With Trump gone, can we have our golf back from elitist, entitled idiots, please?
Golf doesn’t deserve the bad name it gets from the likes of Trump and ‘golfgate’
The moment the planet got to know for sure that Donald Trump was toast will forever be associated with golf. File photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
In the end, Donald Trump had one final indignity to visit upon us. When the election was finally called on Saturday, he wasn’t hunkered down in the Oval office or swimming in cheeseburgers in Trump Tower or even shaking his fist at the sky in front of an aircraft hangar somewhere. No, he was out playing golf.
Of course he was. While his campaign team were yakadoodling away between a crematorium and a porn shop – and doing neither any favours – Trump was once again sullying the name of the sport that has been manacled to him for far too long. He could have been anywhere.
He could have been doing anything. It was a Saturday morning, after all, and he’s going to need to get used to having a lot of free time. Get a lie-in, big man. Learn how to poach an egg or something.
Golf has a rotten history in so many ways – some of them classist, some of them sexist, some of them racist – and those are stubborn stains on the sport’s soul
But no. Instead, the moment the planet got to know for sure that Donald Trump was toast will forever be associated with golf. And the worst of golf, at that. Private club golf. Lazy-arse, golf-buggy golf. Laugh-at-the-boss’s-jokes, put-down-another-one-there-sir, no-need-to-putt-that-Mr-President golf.
To be fair to the Cheat-in-Chief, the footage that went around online did seem to show him making a decent two-putt from about 50 feet on the last. He bottled the first attempt, it should be said. But in the end, he rolled in a 12-footer to close out his round. Whether you change your shoes sitting in the boot of your car or preside over the locking-up of kids in cages, a 12-footer on the last makes lunch taste pretty sweet. Golf is a great leveller like that.
This has always been the problem with Trump and golf. It isn’t just that his courses are odiously exclusive or that Big Time Golf feels the need to be chasing after him with its tongue hanging out to get him to host majors – the next one is just 18 months away, kids! It isn’t even that golf provides him with joy. It’s more that the joy he takes in it automatically puts the rest of us on the defensive. Golf shouldn’t need us to apologise for it.
Trump loves golf precisely for its exclusivity, not in spite of it. He loves a particular type of golf, the golf of the monied, the golf of the business class. He has never hidden his distaste for the idea of growing golf and bringing it to the masses. He has said over and over that guys – and it’s always guys – should strive to become rich enough to be able to play golf. By that he means cosseted, unattainable, off-the-grid golf. Not 18 holes out in Deer Park.
It’s not just Trump, of course. He’s far from the first golfer to think like this and by no means the last. Golf has a rotten history in so many ways – some of them classist, some of them sexist, some of them racist – and those are stubborn stains on the sport’s soul. Scrubbing them out of it is no simple task.
That much was obvious in Ireland during the summer when “golfgate” hit. Break golfgate down and what did it amount to? It was 80 people gathering in a room for a dinner and thumbing their noses at Covid regulations by which the rest of us were living. Playing golf was entirely within the regulations at the time. Sitting down over beef or salmon with 79 other tossers was not.
As soon as restrictions were eased, golf membership went through roof all around the country. Participation levels skyrocketed
It was the dinner that was the scandal. We should have spent the week talking about dinnergate or Clifdengate or whatevergate. The fact that they had played golf for two days beforehand ought to have been a sidenote. But because some people who don’t play golf have a specific view of the people who do, the impression went forth that golf was at fault somehow. That the dinner was a mere extension of the sense of entitlement and cosy exclusiveness inherent in the sport itself.
We should be long past that, especially in Ireland. Look at where our best golfers have come from. Pádraig Harrington is the son of a garda. Rory McIlroy’s dad worked in a bar, his mother in a factory. Leona Maguire is the daughter of a couple of schoolteachers. Go to Stackstown, Hollywood or the Slieve Russell and you feel no sense of exclusivity or privilege around the place. The golf that the vast majority of us play is a universe away from the rarefied bullshit the sport gets tagged with.
The GAA was roundly praised during the first lockdown for its role in communities and for the lifeline it provided people who were struggling. But golf was just as crucial, especially through the summer months. As soon as restrictions were eased, golf membership went through roof all around the country. Participation levels skyrocketed. But, as we know, the GAA are past masters at telling the good stories about themselves. Golf, not so much.
So can we have golf back, please? Can we get that? We, who love a sport that is forever being let down by some of the world’s worst people who play it. We, who know in our bones that it deserves better. We, the ordinary, decent, flailing golfers who are stone useless for 15 holes but just good enough on the other three to keep coming back.
Trump is done and we should scour him from his desk with glee. With luck, the days of having to apologise for his chosen sport will go with him.