So­cial golfers: stereo­type ver­sus re­al­ity

Inside Golf - - Starters Box - Richard Fell­ner Group Ed­i­tor richard@in­sid­e­ @in­sid­e­golf

MY re­cent Starters Box ar­ti­cle on “Dis­crim­i­na­tion” by clubs who are es­chew­ing so­cial and “re­mote” mem­bers (i.e. coun­try mem­bers) has gen­er­ated plenty of re­sponses by read­ers. Many of th­ese let­ters (as well as many I’ve re­ceived in the past) at­tempt to paint a pic­ture of Re­mote/So­cial mem­bers as beer­guz­zling, ob­nox­ious and cheap­skate golfers who have lit­tle re­gard for the tra­di­tions and eti­quette of the game.

The re­al­ity, how­ever, is that this is a stereo­type which couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth. Stereo­typ­ing any group (in golf, but more im­por­tantly in life) is a dan­ger­ous and ill-bred ex­er­cise that of­ten leads to prob­lems.

So here are a few So­cial Golf stereo­typ­i­cal view­points as shared by read­ers, and my at­tempt to il­lus­trate the re­al­ity.

“So­cial/Re­mote golfers are rowdy, ir­re­spon­si­ble, do not un­der­stand the rules or the eti­quette of golf and think that they can take 5 hours or more to play a round.”

Con­versely, there are many mem­bers of pri­vate clubs who don’t know the rules (or sim­ply ig­nore them). Does that mean ALL mem­bers are ig­no­rant? Of course not. Just a se­lect few. It’s the same with so­cial golfers. In fact, I have played with many so­cial golfers who are plus-mark­ers, who know the rules so well that they prob­a­bly know more than most pri­vate mem­bers.

As for the slow play: again, I play with many so­cial golfers who can fin­ish 18 holes in just over 3 hours. Con­versely, I have played many pri­vate mem­ber comps which have taken over 5 hours (with­out a so­cial golfer in sight). The stereo­types do not tell the whole story.

“So­cial/Re­mote play­ers should join a recog­nised golf club, play with mem­bers, do their ap­pren­tice­ship, and learn the game of golf as it was meant to be played.”

Or, they could do what is ar­guably the most common path­way to golf: In­tro­duc­tion to the game via a friend/ fam­ily mem­ber > group/In­di­vid­ual lessons > so­cial golf with mates > invitation to a mem­ber club dur­ing a Cor­po­rate/Open/Tour­na­ment/so­cial day > en­joy the course = Mem­ber­ship en­quiry.

Many of th­ese play­ers even­tu­ally will join a club (in­dus­try data backs this up). I’ll use my own his­tory as an ex­am­ple: For over 30 years in the US, as a so­cial golfer, I played some of the most amaz­ing cour­ses any­where in the world. Play­ing with mates and col­leagues from work was the norm, and many of the big com­pa­nies I worked for had so­cial golf clubs. CEOs, en­gi­neers, soft­ware de­sign­ers and mar­ket­ing man­agers were mem­bers of th­ese clubs. They were a far cry from the per­ceived stereo­type of the beer­guz­zling, havoc-wreak­ing so­cial golfer (well, maybe ex­cept for the mar­ket­ing man­agers.)

When I moved to Aus­tralia, my em­ployer at the time (the GM of the business) in­vited me to play with his so­cial group. As it turned out, they were (and still are) a great group of guys who know and re­spect the game as well as any­one with whom I have played.

Now, as you all know, I even­tu­ally joined a pri­vate club (prov­ing that the GAA path­way model in­deed works). Join­ing a So­cial group in Aus­tralia was sim­ply my path­way to join­ing a club a few years later.

“Re­mote/So­cial mem­bers only join a so­cial club to ob­tain a GA hand­i­cap be­cause it is CHEAP.”

Not nec­es­sar­ily true. Many of them have found a great group of mates who en­joy play­ing to­gether, or they can only play a few times a year. Does that make them cheap­skates? Nope.

While some are doubt­less re­tired, or on a low or fixed in­come, etc, many so­cial golfers pay heaps of money to en­joy the game they love. In fact, prior to join­ing a pri­vate club, I was spend­ing over $3,000 a year in green fees and en­try fees for so­cial events. This also doesn’t in­clude the An­nual

Golf Week­ends, etc, which can add any­where from $500-$1000 or more. All up, I found my­self SAV­ING money when I even­tu­ally joined a mem­ber club.

“So­cial/Re­mote mem­bers rarely pa­tro­n­ise the bar when they visit a club, so they do not support the club with much ad­di­tional rev­enue.”

I find it in­ter­est­ing that the stereo­type of the “Beer- guz­zling” so­cial golfer doesn’t seem to ap­ply when the player is off the course. At any rate, I can hon­estly say that there are many so­cial golfers who spend heaps at the 19th hole – which may off­set the many “carpark” mem­bers of many pri­vate clubs who never visit the club­house.

“So­cial/Re­mote mem­ber­ships al­lows them to play in club com­pe­ti­tions on beau­ti­ful cour­ses with­out pay­ing an­nual fees -which main­tain most Golf Clubs to a high stan­dard.”

But what about the money col­lected from green fees? If it’s not high enough to cover main­te­nance and all other costs, then per­haps your club should raise the rate. But then, you’d prob­a­bly get fewer so­cial play­ers any­way.

“Most pri­vate mem­bers are not elit­ist, or snob­bish, and only wish to play the game ac­cord­ing to the rules of the Royal and An­cient and to re­spect the eti­quette of golf.”

And most So­cial Golfers I play with are not ob­nox­ious, nor cheap, and only wish to play the game ac­cord­ing to the rules of the Royal and An­cient and to re­spect the eti­quette of golf, when their hec­tic sched­ule (and fi­nances) al­lows.

My point this month is that if you ap­ply stereo­types to all so­cial and re­mote golfers, then you must also ap­ply the “elit­ist” stereo­type to ALL pri­vate club mem­bers. And as we all know, nei­ther stereo­type is ac­cu­rate.

As al­ways, I’d love your feed­back.

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