Free Golf – You Gotta Be Kidding!

At the other end of the spectrum of the $350 rounds at Pebble Beach Golf Links is the Tall Pines Golf Course in Paradise, California. Golfers play here for free. That’s right, free.

Now you won’t get the manicured conditions of Pebble Beach, nor the spectacular wind-swept cliffside holes of those famed links overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Indeed, the only similarity between Tall Pines and thousands of other golf courses around the world are flagsticks stuck in holes. The fairways at Tall Pines are bumpy, the greens ragged, and clumps of crabgrass push out of the ground in many “untraditional” places.

While college-trained turf tenders manicure hundreds of upscale golf courses around the U.S., Tall Pines has one maintenance worker. Caretaker Don Schorovsky of Paradise rides an aging Toro mower fueled by gas donations. If Schorovsky is busy with other non-golf activities, local players climb aboard the Toro and mow the tees, fairways and greens to “condition” the course for that day’s play.

The course was “developed” 35 years ago by Joe Bulch. Four years ago he turned it over to Bob Bulch, and it’s now owned by Alleghany Properties, Inc. The company clears its liability to all golfers who enter the course with a sign that warns: “Enter at your own risk – Alleghany Properties will not be liable for any one on this property.”

The course had fallen into disrepair for several years before Schorovsky came along. When he ventured upon the course and found grass-less greens, he asked to help out, bringing in his own mower and working two weeks for free. Then the owner started paying him $25 a day.

Today, Schorovsky gets $400 a month for upkeep on the course and the clubhouse, a ramshackle structure equipped with a pay box for donations. It’s not uncommon for Schorovsky to unlock the box and find a pile of pennies. But that’s ok. Many of Tall Pines’ players are pleased with what they have. After all, they’re welcome to bring their dogs along for the round and almost assured of solitary rounds. You won’t find that at the nation’s No. 1 golf course.