What’s That Noise? By Jamie Kirkpatrick


Eggman was up on his ladder, scraping a second-story window frame when he heard it. Bootsie lifted his head from one of his leather-bound tomes to listen, then went back to making notes on his yellow legal pad. Iffy heard it in Colorado; Crumpets even heard it all the way over in London. Dan took a break from his investigative journalism long enough to listen. Coach couldn’t tell if it was thunder or just an Aberdeen rumble. County lifted his chiseled chin to sniff the breeze, a worried expression on his face. Key held a hand up to his ear to hear better and laughed. Me? I was coming out of Just Right Treats with a scoop of green mint chip when I heard it. “Uh-oh,” I said to myself, “that’s the sound of change.”

Why is change always so hard? After all, it’s inevitable and we really have only three options: embrace it, tinker with it, or deny it. Stasis is definitely not the natural order of things. While it’s true that that not every change is good, not every change is necessarily bad either. Think of change as evolution in real time: when things don’t change, they wither, atrophy, maybe even die. Just ask a dinosaur.

Maybe change is difficult because we’re such creatures of habit. We get comfortable, settled in our ways and don’t like the thought of learning new tricks. Or maybe change is difficult because it can have lots of moving parts and some unpredictable consequences: if we change this, then we have to change that. It can get complicated, expensive, messy real fast. It seems to me that successful change boils down to the ability to read the road signs pointing the way to the future and the willingness to make the necessary course corrections that ensure a safe arrival.

So what’s this all about? I’ve been thinking about some proposed changes at a place I love, Chester River Yacht & Country Club, that would provide physical enhancements to some existing facilities while creating new ones—specifically tennis courts—designed to attract new members. However, these changes would also necessitate some significant revisions to the existing layout of the club’s historic and beautiful golf course. And that’s when things begin to get messy…

The demographics of golf are part of the problem: the population that plays golf is aging and younger people don’t seem inclined to take up a sport that is a) difficult, especially for beginners; b) expensive; c) deemed too elitist; and d) takes three or four hours to play. Golf is a niche game and a decade or two ago, too many courses were built to accommodate too few players. (Within an hour or two of Chestertown, several courses designed or built within the last twenty years have gone belly up, are incomplete, or are holding on by their fingertips.)

On the other hand, tennis, along with its trendy new step-child with the unlikely name of pickleball, is more accessible, less expensive, and provides more exercise bang for the buck. For a club like CRYCC, that might attract new members spending more money which translates into better facilities and services for everyone—tennis and pickle ball players, swimmers, bocce ballers, boaters, eaters and drinkers, and, yes, even golfers. But there’s always a price tag to change and in this case, is the cost of these changes worth their potential reward? Good question!

I admit it: I’m a golfer and I unabashedly love the course in its present configuration. While the proposed changes to the golf layout are thoughtful, even creative, they’re also expensive, would alter the existing par balance of the course, and would entail some significant (albeit temporary) disruption to the club’s golfing population. There are certainly alternative options that would be less expensive and less disruptive, but these, too, have consequences. Even in our own backyard, there aren’t any simple solutions. I just hope we can discuss our options and come to a collective consensus about the best way to allocate our resources moving forward. This much I know: when it comes to any kind of change, an open mind is always a good place to start.

Back up on his ladder, Eggman is dreaming about the time he hit it close on number twelve. Bootsie is in his office thinking about the sacred ground of number fifteen and its lovely vista down to the river. Dan remembers his recent birdie on fourteen while Crumpets still talks about the miraculous three wood he hit on seventeen three years ago. Key is chomping at the bit to get back on the course with a new hip. Iffy returned home with a new golf outfit. Me? I’ll never forget my hole-in-three on number four last year. Maybe some things will change, but these memories won’t.

I’ll be right back…

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.


Letters to Editor

  1. Roger Brown says:


    I have been a member of CRYCC for 45 years having been schooled in golf at age 12 at the Peddie course in Hightstown NJ. The club originally had two clay courts in the area of the cart shed. They were removed after WWII due to lack of use and high maintenance costs. I oppose any modifications to the 1929 course to accommodate tennis. We have periodically dealt with this question over the years of my membership without resolution. I doubt having courts would attract new members as most tennis players I know have a settled venue in the area and would be unlikely to change.

    I enjoy your articles.

    • Jamie Kirkpatrick says:

      Thank you for your comment, Roger. The “1929 course” to which you refer is what we know today as the “Inside 9” (holes 1-3 and 13-18). It was designed and built by a Scottish immigrant named Alexander Findlay who is known as “the father of American golf” because he built more than 130 courses on the eastern seaboard. The “outside 9” (holes 4-12) were added to the Findlay layout in 1971; the course we know and love today is a hybrid of the original and newer layout. In other words, it has already experienced change. With reference to tennis, history is certainly on your side but I think it’s worth considering–IF we can afford it and IF we can find the proper spot.

      Keep on musing!

      • Jamie Kirkpatrick says:

        And by the way, the holes added in 1971 were designed by Ed Ault, another well-known golf course architect. Quite a pedigree!

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