High Prices Even Before

High Prices Even Before

We generally head to Martha’s Vineyard in April for our work week at the rental cottage our two families own, and we pay off-season rates for things like golf. It used to be $35 with a cart for 18 holes (at least, who’s counting?). Dick and I and our friend Andy tell our wives that golf is work the way we play it.

But this year, our week was later, in June, and high-season sticker shock knocked our knickers below our knees. I’d always assumed that green fees rose in the summer, but swing low sweet chariot, I had no idea they went into high earth orbit.

On the very day we disembarked, the rates went from shoulder to in season, skyrocketing $65 to $175 a round (per person) at one of the local courses open to hoi polloi. (Its name is omitted here to protect the exorbitant, although truth be told, virtually all Island courses are wicked expensive.)

And what in the name of Ben Hogan justified the steep increase — hotter weather, higher humidity and more time waiting at every tee?

Suddenly I had a new and higher handicap: I couldn’t afford to play golf.

Back here in mainland America, in little old East Haddam, Conn., we pay $30 for a round at a respectable course, where I can lose a sleeve of balls and a pitching wedge on a good day.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Vineyard. I have been frequenting it for half a century, since the summers of my not-so-bright college years. I must love it, or else I’m a masochist. I enjoy a $35 artisanal pie as much as the next person.

Our families come out for a week or two in the summer, and we have gotten used to high season prices, but June strikes me as a tad early. For our August vacation we load our respective cars to the gills with drygoods, liquid refreshments, bitcoins and other nonperishables. We don’t even think of playing golf.

In a perverse way, the ludicrous prices are part of the Island’s charm. They make for sparkling cocktail party conversation back home. “Honey, remember the time we filled our fanny pack with groceries on the Vineyard for $65? We can’t do that here in Connecticut, now can we!”

One recent summer, I went into a country store to get two coffees and a newspaper and handed the clerk my friend’s $20 bill. When I gave Dick back $1.50 in change, he said, “Whoa, Nelly, that can’t be right.” I replied, “Dick, don’t be silly, we’re on the Vineyard.”

We went back in and, sure enough, the clerk had added our total to the person’s bill ahead of me in line. Happy ending aside, the point is I was willing to pay any price, to bear any burden just to be on the Vineyard. Well, almost.

Of course, it’s not just Vineyard pies and golf that challenge the laws of economics and my 401K. What looks for all intents and purposes to be a two-car garage in Menemsha overlooking barrels overflowing with lobster chum, can go for half a million.

Almost anything Island-ish can wax outlandish. Take pumping out your septic system, for instance. If it doesn’t cost twice the mainland price, then it costs three times as much.

One way to deal with Vineyard inflation is to stay hydrated. When a friend told me last summer that a beverage purveyor would deliver for free anywhere on the Island, no minimum order, I was incredulous. Free? On the Vineyard? He must be pulling my leg. Our cottage is in Aquinnah and a packy run to Oak Bluffs takes the better part of two hours in the summer.

I grilled the clerk on the phone for a solid five minutes and he stuck to his story. “Look, pal,” he finally said, “are you going to buy any booze or not?” Clearly business must be brisk to justify this perk.

I ordered a case of beer and Dick and Andy and I proceeded to play a spirited round of cottage golf: the winner is the one who knocks the ball around the house in the fewest strokes — without breaking any windows.