Mark Steel: People would play golf if the sport wasn't so snobbish

Dress codes ban denim and inist on jackets and ties in the bar

Share
Related Topics

As the Open Golf Championship is about to begin, the question everyone must be asking is, "Why is a splendid game still allowed to be ruined by stuck-up condescending suburban snobs, who probably think the most scandalous aspect of the MPs' expenses issue is that Douglas Hogg let his moat get dirty in the first place?".

For example many clubs have an 'artisans' club attached to them, which allows commonfolk to play in return for labouring on the course. The secretary of a club in Yorkshire was quoted recently as saying: "The artisans may play on a Sunday after raking the bunkers, but they're not allowed at any time to walk in front of the clubhouse."

Because who hasn't, if we're honest, had our day ruined by unexpectedly catching a glimpse of a hideous artisan? If they broke the rule the club secretary would probably ring environmental health and scream "Come quick for God's sake, we've got an infestation of the working class. We've put powder down but they walk straight over it, it's terrifying."

This elitism oozes throughout golf. Dress codes bar denim and insist on jackets and ties in the bar to "Protect standards". They must fear that if they let the working class in, they'd drag a piano to the hole and all dance up and down to "My Old Man Said Follow the Van", until the green was ruined. Then they'd tape all the clubs together to make one long pole and use it as a chimney sweep, getting dirt all over the fairways, then turn the clubhouse into a shop selling everything for a pound. The place would be WRECKED.

A typical dress code, at the Oxford club, insists: "Caps must not be worn the wrong way round at any time on the grounds." Because if you relax that rule the Oxford spire posse would be down there yelling "Hey caddie I don't want no four iron muthah, pass me my Uzi, I'm gonna SHOOT the ball out the rough."

Representing one side of this elite cosiness over the next few days will be commentator Peter Alliss, conveying an Edwardian amateur unworldliness completely at odds with the fierce competitive nature of the players. And everything revolves around charming lunches and everyone's lovely as long as they're posh and you can imagine him saying: "Oh there he is there he is, the dear old Duke of Middlebury, right by the clubhouse, splendid fellow, hasn't missed an Open Championship for more than 70 years, except for 1943 when he commanded a unit of the SS in Bavaria and even then he found time to pop in to the Munich Masters, delightful wife too."

To be fair to the golf elite, they haven't just been obsessed with snobbery. They've managed to promote every other kind of prejudice as well. Hundreds of clubs refused membership to women until forced to by new legislation.

In America the Professional Golf Association adopted a 'Caucasian-only clause', that barred black players until 1962. Even now, a player in Yorkshire, Jay Athwal, has set up an 'Asian Open', because clubs make Asian players feel unwelcome. He said "A steward at one club told me not only could I never join, nor could my children's children." Of course the clubs don't officially practise segregation. They'd probably say "Coloured folk are more than welcome to join, as long as on the first tee they're accompanied by a missionary who converts them to Christianity."

But the frustrating part is far more people would play and watch the game, if they could feel comfortable doing so. In Scotland and Ireland, where it doesn't have the same image, golf has a much wider appeal. Putting greens and pitch and putt courses are hugely popular. But somehow society is so riddled with division, the simple joy of whacking a ball is organised to exclude most of the population.

So the first step to popularising the sport should be to change the commentators. This year's open should be covered by a DJ from Kiss FM, going "Big shout out to Lee Westwood and the fourth tee massive, put that bunker behind you bro. And here's a text from MC 2wood of Oxford saying Tiger is FIT, now down to the tenth for some Ernie Els action".

Peter Allis can be employed at crazy golf courses, muttering "Oooo my my my she's over-chipped that right over the windmill, and well, well, well she'll be lucky to make it into the funnel in two from there, what a funny old game this is."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£22000 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary English Teacher...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

General Cover Teacher - Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Qualified Teachers needed for Supply in t...

English Teacher Urgently Required - Secure Unit - Nottingham

£100 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Are you a fully qualified ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Richard Dawkins  

Richard Dawkins is wrong to suggest that there can be varying degrees of severity involved in rape

Sian Norris
 

Fist bumps will never replace the handshake - we're just not cool enough

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on