There is panic afoot in the country clubs of America. President Obama is considering placing a luxury tax on the game of golf. This move has caused outrage and everywhere I've been on my little golf tour of California I've found indignant notices pinned to locker-room noticeboards calling for people to protest against this move.
Golf in California is most certainly a luxury and a most expensive one at that. Some of the prices I've been quoted for a single round of golf would make a merchant banker gulp. Up until recently, high-end places like Pebble Beach could pretty much charge what they wanted and the business poured in. Now, however, as the credit crunch bites, the golf industry is being hit in the pocket and the last thing it wants is a tax lumped on it.
It's difficult to feel sympathy when you wander around some of the clubs. I played at Del Mar Country Club near San Diego yesterday. This is the home club of billionaire T Boone Pickens, an oil man famous for spending a fortune in TV advertising urging Americans to think about alternative energy. Copies of his book The First Billion is the Hardest were on sale everywhere in the pro shop. T Boone is not a man who is going to be that affected by the credit crunch, methinks. Outside the pro shop was a row of bespoke golf carts owned by members. One was in the shape of a Porsche, another a Ferrari and there was even a mini-Hummer. I watched the owners light up huge Cuban cigars and drive off in their rich man's toys.
At places like this, where wealth is so much on show, you can see why Obama thinks this will be a popular tax among the working man. I'm sure that it won't be long until our government thinks this luxury tax idea is a wizard wheeze. First to go would probably be polo and croquet, but they're not really big enough sports to be a real revenue maker. Football, golf, tennis and rugby are the obvious targets in the UK. If I was doing it I'd get really creative.
For starters, I would definitely put a huge tax on anybody who buys a ludicrously large driver. Some of the clubs I've seen over here in the States are starting to resemble bazookas. It could work like the way you measure your hand luggage size at airports. If your driver is too big and doesn't fit into a mould at the side of the first tee then, bag, fifty quid please... The general rule is that the bigger tosser you are the bigger your driver, so there wouldn't be too many complaints. I would also tax anybody wearing offensive golfing garb in public. This would include anybody under sixty wearing plus fours, novelty belt buckles and any pastel colours on male players. I would also tax Tiger Woods every time he plays because he's just too good.
On the tennis front, I'd tax anybody who plays the game with either Elton John, Tony Blair or Cliff Richard. I would also penalise female players per grunt as these are completely unnecessary and very annoying. Any corporate entity that purchased seats on Centre Court that remain vacant all day while the occupants quaff champagne in some sponsor's tent would get a hefty bill.
In football, I'd tax highlighted hair, diamond earrings and tattoos – this one would be a huge earner and could be increased to include any foreign player with a perm or a mullet.
In rugby, I'd tax people talking too loudly in the car park picnic area at Twickenham – any excessive braying voice, especially if the owner was wearing a Barbour, would be eligible. I would also target any fan over 20st, sporting a moustache, who bumped into me as I make my way to my seat. There would be an extra tax if said fat man with moustache turned out to have the seat next to me. Full-backs would also be heavily taxed as they are glory hounds, who secretly want the other team to do well so that they can do something brave and game-saving. This last tax would also apply to goalkeepers, who are guilty of the same secret desires.
Right, I think that's all for now – that should keep the old credit crunch at bay. Expect to see these new taxes applied very soon and don't forget where you heard about them first.
Why I need to work on my golf handicap
I had a long conversation with Padraig Harrington in the Tap Room at Pebble Beach. I didn't recognise him and assumed he was just another holiday golfer. I kept asking him what he played off... I'm not good on my golfers.