I hate golf. In my teens and twenties I played it dozens and dozens of times. I took a number of lessons; was the recipient of reams of unsolicited, compassionately offered, woefully conflicting advice and golf tips. I kept at it for many years, hoping against hope time would overcome my innate inability to grasp the game.
After all that money and time, I still sucked. So I abandoned it, partly out of frustration, mostly out of humiliation. Screw you golf. Screw. You.
The abandonment has left me in a dicey social situation as I enter my mid-forties. Where I live, most men of my age play golf for leisure and exercise.
The fact that I am abysmal at the sport is easy enough to overcome. Practice more, right? Except, I have other pathological reasons I can’t bring myself to spend the time to get better at the game. So I stand on the outside looking in on what I’m told are a host of lost, stellar networking opportunities.
I’ve always been a little wary of golf’s alleged economic utility as a “business networking opportunity.” It seems like a great excuse for executives to slough off work and family while looking as though they are working. It’s in the same category of bald-faced lie I’d tell my mother when I was a kid as she stomped her foot awaiting my arrival at three-thirty in the morning. “Sorry ma, I was the only sober one and had to drive all my drunk friends home.”
Lofty, my good man. Dare I say, even noble of you. But still, total bullshit.
As a black kid who grew up in a fairly well-heeled, white establishment family – in other words, at the country club – I grew up around golf and those who played it. There was not much captain-of-industry behaviour on evidence, even though most folks there were, in fact, captains of industry.
Instead there was tons of problem-drinking, conspicuous consumption, and ostentatious displays of wealth. There were golf-widows sloshed at the clubhouse bitching about their ‘help’, parading exquisite wardrobes to fuel the outward pretense of happiness, and feigning jet-lagged exhaustion after returning from Third World getaways, where the people were so quaint in their inferiority and all-around poverty.
I learned every slur in existence for every non-white person imaginable; and some for white people who apparently weren’t quite white enough for the WASPs who golfed in my town. Irish people, Italians, and Jews seemed white to me, but noo-ooo they were much more than that; they were also mick, paddy, dago, kike, cheapskates.
Every single important member of the local establishment made a constant presence. These were all white guys with high-end cars glistening in the parking lot, and price tags that collectively could feed a large city in Nepal for a year. The golf course seemed the perfect refuge for rich white men to escape the persecution of corporate underlings, wives, families, poor people, insider-trading investigators, union thugs, and tax regulators.
The dinner conversations were scintillating for their lack of diversity and banal predictability: corporate types bashing unions, socialist politicians, and civil servants for being lazy, leeching pricks. Self-aggrandizing boasts about their latest property acquisition or appointment to some Board of Directors; braggadocio about the purchase of a yacht in Miami or a catamaran in the Bahamas.
There was never any self-reflection about the so-called profitability of their lavish paycheques being loafed away at the country club. There was genuine belief in the specious proposition that their trickle-down wealth was a boon for the masses, evinced as much by their stock options as by their unceasing commitment to golf as their chosen high-end pastime.
How naive I was to assume high falutin’ people like neurosurgeons or heads of banks, industrial magnates, and food manufacturers would not have five hours three times a week to spare chasing a ball around a beautifully landscaped field. I’m a white-collar government worker – or, in golf-corporate-guy-speak, a lazy, good-for-nothing tax-wasting leech – and I have never, ever had time to shirk my job on a Thursday afternoon for even half a round of golf. I barely have time to eat my lunch away from my desk. No matter, I am not making this country economically amazing by sheer force of my corporate essence.
But still. I do wonder, how the fuck does a CEO running a multi-billion dollar company acquire a 2-handicap?
A shit-load of golf, that’s how. That’s a lot of *cough* *sniffle* sick days. Or, a lot of blowing off work and “delegating” it to minions. Or, a lot of cocaine so you can work your ass off and play enough golf to make the PGA tour, all of which can only be achieved if you sleep no more than two hours a night.
Herein lies the pathos from which my little poison tree of hate for golf springs. The country club is a throwback to a bygone era of monarchy and aristocracy that is now occupied by the corporate elite. It is extremely well-paid leisure, the modern-day salon for those of a certain hierarchical rank; a place of exclusivity to reward for sacrifices of time, energy, and commitment to a single cause: personal and corporate wealth accumulation. Once achieved the real work of soaking up the good life begins without pestering by underlings, and other quaint riff-raff elements of regular society.
But the exclusive golf country club is also a vital social space for the monied elite to collectively consolidate and perpetuate the power and influence their wealth affords them. It is a milieu like no other to allay misgivings the rare progressive-minded members of the group may harbour about the ethical illegitimacy of their exorbitant wealth. Such trifles easily vanish among peers of similar status; those who, by comparison, render the perverse extremes of their charmed existence perfectly rational and normal.
No other setting is as instrumental as the golf club in cementing such a narrow, shared ethic among this group; one that postulates a singularly greedy, atavistic, heartless society that is collectively defended to the detriment of absolutely everyone; which undermines the democratic ideals that made their despicable wealth even possible.
It is at the country club where uber-rich, pale-faced men wring their hands of the graft and influence-peddling they routinely engage in on behalf of shareholders and themselves. It is where corporate mavens persuade politicians to stage military “interventions” in oil-rich places so their service companies can “re-build” those nations destroyed by the deployment of planes and munitions made in their weapons companies. This, for a massive, untendered, publicly funded fee that helped pay for the country club membership where they nefariously gloat.
