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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project