Friday, February 6, 2009

use way too much land to play an arrogantly wasteful game

I've never learned to play golf, and I like to tell myself that it's a matter of principle. It may also just be that no one's ever invited me to play the game, and that I've never lived all that close to a public course, let alone had connections to a "country club." But mostly, yes, it's a matter of conscience: golf has long struck me as an incredible waste of land and other resources, all for the blithely arrogant joy of people dressed in silly, expensive clothes. I'm also turned off by the shroud of white supremacy that still permeates this sport.

I disapprove of the way golf courses are basically gigantic lawns. I dislike lawns in general, and I think people who have them should convert their plots of land to natural plants or gardens. Then they would stop wasting water, pesticides, gasoline and other forms of energy, all for the sake of a sterile, monotonous, monochrome carpet. When such a flattened and tamed landscape takes on the dimensions of a golf course, it reminds me of the American white supremacist conquest and "taming" of lands that were occupied, and often cultivated, by supposedly "savage" Native Americans. That's why the joy of golfers strikes me as "arrogant."

And then there are other connections between golf and whiteness, such as the nearly all-white cast of players, the racial exclusivity of "country clubs," and the use of the game by wealthy, well-connected white men as an especially cozy node in their Good Old Boy networks.

Has the non-white mastery and dominance of Tiger Woods really changed the pervasive whiteness of golf? Isn't the common claim that "golf isn't racist anymore because its best player is black" just as ridiculous as the claim that America is suddenly post-racial because its president is black?

In a discussion of the whiteness of professional golf, Ken Jones makes an interesting observation about the golf world's paradoxical appreciation of Tiger Woods: "The impression you sometimes get is that people [white people, that is] try to forget that Woods is black when revelling in his triumphs." But then, again as with Barack Obama, white people often hold up this heroic black figure because he's black (or supposedly black), in an effort to prove that white racism no longer exists.

Of course, Woods himself has also been accused of trying to forget the common perception of himself as "black," by labeling his mixed self "Cablinasian" instead, and also by shying away from public statements about racism, in golf and elsewhere (last year, when a reporter began a question about Obama, Woods reportedly smiled and said, "Oh, God, here we go."). I've often wondered if Woods' evasions of this sort, if that's what they are, seem necessary to him so that he can focus on his game; maybe facing up to the ongoing, overwhelming whiteness of golf, and to that world's racially vexed adoration of himself, would be, at the very least, distracting.

Anyway, it's Friday, and I originally meant for this to be a lighter, more humorous post about the blithe, rather oblivious whiteness of golf. To that end, I'll turn things over to George Carlin, who might provide further fodder for your thoughts, should you feel inclined to address in a comment the whiteness of golf. Or its elitist classism, which I guess I've almost completely overlooked here. And, as usual with this dearly departed genius: ALERT, CRANKY PROFANITY AHEAD.

UPDATE: Here's a solution! Okay, it's just a fantasized solution--from Japanese Manga artist Shintara Kago:


  1. ah i miss you george carlin...
    i'm glad you wrote this post. i totally agree. i always thought that this was a terrible waste, and for such a stupid and boring purpose!

    i grew up in michigan, in a suburb of detroit, in Southfield. There is a golf course there, and i always noticed how even though the city is predominately black, the majority of golfers were white, and indicated by the cars parked in the lot, clearly rich. these are people who do not live in the city, commuting to a golf course that few locals ever saw the inside of, except to work at.

  2. I cosign with the above commenter - Lord I miss George Carlin! I don't remember seeing that skit; it was good.

    About Tiger Woods... I really don't know what it's like to me him, or a number of the biracial people out there who genuinely feel like they're not one or the other when it comes to race. Most biracial black folks I know identify with being black because that's how others perceive them, making it silly to say you're white or Asian but don't look like that.

    Some people who can pass as ABB (anything but black) have historically because it was to their social and economic benefit to.

    Anyway, that's another discussion, lol. I've never played golf.

  3. Then there's the place where my dad golfs:

  4. I hear you, FilthyGradeur. There was a private golf course near my house in a white suburb when I was growing up, but still, no one in the suburb was a club member, mostly because they couldn't afford to be. The club's members all lived in better (richer) suburbs, or in other parts of the country, and the world. But then, not all golf courses are private.

    Thanks Kit for pointing out that there have been good reasons for passing for something other than black. And I miss George too. Come to think of it, I wonder if in some of his routines, he was sort of passing FOR black.

    Thanks for the link, Anonymous, I hadn't heard of that course. I wonder about this part of its description:

    The entire landscape of the course in its parkland setting is a significant amenity. From its farthest northern point, the golf course provides a magnificent and historic vista of undeveloped, open space along the Anacostia River basin.

    Is a giant carpet of weed-free lawn that leaks pesticides into streams and rivers really "undeveloped"? Or is this some different sort of golf course?

  5. The economy is tanking, the American Way of Life is dying, and golf courses and its culture will probably go the way of the dodo bird. Now, with that good news, perhaps we will turn "our" land back to agriculture (you know, grow food instead of lawn) for use for the greater good:

    Saddlebrook Golf Course took a look at the bottom line and decided it was time to cut some deals, offering a two-year membership for nearly 80 percent off the normal daily rate. In neighboring Illinois, greens fees at the Greenview Golf Club in Centralia are down from $35 a round to $23, which includes a cart. The struggling economy has buried many golf courses in a financial sand trap, forcing owners to offer deep discounts to keep players and recruit new members. Others are putting up "for sale" signs or seeking new financing to stave off foreclosure. "Nobody's making a living," said Greenview owner Tom Wargo, the 1993 Senior PGA champion and 1994 Senior British Open champion. Indeed, with the economic meltdown affecting even such sports superpowers as the NFL and NASCAR, it's understandable that recreational golf is hurting.

    Golf has always been a pricey pastime. The median rate for a round of 18 holes at a public course is about $40, and private club memberships can run well into the thousands of dollars. Now throw in a recession and a tough situation for the nearly 16,000 public and private courses in the United States becomes even worse, said Mike David, executive director of the Indiana Golf Office, the umbrella group for the state PGA and other golf programs. "It's not that there are fewer people playing," he said. "The problem is they're not playing enough rounds." The National Golf Foundation reports golfers played about 498 million rounds in 2007. That number dropped about 8 million, or 1.6 percent, through the end of November, the most recent month surveyed, said Jim Kass, research director of the Jupiter, Fla.-based foundation. The result is that more golf courses are closing than opening, a sharp change from as recently as 2001, when 252 more courses opened than closed. The National Golf Foundation says 113 courses opened and 121 closed in 2007, and 2008 -- for which it did not have final numbers -- was on track to post the lowest number of openings in two decades...

  6. Yay! the death of golf courses! one good effect of our sinking economy. i hope. i always did think it was an "arrogant waste" of land. for a silly, silly ass game.


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