Talk Around the Clock

By | November 1st, 2007

In the General Manager’s Report of his club’s October newsletter, Greg Gonsalves—as GMs must often do—addressed the latest development that was prompting a lot of talk among the membership at Round Hill Country Club in Alamo, Calif.
“I have heard many rumors circulating about the cost of the beautiful new course clock,” Gonsalves’ column began, “Let me set the record straight.”

Gonsalves went on to explain that the clock, which had been installed a month earlier (just in time for Round Hill’s annual Member Invitational), was this year’s gift from the Round Hill Members Association (RHMA). Each year, the RHMA uses funds that it raises independently to contribute something tangible, such as pewter bag tags or new scorecards, that can enhance the club experience for all members.

Many times, in fact, members who are not part of RHMA aren’t even aware of the source of the new items. And up until this year, the RHMA gifts had never prompted any suggestions of extravagance.

But almost as soon as the logoed, 13-foot-high, four-faced clock became one of the most prominent and distinctive sights on the Round Hill grounds, Gonsalves started to pick up rumblings that surely, it must have cost a bundle. So he used the newsletter to put everyone at ease, detailing the very reasonable costs that had been incurred to purchase and install the clock—and revealing, as an added bonus, that most of those costs had been covered through RHMA’s annual gift.

“Course clocks are traditional elements of golf clubs and courses throughout the country and the world,” Gonsalves added. “The RHMA Board felt that this would be a wonderful addition to our great club, and an asset to treasure for years to come. A small group of the Board—Dave Cattalini, Bill Franzwa, Don DuFosse and David Plotnik, PGA—was established to research and select a clock befitting the prestige and elegance of Round Hill CC.”

Dialing It Up
That group’s research led to the selection of the Centennial Park model (customized with the Round Hill logo and nameplates) offered by The Fancy Street Clock Co., based in Rock Island, Ill.

   “It’s a smaller replica of the four-dial, Howard-style street clocks that were popular from 1880 to 1940, and that most people remember as traditional fixtures on ‘Main Street’ or around historic buildings,” says Fancy Street’s President, Jim Heineman. “It’s a very popular design.”

Heineman took no chances that Round Hill’s clock wouldn’t make it from Illinois to California for its scheduled debut at the club’s Member’s Invitational, driving it out over 27 hours in a trailer himself to ensure on-time delivery. He then helped a crew led by Round Hill’s Golf Course Superin-tendent, Dean Cravalho, install the cast aluminum clock in a prominent spot behind Round Hill’s 48,000-sq. ft. clubhouse.

“There was an obvious place for it in a spot that’s between our 1st and 10th tees, the driving range and the clubhouse,” says Gonsalves. “With its four faces, you can see it from pretty much anywhere that people tend to be until they’re well on the course, including from inside the golf shop.”

The new clock generated enough buzz to merit a cover story in the Round Hill newsletter.

Powerful Benefits
A new electric line had to be run from the Round Hill clubhouse to where the clock, which requires a standard 120V power source and stands on a poured concrete base with anchor rods, was installed.

(Most models, like Round Hill’s, come with an automatic reset option for corrections after power outages and Daylight Savings adjustments; other available options, Heineman says, include GPS calibration or radio control movements that read directly off the Atomic Clock in Colorado that maintains the official time for the U.S. All the correction systems accomplish the same goal, he adds, which is to keep the correct time.)

But Gonsalves says the club will now realize a bonus from having to run the line, by having electricity extended to its driving range, where it can be used for demo days or to power special monitors used during club events.

Many courses, Heineman says, report a favorable impact on pace of play after installing large clocks like Round Hill’s in prominent positions that can be viewed from different parts of the golf course or property. Gonsalves says he hasn’t yet seen that impact and jokes that, if anything, it’s prompted some grumblings about “slow meals,” now that everyone can watch the clock as they wait to be served.

But, he quickly adds, any questions about the clock’s value have subsided—thanks in part to his newsletter message, but much more so to the daily impact it now makes through its impossible-to-ignore presence. And it’s quickly become a treasured part of the club’s permanent identity.

“It’s been a big hit that everybody loves and thinks is tremendous,” Gonsalves says. “Now, when [members] see clocks on television at other courses, like the big Rolex that’s always at the British Open, you can tell they feel good that we now have something like that here, too, to give us our own little feeling of distinction.”


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