According to Washington Post writer Michael Peppard, who describes himself as “a lifelong golfer and former employee at both public and private courses,” if you do not like Donald Trump you can blame golf.
No, he’s not kidding.
But at its worst, golf is a game of lying, cheating, blaming and gambling. At its worst, the culture of private golf courses propagates misogyny, racism, exploitation of undocumented labor and unchecked privilege.
Golf, at its worst, is Donald Trump.
I will agree with part of Peppard’s statement in that golfers lie and cheat and gamble, and sure there are courses that still propagate misogyny, racism and likely use undocumented labor and none of that is ok, but that does not mean that GOLF created Donald Trump. Racism and misogyny exist outside of the golf world. They exist in many places in everyday life, and any smart person with common sense who isn’t reaching to try and make some ridiculous point about a sport could tell you this because many who experience racism and misogynistic treatment have never stepped foot on a golf course.
Let’s continue along, though; Peppard next equates Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” that did not happen on a golf course to the “dark side of golf culture”:
But there’s an ungentlemanly side to this gentlemen’s game, with which Trump seems well acquainted. The dark side of golf culture helps to unlock Trump’s worldview and behavior. Consider, for instance, that he used the phrase “locker-room banter” in his official statement that tried to explain away his foul behavior recorded on a leaked Access Hollywood tape obtained by The Washington Post. The phrase didn’t make much sense, especially coming from Trump. Athletes were offended by the analogy, saying that no one talks like this in locker rooms. And in any case, when was the last time Trump was in a locker room?
The truth is that Trump does go to locker rooms and that privileged, misogynist old men do really talk like this in locker rooms — locker rooms at private golf courses. In his official statement, Trump even tried to normalize his misogyny by reference to golf: “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close.”
Oh for crying out loud. Just as many NFL, NBA, and MLB players have come out and said, not all locker rooms use this type of talk. Does it happen? Of course it does and that is definitely not ok, and as the world changes and a new age of golfers take to the course that will hopefully change as well.
Now we get to the good part, the part that makes me think that Peppard may not actually know what it’s like on a golf course.
Male golfers at private clubs are misogynist in both casual and structural ways. The acronym “Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden” is so widely disseminated as an etymology for the word “golf” that it needs to be refuted in the first line of a prominent golf history site.
Ladies days are set up for women to enjoy their rounds. They aren’t misogynistic outside of the fact that they are solely for women to play. Women generally play from the front tees, and while many are highly skilled golfers who do not tee it forward, many are not and are no different than male golfers who are out there to hack it around the course for a couple of bucks and side bets. The idea of a ladies’ day is so that they can play at their own pace without having to worry about waiting for the men to tee off from farther back and then drive up to the ladies tees. It is to speed up the game, which is necessary to attract new golfers in the first place. There are also couples games at many courses around the country. Golf is evolving to incorporate everyone, and while it won’t happen overnight, it is happening.
As for the cart girl portion of Peppard’s piece, I do not disagree in that it is very likely that the vast majority are treated with disrespect, but again, I do not believe this applies solely to the sport of golf and nor does it represent everyone who plays the game.
While men are playing the course, a woman often drives around selling drinks and food. Called the “cart girl,” even though she is a grown woman, she is almost always very attractive and, while alone, must frequently deal with unwanted advances or even cash propositions for sexual favors. Last year, a journalist went undercover for Golf Digest to record the experiences of cart girls. One who had formerly worked in human resources at a large corporation said, “It was total culture shock. Every single day golfers were saying things to me that would get them fired in a professional setting.” The hidden recording device captured a toxic masculinity, fueled by crippling insecurity. “I drove up to a group one time,” one cart girl recalled, “and the guy holds out a $50 bill and says, ‘Let’s see your chest.’”
It is unfortunate that it happens and although there is nothing wrong with being masculine; change takes time, and as a new generation of golfers take to the course maybe things like the treatment of “cart girls” will change. I always make it a priority to be as polite and kind to who ever happens to be driving around the course selling beverages and I like to believe I am not alone in that.
And finally, the self-proclaimed golfer takes a shot at the sport itself.
Besides these structural features of private golf culture, there is, finally, the game of golf itself. At its best, golf encourages honor, honesty and self-control. But for a man who plays poorly, there’s always a distraction from one’s failures. He can gamble on the side. He can kick his ball out of a bad lie, while no one’s looking. He can throw clubs in rage. He can blame his dark-skinned caddie for interrupting his backswing or the dark-skinned greenskeeper for mowing the grass too short.
And no matter what, in a few holes, the cart girl will come around again. He can have some fun with her. She loved it last time, he thinks. It’s just locker-room banter.
To say that “golf, at its worst, is Donald Trump,” is to say that I am Donald Trump. I’ve played bad, gambled, swore, and acted like a child on the golf course and I am not alone in that, but I am in no way Donald Trump.
Golf isn’t for everyone, but everyone is welcome to play. If you don’t like it, don’t play it. If you don’t want to watch it, DON’T!
The great thing about this country is that we can all enjoy it, even if we like different things.