Golf was so close! It was so close to moving beyond that stereotype — the image of a rich, old, unathletic white man making sexist jokes and trading real estate tips. The image of someone like US President Donald Trump.
The dominance of Tiger Woods started to make it seem cool, and the First Tee programme tried to make it accessible for kids of all backgrounds. But Woods disappeared for a while. And now the president, who generally likes to spend long holiday weekends near a golf course, is hogging golf’s headlines. It’s making me think twice before admitting out loud that, yes, I am a golfer.
Most people I talk to seem to understand that Trump doesn’t represent a typical American; men know he doesn’t represent men accurately (just your typical “locker room talk”), and golfers know he doesn’t represent golf. But if you’re not those things, you might not know.
Trump as a golfer is like the villain in a comedy movie about golf. For Caddyshack fans, Trump is like if Judge Smails had a baby with Rodney Dangerfield and the baby grew to be a man’s size and yelled its net worth from his yacht at unsuspecting dolphins.
There has been some discussion about the president’s being good at golf, which I find annoying. I can’t have him play my favourite sport and also be good at it. But when you watch him play, as you can on YouTube, you see that he has what you’d call a “terrible” swing and a “very bad” putting stroke.
The most confusing aspect of Trump as golfer is that golf is the ultimate test of integrity and humility. There are no referees, so it’s on you to count your own strokes. Golfers develop a very strict honour code and a moral obligation to themselves and their playing partners to be 100 per cent honest. And if golf is nothing else, it is humbling — when you hit your ball into a lake, there is simply no denying it (fake water!) and no one to blame but yourself.
But the president appears to have skipped those lessons, and he tends to behave like the one guy at the course who is hand-wedging the ball out of the trees. Golfers like this do exist, but no one wants to play with them. People like this get asked to play once and then never get invited back: “Remember that guy who parked his golf cart on the greens?” “Yeah, the guy who left his Aerosmith ringtone on full blast and picked up every putt inside 10 feet?” You don’t have to be invited to play, though, when you own the course.
You can get an idea of the way the president manipulates truth by looking at how he talks about golf. In 2013, he tweeted, “Just won The Club Championship at Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach — lots of very good golfers, never easy to win a C.C.” But he didn’t win that year; Tom Roush did. Apparently, Trump won the senior division that year. No golfers in their right minds would confuse the club champion with the senior division winner.
Golf can be very addictive. There are so many different areas within the game, you almost have to obsess to be good. Addicted golfers often take two forms — those who love to play the game, and those who love the escape.
I grew up playing in West Virginia, usually on public courses for $8 (Dh29.4) to $10 for 18 holes. There was always that one guy who was out there clearly avoiding a bad marriage or an unrewarding job.
Playing with that guy, I would think, “Doesn’t he have four kids to raise?” Golf’s biggest strength is also its greatest weakness: You disappear into a different world for five hours — a magical forest world where you drive your own buggy and send a tiny sphere at the sky.
On the campaign trail, Trump said, “I’m going to be working for you; I’m not going to have time to play golf.” But in his first year, he spent more than 90 days at a golf club. It’s pretty clear to me he’s turning to golf as an escape from a job he finds unrewarding. Which might not be the worst thing for him, or us.
— New York Times News Service
Joe Zimmerman is an American stand-up comedian, currently residing in New York City.