Wasteful, elitist, fading: Let golf die already

Golf fans were overjoyed by Tiger Woods’ inspiring comeback from disgrace, rehab and injury to win the 2018 PGA Tour championship on Sunday, September 23 (ESPN, “How Tiger Woods improbably became Tiger Woods again,” 09.24.2018). The game was the highest-rated PGA Tour telecast of 2018, which comes as a welcome relief to fans of a sport that many people widely considered to be in decline (Golf, “Tiger Woods’s Sunday triumph at Tour Championship was highest-rated PGA Tour telecast of 2018,” 09.24.2018).

For some years now, golf courses have been shuttering, golf equipment sales have dropped and TV ratings have slumped. One theory is that “the sport’s popularity…is merely taking a natural dip after soaring to unjustified heights during the ‘golf bubble’ brought on by the worldwide phenomenon that was Tiger Woods” (Time, “Fore! No, Make That Five! 5 Reasons Golf Is in a Hole,” 06.13.2014). It would follow that a Woods comeback could trigger another, although lesser, “golf bubble” and bring the money flowing in again.

I say: “Why bother saving golf when you could just let golf die?” It would be in society’s best interest for golf players to transition to a less wasteful and exclusivist pastime like basketball, knitting or underwater aerobics—really anything that does not involve fencing off massive amounts of land for the benefit of old white men in carts. Allow me to provide some reasons for my pathological disdain for this “sport”:

1. Golf courses are often terrible for the environment. It is one thing to have golf courses in Scotland where turf managers do not have to radically reshape the terrain, and it is quite another to build golf courses in hot, dry parts of the United States like Arizona, where massive amounts of water need to be used to create green pastures in the desert. VICE detailed how golf negatively impacts the residents of California, a state that suffers from chronic drought. In 2014, California’s 921 golf courses used about as much water as 2.8 million people (7 percent of the state’s population). While, the law fines Californians for using hoses without shut-off nozzles or for having non-recirculating water features in times of drought, golf courses can absorb any financial sanction and continue their environmentally disastrous industry practices (Vice, “Instead of Killing Lawns, We Should Be Banning Golf,” 08.15.2014). Research suggests that even “green” golf courses that seek to be environmentally sustainable drastically overwater their properties (GreenBiz, “Even ‘Green’ Golf Courses Waste Water,” 03.11.2011).

2. Golf courses are an inefficient use of space and impede greater urban density. Urban sprawl is a massive problem not only because it is bad for the environment but also because it lowers the quality of human life by prolonging commutes to work, school and recreation. It also exacerbates economic and racial disparities by creating isolated, cultureless McMansion suburbs for the white and well-todo (The Guardian, “The curse of urban sprawl: how cities grow, and why this has to change,” 07.12.2016). A large urban golf course attached to a country club is almost exclusively used for golf and is inaccessible for use as a public park for people who have no interest in or cannot afford to hit balls into holes for five hours. If golf courses cannot become true multi-purpose spaces accessible to the public, then it’s better to build public housing over every one of them.

3. The price of golf puts it out of the reach of most people in the United States of America. Jason Scott Deegan of Golf Advisor estimated, “[T]he first year in the game can cost anywhere from $832 to $3,454 for juniors and $1,849 to $3,349 for adults” if the starting individual is playing year-round (Golf Advisor, “How much money does it cost to introduce a beginner to golf?” 03.31.2017). Since the median American household income is $56,516, the exorbitant cost of beginning to play golf makes it inaccessible to most people (CNBC, “Here’s how much the average American earns at every age,” 08.24.2017). The United States Golf Association and golf courses, in an effort to grow the sport, have tried to bolster the player base by offering substantial discounts and scholarships to young players, but the very fact that these efforts are necessary is an indictment of the sport.

I would like to assure the readers of The Miscellany News that my passionate dislike of golf long predates Donald Trump’s presidency with all of its wasted weekends spent swinging clubs at Mar-a-Lago. I did not like watching Barack Obama or George W. Bush play golf on the news either. My anti-golf stance is nonpartisan. Furthermore, I am not calling for a ban on golf like James II in the Act of Parliament of 6 March 1457 (Golf in Scotland, “Banned by the authorities”), nor am I promoting a Chinese Communist Party–style “war on golf” and the forcible closure of golf courses (The Telegraph, “China driving against ‘millionaire’s sport’ with closure of 100 golf courses,” 01.23.2017).

I am simply suggesting that we should not help golf recover as an industry or a sport by continuing to watch it or applauding any of its timid efforts to diversify or become more environmentally sustainable. Rather, we should just let golf die the ignominious death it deserves.

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