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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"