Golfers at Baltimore's municipal courses will no longer have to start their engines before they start to play.
The nonprofit organization that runs the city's golf operations has quietly rescinded a requirement that every foursome at the four 18-hole city-owned courses include at least one electric cart equipped with a satellite-linked computer.
The Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp. said when it put the rule in place in January that it would help officials monitor course backlogs and speed the pace of play as well as communicate with golfers in emergencies
But many "walkers" - who liked the exercise they got hoofing it around the course, carrying their golf bags or hauling them in small, hand-pulled carts - complained about the new policy. They said they were being forced to pay substantially more to play a round of golf under a new flat-rate fee structure that included the cost of a cart rental, but were enjoying it less.
The golf corporation repealed its cart rule at its May 23 board meeting but left the fee structure in place, said Executive Director LynnieCook.
"The board decided in retrospect it might be good for people to have choices," Cook said yesterday. "We've had many policies that we've turned around after a while. That's the beauty of the company."
Last year, 70 percent of golfers at the city's 18-hole courses at Clifton Park, Forest Park, Mount Pleasant and Pine Ridge rode in carts, and the board wanted to encourage all golfers to use carts to speed play, he said.
"We said, 'Let's just make everybody happy,'" Cook said.
At Clifton Park late yesterday morning, everyone playing the course was using a cart.
Reaction among "walkers" at the clubhouse and putting green was mixed, with some welcoming the change but others grumbling that the cost of cartless golfing should be cut, too.
"It's good in my mind," Gil Ball, 51, who was practicing his putting, said of the reversion to the way things were. "I do enjoy walking."
In the clubhouse, Curtis Pendleton, 63, had used a cart while playing a round yesterday but said he was looking forward to getting back to walking.
"I'm fine as long as they give me a chance to walk," said Pendleton, who walks as part of therapy from back surgery.
Ed Jones, 79, was less enthusiastic.
"I like it better that I can walk, but I still have to pay for a cart I'm not using," he said.
And Bob Pruitt, 64, said he was unhappy at having to pay a flat senior rate of $14.50 this year, compared to $8.50 without a cart last year.
"It's entirely too much" of an increase, said Pruitt. "If you're going to pay $14.50, naturally you're going to ride."
Cook expected such comments, but said the board did not want to make changes in fees in the middle of the budget year, adding that the cost of playing golf at the city's courses is "still the cheapest in the region."
The repeal of the cart requirement came after the retirement of board chairman Henry Miller, who had headed the golf corporation since its inception in 1985. He was replaced by David Brune, an executive with Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.
Cook said the repeal of the requirement and Miller's retirement were "coincidental."