Spare-time golfers beware: The urge to sneak some practice putts during lunch hour at the Suitland Federal Complex can cost you a few dollars and a run-in with the law.
That's the word from the Suitland facilities office, which last month issued a memorandum telling employes that they had better not tee off on company time or turf.
"We now have many employes jogging and walking about the grassy areas of the complex," the memo says. "They shouldn't have to run the risk of being injured or killed by golf balls."
For an obstinate handful of workers, Suitland officials say, the vast lawns that are home to the General Services Administration, the Census Bureau and other federal agencies had become a mammoth driving range, with the complex's five buildings serving as clubhouses.
Joggers and walkers complained. For safety's sake, something had to be done.
So far, the Federal Protection Service officers who police the Suitland grounds have merely given an oral warning to golfers caught club-in-hand. But if the problem persists, officials say, they will start doling out citations, fining renegade golfers an undecided sum.
The problem is not only that would-be Jack Nicklauses have been practicing their swings "at taxpayer expense," the memo says, but also that a healthy three-wood shot can bruise or deal a death blow.
"Obviously, if you go to a big, open place and start hitting golf balls, it creates a problem," said Carl Votteler, the GSA buildings manager who sent out the memo. "We want to prevent a problem before it becomes a problem."
Since the June 16 memo, Votteler said golfers confronted by police have been understanding about concerns for the safety of joggers.
But not everyone goes along. One GSA worker, saying she represented many fellow workers, complained in a recent letter to The Washington Post that Suitland workers were the victims of "heavy-handed gun-toters" and "Rambos" who practice "petty bureaucracy."
Votteler says he sympathizes with some of his golfing workers. "There are some employes who are watching what they're doing," he said. "They're good golfers. They don't slice the ball, and they only hit balls when no one's around. But not everyone's like that."