You’re not our sort

Take a look at this behind the scenes video of the photoshoot of the relaunched Get Into Golf campaign. So now in the “fresh faces welcome” campaign we have black people, asian people, a ginger bloke, a bloke with tatoos, a woman with pink hair and a fur coat and a girl showing skin in a bare midriff. Did one of them just say he was going to “smash a ball up a field?”

Seriously? I’d like to know if the people at the PR agency who won the rights to do this campaign are golfers themselves. I doubt this because their concept is so utopian. In an ideal world yes, everyone would be welcome. But in reality if these people knocked on the doors of many private members clubs they would get their feelings hurt by the confrontational attitudes of the people inside who would say “explain yourself. What makes you think you could belong here?” And they would quite rightly think in return – sod you, I’m off.

While the previous Get Into Golf campaign might have played it safe and showed shiny happy people, it was closer to the mark than this.

I feel that this campaign has sliced the ball almost out of bounds, it’s way too edgy. And it’s tackling the problem of participation only by outreach whereas  the solution needs to come from both reaching out and looking inwards – at the seriously bad and selfish attitudes from people inside golf clubs which deter people in the new campaign from ever wanting to have anything to do with our wonderful sport.

There also needs to be a massive engagement of everyone in the industry to push Get Into Golf. But unless people inside many clubs start being kinder and more accepting and less snootily socially superior only the most dogged and bloody minded – like me – would keep on knocking on the locked gates of golf until someone kind lets them in. And this is part of the trouble. Why do many golf clubs have gates? It gives out a message “don’t come in” when really the purpose of the gates is all about “don’t nick our valuables”. If all valuable silverware was removed from the premises and CCTV cameras installed around the course for security why lock people out and people in? It gives off a very negative message. Keep the photographs and rolls of honour of past champions but give the valuables to those who win them for safekeeping. Provide proper lockers to stow away valuable clubs but don’t put secret security codes on the doors.

I will give you an example.

It was some years ago now but when I was to all extents a respectable young law student at University I decided to test the waters and walked to the nearest golf club with the intention of asking the secretary if I could take up a 5 day membership so I could practice in between lectures. I wasn’t naiive, I wanted to see what reaction I would get if I just turned up at the door.

The fairways of the golf course were immaculate. The greens were closely mown and  everything was so well tended anyone would have wanted to play there, I was drooling at it.

So I approached the clubhouse. And there was the first warning. Seriously, there was a message sign outside the door. It said “Men Only” (so dogs or women round the tradesmens entrance then).

Eventually I found another door which was open and found my way to the secretary’s office.  He was sitting behind a huge desk and he stood up and shooed me out into a coridoor. He then barked “what do you want?” When I explained  he gawfawed and commanded with a booming voice “WAIT”. Men are often taught to do so at grammar schools and public schools, to use their voices to command authority and to get people to do as they are told. So I waited until he brought back some women.

When these women appeared I made the mistake of staying sitting down. Mistake. This allowed them to tower over me and be intimidating. I was mesmerised by their dripping diamonds – one had so many diamonds on her person even her nose was pierced with them. I wondered how the other actually managed to play golf her bright orange trousers were so tight. I soon got my answer to that.

“Shoot” she said, still masticating her lunch from which she had been dragged away. Charming.

When I managed to explain what I wanted this was almost shouted back.

“Look, nearly every one of the women here are wives of members. We’re only here to watch them play. We don’t actually do anything at the club, we have no rights, so a woman actually playing golf… do you actually know anyone who is a member here?

At this point my blood pressure was rising and I decided I had nothing to lose by being sarcastic. I had heard that someone who was on telly was a member there.

“Jimmy Tarbuck”

Their jaws dropped and I got up and left without saying another word because the conversation would only have had one result which was “you’re not one of us so you can’t come in” which is why so many golf clubs have locked gates, so “not their sort” are deterred from coming in. It is exactly this that England Golf has to fight rather than trying to bring in new people from all walks of life to expose them to attitudes which have nothing to do with the game of golf itself and everything to do with the heirachy of English society which still seems to be a nasty dominant sub plot to the playing of golf itself.

I got lucky. There was another club further down the road from my university which had a similar name to the previous club. They not only let me in, they had an assistant pro the same age as me who was very compatible and the women in the club were friendly. Years later I was able to help that club when they needed it, destino, as Seve used to say.

So England Golf, please think again. The previous campaign was gentle, but more realistic. Scottish Golf’s campaign is breezier but it involves no people. It’s illustrated by cartoons – mainly a woman who travels to the golf course on a bus – and a female voice over artist who doesnt warn that amongst the 600+ golf clubs in Scotland not to approach clubs like Muirfield or Royal Troon.

The most visited post on this blog is the one about the Channel 4 documentary Cutting Edge The Club, I think it’s because that film captured the true essence of what certain clubs can be like and people from around the world want to find out what its all about, to the utter bemusement.






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