A round of golf among plutocrats provides a spectacular setting to count their cash without fear of retribution and scorn; their media and lobbying companies having masterfully convinced scores of disenfranchised, ignorant, poor fellow whites that the piles of individual wealth and privilege they enjoy is their wealth too. At the same time, over cocktails at the nineteenth hole they scheme and cajole policy makers into eliminating their tax burden so those living on a diet of Doritos and microwave meals in trailer parks, who earn non-subsistence minimum wages are certain to have no affordable services as a safety net to guard their health and well-being from the perils of their shitty existence.
Even though these hucksters propagated the “trickle down” delusion that has stained our collective consciousness for three decades, they spend countless hours on the links making sure not a red cent of their amassed wealth actually trickles down. And as they proudly stroll the links they agree to pool their cash to ensure the poor schlubs for whom they’ve turned off the ‘trickle tap’ will never earn a decent living by buying off legislators to oppose any increases to their minimum wages. This, because the wage-increase threatens to diminish their ability to buy another yacht. Or palace. Or other country-club membership.
So, it seems I stand corrected. Business is getting done at the golf club. Mea culpa.
I’m told that this is apparently no longer a conspicuous aspect of golf. There are lots of public courses. There is golf around the world. It is “the people’s sport.”
There is Tiger Woods, too, after all. It struck me how quick folks in the industry were to demonize him for his philandering a few years back. The gaggle of frat boys getting their licks in – as if they really believed Tiger was the first golfer in the history of the PGA, the first rich celebrity, who took in a little extra-marital schtupping.
Tiger Woods is the only man of wealth and profile who didn’t keep his dick in his pants, eh? I nearly choked on my own vomit upon hearing the sanctimony about how his salacious behaviour “had no place in golf.” No, but racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist membership policies at country clubs is just fine, right?
The issue: Tiger was an uppity ‘nigra’ (as Strom Thurmond loved to call us) who was too dominating, and too dark, for the links. Plain and simple. The frat-boys just could not resist the first opportunity to give that boy, his long-overdue whippin’ for raising his head too high.
But let’s get real, Tiger Woods is one black ass in how many years of the game, among how many millions of blacks in the US? One!
Where are the Hispanic-Americans on the Tour? Spaniards and Mexicans are the closest thing we will get to seeing young Jesus Flores from San Antonio as the Hispanic household names we hear about in golf.
I haven’t forgotten Vijay Singh. For the degree he was dominating the game at the time, his profile was suspiciously low. If Phil Mickelson had been winning as much as Singh, I’d have seen his chubby pink face covering every nook and cranny of ad-space where people buy Wonder Bread and bologna.
So it is true, there are a handful of non-white folks excelling at the highest levels of golf. But there are like, six billion non-whites in the world compared to a few hundred million whites. There’s something not quite right about those PGA demographics.
Every time I open up some business magazine because there’s nothing else to read on the porcelain throne, I’m struck by the canard my non-white buddies implore me to dispense with about golf being a white corporate-guy ‘sport.’ And yet there it is, staring at me as I flush, the profile of yet another CEO spewing the same drivel about a passion for the exact same hobby the other 499 fortune 500 CEOs share: golf. Snooze.
How does that happen in a place as geographically and demographically vast and as ethnically diverse and populous as North America? Just once, I’d like to see some CEO say he’s into yoga, or Ultimate Frisbee, or triathlon. These are all hobbies that would take less time away from the office than golf, by the way. Why aren’t shareholders outraged by this fact?
And so there it is. The treatise of my psychological disdain for golf. It ain’t The Prison Notebooks but it’s how I see it.
All this with full awareness that there are lots of nice, non-rich, non-white people who play golf. There are public courses for the plebes who care to hit the links. There’s tiger, and those Korean guys.
But it’s still in large part an elitist sport because of those who flock to it, and for how many courses are organized as exclusive and private. It’s had a history of foreclosing its doors to folks who look like me; to others with a vagina; to those who think Jesus was a way awesome dude, but not THE DUDE.
These issues are top of mind as I consider the time and effort it would take to improve my game. I’d like to be able to seize the opportunity to spend a few hours getting to know some dudes on the links. I would love to have a reason to tell my boss I’m out “networking” for good of the organization and not have them laugh in my face as they tell me to get my black, tax-leeching ass back to my cubicle.
But my golf game is dreadful. I’ve had terrible experiences as a hack that have prompted me to avoid the links, despite all my previous efforts to play golf with a modicum of competency. I know enough golfers to realize there is no such thing as a no-humiliation round in golf. But then, an unlucky few have had to bear witness to the atrocity, to the crime against humanity, that was my golf game. I would die to achieve the rank of just a few humiliating spectacles in a round of golf. That would be a darned good day in my golf books.
I’ve nearly had fist-fights with course Marshalls who simply thought I was taking the piss with them because of how poorly I was playing; as if I was an acting-out seven year-old and wanted to slow down the play of the entire golf course.
“No, Mr. chain-gang supervising golf Marshall white-guy, I am, in fact, that shitty. Now back off and be quiet, I’ve got a tee-shot to duff.”
So, my ostensible plutocrat golf-buddies, you are free to plot your schemes for world domination. And you can do so without having to endure the caustic musings and foul play of this ‘nigra’ to burst whatever delusional bubble sustains your entitlement to horde society’s wealth. Carry on, chaps.