A critical perspective on golf

In the Sept. 11 issue of The Campus, I wrote extensively about the environmental harms of grass lawns, and somewhat less extensively about the ostentatious bourgeois wastefulness and patriarchal white supremacist ideas underlying the imagery of the well-manicured lawn. For a comprehensive understanding of my hatred of grass, refer to that article, titled “Grass is trash.” Since taking this stance on grass, I have thought extensively about the issue and why I find it so viscerally condemnable. My conclusion is this: I blame golf. Golf is trash. 

Being skilled at golf requires an enormous amount of money and resources compared to other sports, and thus has an air of exclusivity or elitism surrounding it. Golf skills are not taught in school gym classes, which means that kids who want to play golf likely have to pay for lessons rather than merely joining a scholastic team. Having enough extra income to pay for something as inessential to sustaining life as golf lessons is inarguably a privilege, which cannot be ignored in discussions about the talent and discipline that may go into becoming an excellent golfer. 

For contrast, consider basketball, a sport that can be enjoyed with nothing but a ball and a hoop, the latter of which is often available for public use. Basketball is spatially compact, with courts generally taking up a space measuring about 94 feet long and 50 feet wide. This applies to lone hoopers at a park as well as professional games. Your average eighteen-hole golf course, however, takes up thousands of yards, a distance that often requires that players travel from hole to hole via golf cart. Because land is a valuable resource, urban areas are highly unlikely to justify constructing golf courses for city residents. This forces city kids who could potentially excel at golf to travel if they want to play, which is simply impossible for many working parents.

Although I imagine you could practice smaller-scale golf skills on any given swath of grass, it still stands that you cannot play a full game of golf with strict spatial limitations. Furthermore, all the grass required for golf is also valuable in the sense that it is a limited resource. All that grassy land, pimpled with sand pits and white balls, could be used for a plethora of more productive, useful projects, such as community gardens or affordable housing. At the very least, we could turn control of the land back over to Mother Nature, rather than wasting it on the hobbies of the rich — I am sure they could find something else to do, seeing as they have the capital necessary to unlock a world of options from which to choose a stupid pastime. 

Looking at golf attire certainly does not improve my perception of the sport. Take Titleist, a golf equipment and apparel brand, for example — the name of the company is so laughably close to the word elitist, I almost wonder if it was intended to be ironic. The clothing itself is not only arguably tasteless, but also reflective of the sort of bland, upper-middle-class, clean-cut, conformist standard of what is considered presentable that has become almost synonymous with whiteness. The regalia of suburbia has long been a means of visually ostracizing those who either cannot or do not fit the picture — this often means the poor and people of color. Social media humor and discourse has played a role in identifying this trend. For example, a photo of a young man wearing salmon shorts, Sperry’s and a Vineyard vines t-shirt might be met with replies such as “you look like you pay $30 a gram,” and most Twitter users would understand that it is a joke about white privilege and lack of street knowledge. 

It should be noted that I do believe in letting people enjoy things that I do not personally enjoy; forgive me if I have sounded too curmudgeonly. I have my own interests and fashion choices, and I do not care much to be criticized for these personal decisions. What I mean to assert is that golf as a cultural practice is inherently classist and does a lot to support the exact sort of elitist attitudes that perpetuate racism. It is hard to ignore these associations, especially while our sitting president, the quintessential figure of white supremacy and classism in the United States, has squandered over $141 million in taxpayer dollars on his dozens of golf outings just since he was inaugurated.