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In 2008, the Camden County Board of Freeholders, in partnership with Rutgers University, reopened the Cooper River Driving Range as the Camden County Golf Academy. In the six years since the CCGA opened its doors, the Rutgers University athletic department and county officials have made big changes to the facility, including building a putting green and sand trap. It’s a fun place where families, friends, couples, pros and amateurs come to practice and have fun. But what draws patrons to this fine establishment, which has seen year-over-year profit margin increases since reopening? Just like Denis Wood’s Boylan Heights, the CCGA is a

“process-thing,” a place where people’s interactions with and within it and each other tell a story (Everything Sings 23). Here, I have drawn a few maps to reveal hidden truths about the CCGA, each highlighting a different aspect of what goes on at the range on the water. Using Wood’s and Hall’s languages of semiotics, I will analyze the maps I’ve drawn to tell a story of the Camden County Golf Academy through maps. Even after working here for five years, I found many of the issues of the CCGA revealed through its physicality, something I hadn’t considered until I drew these maps. In drawing these maps, I’ve taken it upon myself (and I do fancy myself an expert on the place, given the time I’ve put it there) to show you the things I believe tell the story, using my own judgment to determine what to show you and what elements to leave out (Propen 237). I only hope I drew a clear enough picture for you to see these goingson, too.

“Oh, look at that! You hit the balls into the water!” is an exclamation I often hear from customers who have never visited our facility before. The novelty alone surely sells the idea of serenity in repeating a motion and looking out into the glistening river. But what if we weren’t “that place on the water?” What if we were like most other ranges, where golfers swing onto a green? Below, I’ve drawn the water in green and the islands in blue to demonstrate what a verdant CCGA might look like. There is nothing inherently linking the color blue (the signifier) with a body of water (the signified), but we have internalized this code through westernized projections (Power of Maps Ch. 5) Google Maps adopts this iconic coding, as our culture has adopted it as the “correct” representation. But Google could easily decide to swap the colors for land and water, as I have here. Would that dissuade potential first-time customers from golfing here (if entering our address in Google Maps even worked, which it apparently does not; I’ve had plenty of calls from folks who ended up on 130 in Riverton from relying on Maps). As Wood writes in “The Power of Maps,” even though there is no legend to delineate blueness’s equivalency to water, we just assume that relationship to be so through coding (ch. 5).

There are a fair share of unpleasant jobs surrounding maintaining a sports facility, perhaps chief among them being picking up cigarette and cigar butts. Even in the single-degree temperatures of winter 2014, I was able to find some strewn about (just imagine the litter in the warm weather). Over the course of my five years of on-and-off employment here, I’ve even happened upon dimebags and condom wrappers, but those are rarer treats. Each cigarette I found I marked with a pair of squiggles of smoke. Fun! I’ve used what Hall defines as a metonym here, or “When one thing is substituted for another in a piece of communication (56).” Instead of illustrating each individual cigarette, I’ve instead represented them using lines of smoke fumes (which also spares me from stretching my artistic abilities). How, then, do you know that these arbitrary lines are smoke fumes, then, and not something else? Because I’ve just told you, just now, in the form of this linguistic code (Power of Maps Ch. 5). As you can see, most of the cigarette butts I found were crowded in the first half of the stalls. Even though golf involves a good deal of walking, many customers will set up shop at the nearest available stall.

When walking around the facility trying to accurately depict it in my drawings, I noticed that on the lingering snow on the frozen water were geese footprints zigzagging in seemingly haphazard patterns. But, when I chartered them (as best I could), it seemed the buzzards had some method to their madness. They seemed to congregate along the area by the stony boat dock, and it appears two birds waddled together in a helix in the western side. Or did one happen upon another set of footsteps and trace them with her own? And the northwestern most set of prints — was it that bird whose body I found? Or was it of another bird who got spooked by his own mortality and flew away? Of all my maps, this one is most “useless” in the traditional sense; it’s “just for pleasure,” as Ira Glass says (Everything Sings 10). But their tracks belie Cooper River’s ecosystem. They could be a distraction, quacking just as you’re about to take your swing, or they could be a feature, a patron’s child giggling at the tiny yellow ducklings waddling behind their mother as they walk the perimeter of the river. We’ve tried flashing beacons and dummy dog cutouts to scare them away, but each spring they return, mistaking our golf balls for their eggs and causing a big headache for us. Although, I guess that’s fair, since we’re technically invading their turf.

Out on the islands, as they’ve come to be known, from left to right, we have a 190, 200, 170, 150 and 100 yard markers. When I inspected them, I found the markers closest to the stalls and farthest right (100 and 150, particularly) had their acrylic glass shattered in numerous spots from taking a beating of flying golfballs over the years. The 190 marker didn’t have a scratch on it, which leads me to believe that not many of our patrons are left handed, and that many of our clientele (mostly middle-aged men) don’t usually hit shots farther than 150 yards. Talk about a slice; maybe they should consider taking lessons with out on-staff pro, certified by the USGTF, who offers several affordable packages for improving any and every part of your game, from sand traps to driving to …

Joking aside, perhaps the yardage markers offer a target for golfers? Often, customers pride themselves on how far they can hit a golf ball, so it wouldn’t surprise me.

“Who owns this place now?” It’s a question I’m asked almost daily. Before it was purchased by the county, I’m told the driving range was privately owned by a Korean family. I’m not sure why people are so concerned with who operates the facility, but they are. When I first started working here in ’09, my boss told me to respond to this inquiry with, “I’m not sure, to be honest. I just work here,” though in recent years, it seems it’s not as hush-hush. From this branding map, you can see this clearly. Along the fence on the upper deck of the stalls, we have a banner spanning all 30 stalls facing the ever-busy route 130, emblazoned with “Presented by the Camden County Board of Freeholders.” Inside our clubhouse, my boss (who is also the head golf coach for the Rutgers Camden team) proudly displays all the plaques and trophies he’s won over the years, prominently featuring the crimson Rutgers “R” alongside promotional pamphlets and apparel in the pro shop. When I became a manager in 2012, he showed me our total earnings for the calendar year. He stressed to me how important it was to be thrifty with our petty cash and make sure nothing broke or went missing because we don’t make any money for the school. It was true; after paying all our expenses — wages, electricity, golf ball shipments — we made only $600. “It’s all about branding,” he said. “We’re providing a service to the community.” We have red Rutgers Rs everywhere. But, on the outside, we have the mirrored looping Cs for Camden County on the center of our building, on the center of the nearest yardage marker (100) and on our banner. The county logo is the center, the Rs moved to the margins. “Margins … can be viewed in some ways as being overridden by their centers (Hall 98). So, judging from the relative positions of each party’s branding, who do you think is in charge here?

Works Cited Hall, Sean. This Means This This Means That: A user’s guide to semiotics. 2nd ed. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd. 2012. Print. Propen, Amy. “Visual Communication and the Map: How Maps as Visual Objects Convey Meaning in Specific Contexts.” Technical Communication Quarterly 5 Dec. 2007: 233254. Online. Wood, Denis. Everything Sings: Maps for a narrative atlas. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Siglio Press. 2013. Print.

Profile for Wayne Stainrook

Golf on the Water  

A semiotic analysis of maps of the Camden County Golf Academy by Wayne Stainrook

Golf on the Water  

A semiotic analysis of maps of the Camden County Golf Academy by Wayne Stainrook