorade, etc.)The one guy says initially he does not want to buy anything… just the bucket of ice. So the pro shop attendant says he will not give him a bucket of ice but he will give him a glass of ice. The guy is not happy with getting a cup of ice(for his so called gatorade) He needs a bucket of ice! Why do you need a bucket of ice unless you brought your own drinks? The guy then mumbles he will get a few drinks which I could not understand. The pro shop attendant comes out of the back and asks again because he obviously did not hear them. One of the guys gets so flustered he storms out and is almost yelling “Forget it! I don’t want anything now! In a great pissed tone and the other gentleman leaves and yells at the pro shop attendant ” you just want us to die out there of heat exhaustion! ” and leaves with no drinks! If you are going to die of heat exhaustion what is better… to buy drinks for a measly bit of money or storm out with no drinks and start golfing? I choose buying drinks! He was well aware there was no cart girl before he started the round as stated by the pro shop attendant and was not willing to purchase the drinks at a cost because he wanted a free bucket of ice for his drinks from home. When the gentleman did not get what he wanted he left. Not willing to buy drinks because they would cost him and his party money. My golfing partner was outside at this time in the golf cart when he walked out and his friends asked ” did you get the stuff for mixing?” which in my personal opinion they were mixing their own alcoholic beverages and thus not looking to purchase anything from the golf course. If you are “mixing drinks” you are not worried about dehydration as you are drinking alcohol which is a diuretic in the first place. The pro shop guy did say its like getting free steak in a steakhouse which was a bad analogy but it is what it is. If you want to bring your own drinks bring your own ice. Point blank. The bring your own wine to a steakhouse analogy is true. Some steakhouses are desperate and let you bring your own wine. But they charge you a 10-30 dollar corking fee as I have called a proprietor I know at Ruth Chris and this is the norm. So if you want to bring your own drinks ask them if they would charge you an icing fee of 7.00 or so which would allow them to make some money and allow you to enjoy your special source of hydration you crave so much to write a huge blog about

    sincerely,

    Ryan

  12. Bill Hackett says:

    Lisa and Steve you’re both wrong. Why should the rule be “tweaked” for this individual. Who is he that makes that right. I myself salute the employee for enforcing it. The policy was explained to you and that should have been the end of it but you kept pushing the issue. He explained that he would give you ice in a cup to keep your drinks cold and that wasn’t to your liking so you pushed the issue. You people pay the green fees and think you own the course and can do whatever you wish. All golf courses have their rules and policies and everyone should follow set rules. If so then there will be no confrontation and everyone will have a pleasant round of golf. After all that’s what we’re there to do. Right.

  13. John Duval says:

    Ryan,
    Thanks for your comment, I appreciate your input. You may have observed us in the pro shop and I won’t dispute your account of the situation, but whoever claims to have heard someone say “did you get the stuff for mixing?” either heard someone else or is flat out lying. I’ll make it known simply to refute this inaccurate statement – I have never and will never bring alcohol to a golf course.

  14. John Duval says:

    You are absolutely right Bill. Despite everyone getting all worked up we had a good time playing the course. We paid the green fees, but we never act like we own a course. However, there is a lot of good golf in the Orlando golf market, and I will probably choose to play elsewhere from now on.

  15. Julee Kravitz says:

    Well Mr. Duval maybe that’s what you should do. In reading this post and the many replies that have come in response, it sounds to me like feel you deserve to be different from everyone else. My husband and I have played Sugarloaf quit a few times, not only have we found no need to bring anything but the staff has been friendly and helpful, even on an occasion in to gone out of their way not just to us but other golfers. So ya had a hard time tryin to get over on bringing your own beverage, okay! let’s say “gatorade” well I agree with the other guy, you don’t bring your own beverage to any parks,restrauants, or bars. You follow their policy so why not do the same elsewhere? I also have a group of friends, we play a “girls golf day” each month, Sugarloaf has been played by us three times in the past seven. We love the breathtaking views and for this time of year the GREENS! Some golfers don’t appreciate such things but Sugarloaf has alot to offer. Bottom line, if you can’t handle the Florida heat maybe you shouldn’t be out in it, policies are made to be followed by everyone, you should really think about that or STAY HOME!!!

  16. Don says:

    John,

    Thanks for the insight. My son and I were deciding on what course to play last weekend and we considered Sugarloaf Mountain. We ended up at Black Bear and were not impressed with the general decline of that facility, but it sounds like Sugarloaf would have been worse. I understand the economy isn’t booming but not having drinking water on the course in the summer is enough to have me pass on a round there. If a course operator can’t supply the basics, then they should be obilgated to inform you and allow players to bring their own coolers and drinks. In fact in this economy, why give a golfer a reason not to return?

  17. John Duval says:

    Don,
    I like Black Bear and I too am disappointed in it’s declining condition. I would have to say Sugarloaf Mountain is in better shape for sure. The minimalist design of Sugarloaf puts some people off, but for those who appreciate this kind of design it’s a treat to play.

  18. John Duval says:

    Don,
    I like Black Bear and I too am disappointed in its declining condition. I would have to say Sugarloaf Mountain is in better shape for sure. The minimalist design of Sugarloaf puts some people off, but for those who appreciate this kind of design it’s a treat to play.

  19. Josh says:

    I realize that this post is nearly a year old, but I was searching explicitly for “Customer Disservice” and came across the posting.

    Many of the people who have responded are still missing a fundamental understanding of how service *should* work. John initially asked for ice for his drink and if there would be a drink cart on the course.

    The resulting discussion of the ice cooler is an entirely different discussion. Reading some of the responses above, some have apparently never needed a flexible customer service. There are times where an establishment should be flexible, especially when they are unable to provide their customers with basic but neccessary commodities like beverages on especially hot days. The provisions that John brought with him were *emergency* provisions.

    The inflexibility of the course could have resulted in a serious harm the paying customer. That is just blatant negligence. There comes a point in all walks of life where people need to make a flexible choice based on intuition and not “its the rules”. You do know the old saying “never swim after eating”? What if you fall off a boat in mid-bite? I think you should at least try… (and yes I know the saying in itself has been disproved, it was just an example)

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