Tuning in to the golfosphere I am struck by the materialistic mania, which hovers around the top end of the tours. The American obsession with excessive consumption in all its manifestations is all too prevalent. The lives of the rich and fatuous are an adolescent obsession, with their focus on bloated mansions, fast cars, big boats, and trophy wives. Elite golfers are painted as celebrity success stories leading perfect lives. Of course, anyone with any sense knows that these are fantasy projections. In life you develop new problems to go with your new lifestyle, everything is relative to wherever you are. Scratch a little deeper and you find human beings going about their business. Greed in golf is threatening this great game, with its excessive focus on money everywhere you look.
Appearance Money Killing Middling Golf Tours
The vast majority of people who play golf do it because they enjoy playing the game. They may have aspirations toward lowering their scores and handicap but that is the extent of it. The obscene amount of appearance money expected by top golfers to play around the world is killing tours like the Australasian PGA. Australian businesses may, indeed, be tight fisted when it comes to shelling out sponsorship money for golf tournaments, but the problem is bigger than that. Sports agents like IMG have created monsters out of mere touring professionals and in doing so have destroyed local tours. Greed in golf is threatening this great game because it will put these players into a category out of the reach of middling nations like Australia.
Global Golf Enriched by Corporate Greed
The golf media bangs on about golfing legends like Jack Niklaus and Tiger Woods and what great things they have done for the game of golf. However, there is another darker side to their effect upon golf at the highest level. America is all about selling stuff and making money. If you have watched a golf tournament on American TV there are so many ad breaks your head is spinning with endless commercials. Do you really want to live in a world where a select few make ginormous amounts of money and we pay for it by having our content diluted by all the ads necessary to fund it? Australia is a socialist paradise in comparison, a backwater of innocence, but we miss out on having a viable tour of our own in a global market enriched by corporate greed.
The Heart of Golf is You & Me
It is not the Saudi League, either – sorry Greg Norman. The heart of golf is in the games of you and me. The soul of golf is within the clubs and their members. Even, in the many social golfers who love the game the heart of golf beats loudly. Golf is not about greed and selling stuff. These are necessary by-products of golf but not the reason for its existence. The game is run by amateur bodies, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R & A) and the USGA are the two bodies who proscribe the rules. THE PGAs look after the golf professionals. Amateur means someone who plays for the love of the game in an unpaid capacity. This is an important distinction in a world obsessed with greed and money.
The professional golf tours do raise large amounts of money for charities, and this is a good thing. The reality is that there are many people making a great deal of money out of the golf business. There are the top players, as we can clearly see, a small group of elite golfers earning vast amounts of prize money, appearance money, and sponsorship from a variety of associated businesses. Their managers and sports agents take a cut from this to varying degrees. The tours, themselves, generate huge amounts of money, as they control the images of their star players and charge fees for access to their brand. This is what Phil Mickelson was remonstrating about during the Saudi Golf League discussions. Millions of dollars are charged for all sorts of things if players want to hold their own tournaments for charities or junior programs. Some players feel held to ransom over their own brand and image by the tours they play on. Sponsoring corporations own their souls and a player is not free to do what he or she wants. This illusion of the perfect life of successful tour players is quickly shattered if you dig around a bit. Greed in golf is threatening this great game and you only have to ask the players themselves. Sure, they are largely grateful to be earning great money (if they are one of the fortunate few), but if you are generating success yourself you soon resent being beholden to your corporate masters. It is human nature to quickly adjust to situations and to want more control of your own destiny and fortune.
What you have to remember is that everything you read about golf via news sites, especially in America, are all owned by corporations. They control the narrative, whether it be Fox, CBS, NBC, or ABC (not our Australian ABC), these corporate American networks have little commitment to editorial independence or objectivity. All these corporations do business with each other and sing from the same song sheet. America is all about making money and doing deals. A country that can elect Donald Trump as president is playing by another set of rules entirely. I would hate to play golf with Trump, imagine the win at all costs mentality and the interpretation of reality in his four ball.
The commodification of golf is just another in a long line of turning fun things into products and services that can be sold. If you go online and surf the net looking for golf communities, what you come up with are a bunch of businesses trying to sell you stuff. Sure, folks have been saying that ’money makes the world go around’ for years, there is even a catchy song from the musical Cabaret enunciating that. The magic of golf, however, is not in stuff that you can buy, it is within the experience itself. Courses may charge for a round of golf, quite fairly, as it is their green staff, committee members, and management that maintain it. Indeed, they facilitate the golfing experience for those who wish to play the game. These golf industry people look after all the green cathedrals, so that you and I can play this great game.
Let us have greater recognition for the heart and soul folk who really look after golf in this country and around the world. Less of the celebrity drivel served up by corporate news outlets purporting to be what golf is about. Golf happens in the moments between fingers and grip sending shaft and clubhead angling toward the ball at your feet in milliseconds of magic. Launching that small sphere hurtling toward a target inside the green cathedral for better or worse. Golf is a game played with a ball and a bunch of sticks. Yes, technology has made better balls and clubs. Green grass lines the fairways and the smooth regions we call greens. The only greed in golf good for the game, in my view, is my hunger for birdies on a Saturday afternoon. Most often I go without, as putts turn away indifferently from that small hole, no matter my reaction or pleas to deities unseen. The game of golf needs new heroes, real people who love the game without being paid obscene amounts of money.