NEXT SUNDAY, April 29, is Global Anti-Golf Day, a date marked with red grease pen on my calendar. I’ve always despised golf. Many years ago I had the privilege of meeting Gen Morita, the Japanese activist who dreamed up the day to oppose the reckless despoliation of Southeast Asia to make room for new golf courses.
Anti-Golf Day is in a period of abeyance. Morita has gone to ground, and only an oddball collection of moth-eaten Web links, featuring a Wayne’s World-like “Anti-Golf Web Channel” testify to the movement’s quondam existence.
But it’s not as though we golf-a-phobes have shanked a bogey seven off into the tall grass. Donald Trump has made golf horrible again.
Those are the words the Guardian’s former golf writer, Lawrence Donegan, chose to describe Trump’s pernicious influence on this once-respectable sport. No less an authority than avid golfer Alice Cooper named Trump as the worst golf cheat he had ever known. He is not worthy, indeed.
Writing earlier this year, Donegan argued that Trump has stoked the sycophantic instincts that undergird this deeply racist, corporate sport. In 1996, Tiger Woods recorded his famous “Hello World” Nike commercial, in which he stated, “There are still courses in the US I am not allowed to play because of the color of my skin.”
Fast-forward to the early months of the Trump presidency, to see Woods and other pro luminaries such as Ernie Els, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Rory McIlroy falling over themselves to stroke Trump at his Mar-a-Lago vulgarian paradise.
Golf, according to Donegan, has been “an apolitically ‘useful idiot’ in an era when professional sports have never been more in sync with the political opposition.” The sport’s core participants, he wrote, are “wealthy, white couples who . . . within the confines of the club, are free to rail against minorities, free to declare Trump the greatest president since Lincoln, free to act like the genteel segregationists they prefer to be.”
Golf is failing, and Trump is taking the sport down with him. Golf has “gone the way of the three-martini lunch,” the MarketWatch website announced last year, noting that once-flourishing golf courses are deserted during the week, and that country club revenues grew at a one percent rate from 2011 to 2016.
Denver Post columnist Michael Baughman, a former caddy, recently cheered golf’s decline, noting that 800 courses have closed in the United States. The number of American golfers shrank from 30.6 million in 2003 to 24.7 million by 2014.
Like the Global Anti-Golf pioneer Gen Morita, Baughman is appalled by the water-sucking, ecological catastrophes known as golf courses, to say nothing of “the racism, sexism, and snobbery that have long been associated with the country club scene.”
It is no accident, as the Marxists like to say, that the unlikable Patrick Reed, who won the Masters championship earlier this month, was accused of cheating during his college career. It was P.G. Wodehouse who wrote: “To find a man’s true character, play golf with him. In no other walk of life does the cloven hoof so quickly display itself.”
Don’t hate the player, hate the game, the saying goes. When it comes to golf, I loathe them both.Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.