Today I had a sharp reminder that the world of golf is still mostly populated by middle class, middle aged white men with all the stuffiness and bullshit that goes with that pretty conservative territory.
I will not use any actual names but I want to write a few words about something that I thought nothing of at the time but which appears to have caused offence. And, while this particular incident is not directly related, I think is something that is symptomatic of a somewhat obsolete attitude that golf needs to do something about.
When I started this blog earlier this year I initially promoted it using my personal Twitter account. I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed to set up a dedicated golf related account and switched to that in order to build a golf focused following.
In the process of doing so I of course followed a number of golf related Twitter accounts – and have found it a wonderful source of golf related information! The number of products I would have no idea existed if I hadn’t is pretty large!
One of these golfing Twitter accounts which I followed, and then followed me back (or it could be the other way around, I don’t remember for sure – the point is we follow each other) is for a private golf club in a rural, fairly affluent, part of West Scotland. Recognising the name, I realised that it was a club that an extended family member had been a member of for quite some years.
We exchanged direct messages along the lines of “thanks for following” and I made the comment that my relative was a member there. The club made the observation that I would be able to play as my relative’s guest and practically said “please come and play sometime”. I observed that I would be very pleased to get the chance to play there at some point.
A couple of months passed and I met my relative at a family function and shared some small talk about golf. He was recovering from a recent operation and informed me that he was unlikely to play again until next season (I had been nagging him for some time to have a game together – we have never been out on the course together ).
A further couple of weeks passed and Greg and I were planning a weekend round together and debating whether to try a new course somewhere we hadn’t played before. The thought of this particular course sprung to mind as it was in a location reasonably convenient for both of us to get to. I knew my relative would be unable to join us so didn’t consider it to be an option for that occasion but I did wonder “could we play as his guests without him actually being there??” (I should point out that the course is open to visitors so it’s not like it’s super exclusive and doesn’t welcome non members but I was hoping to get more favourable green fees than the general public would pay.)
I sent the club a Twitter direct message very briefly asking as to whether this would be possible. I received no response for almost a week then was asked who my relative was. I replied simply naming him and stating who I was (my Twitter account is under the name of the website, not me). I have never received a reply to this…
Another couple of weeks later and I received an email from my relative on another, totally unrelated, topic. I replied and enquired as to his health and made a short comment about having asked about playing at his golf club.
Two days later, I was most taken aback to receive a reply from my relative which has decidedly cold and dismissive. He wondered “what been on my mind when I took it upon myself to contact his golf club” and that it would have been “more appropriate and courteous” to speak to him who could have told me that what I was asking about was not possible.
Apparently I had committed a social faux pas…
When I sent the message to the golf club I did think about whether I should speak to my relative first but given the tone of the Twitter exchanges I had had with the club I had felt comfortable just asking the question directly.
It seems that a golf club that has a Twitter account with over 600 followers, puts out a weekly YouTube video and is actively touting for visitors doesn’t like a simple question being put to it regarding playing there and their members think asking such questions to be inappropriate and discourteous.
Aye, golf is still a fucking stuffy old boys’ club, isn’t it?
All that needed to be done was a quick reply to my message “No, sorry, you need to be accompanied by the member who signs you in.”. I would have replied along the lines that I completely understood and I hoped to play either as a visiting player or as a guest when my relative was fit enough to play again.
This incident just pissed me off as I have never had anything other than pleasant interactions with my family member my entire life so to receive such such a reprimanding email was a real shock to the system. He was clearly not happy in the slightest at what he perceived as my misbehaviour. I of course apologised and offered an explanation but I am quite sure he doesn’t even understand what “we follow each other on Twitter” means, never mind understand the intimacy that online immediate interaction can suggest.
So long as this haughty attitude prevails in golf we are not going to attract much in the way of the next generation. I have previously talked about golf in Scotland being more egalitarian than in many other countries (the abundance and quality of municipal courses being the main thrust to this argument) but the elitism clearly continues.
Perhaps I am over reacting. Perhaps everyone that reads this will think “of course he should have asked his relative first”. And probably I should have. But, I am a Twitter user. I exist in the electronic realm of social media, as does most of my generation and all those that succeed it. If a golf club is going to engage with the 21st century in order to generate business (a move that is to be totally lauded IMHO) then they have to realise that users of these media expect to be able to communicate via online channels.
As I said at the start of this post, this just really strikes me as symptomatic of golf’s lack of progress into the modern era. If this shit doesn’t change then I am never joining a golf club.