Long referred to as “the gentleman’s game,” golf carries with it many upper-class connotations. The stereotypical golfer has too much time on their hands and too much money to care. While not completely true, there is a slight amount of accuracy to the idea that the world of golf is walled-off to many.
The game is almost synonymous with a certain kind of social and economic status. We popularly think of golfers as at least middle class, with plenty of leisure time and the means to afford expensive clubs, tee times, and frivolous accessories. The modern reality is that anyone can pick up the game of golf if given the right opportunity.
One major reason that golf is considered elitist is the perceived lack of diversity among those who play it. Golf history invokes ideas of exclusive country clubs with gates that open only for those with power, influence, and the right skin tone. Although today 20% of players are nonwhite with the proportion growing ever larger, the perception of golf remains that it’s mainly a sport for upper middle class white men.
Another reason for the elitist perception is that even playing on less expensive municipal courses requires access. They’re not places a group of teenagers can walk around the corner to start playing. At the very least they need a ride and borrowed clubs. Additionally, a golf course is a secluded piece of land that needs heavy regular maintenance. Not something you’re likely to find in underserved neighborhoods. This simple fact of the game means that many who lack transit options (most courses are not accessible by public transportation) will not have the opportunity to play.
Although the game itself is not inherently elitist, the fact also remains that golf is a hallmark of the business world, which is still mostly occupied by moneyed white men. We associate golf with the financially successful (or at least comfortable), and the course is a place where deals are made and professional relationships are formed. “A round of golf” is basically shorthand for a casual client meeting. To keep an entire generation of young people out of golf deprives them of a method of entrance into this world.
He may not be the role model he once was, but it’s easy to forget that at one point Tiger Woods carried on his shoulders the dreams of young people of all races. His success at an early age (he is still the youngest-ever winner of the Masters, earning his first green jacket at just 21 years old) was an inspiration for many not just to take up golf, but to strive for success in fields they may not have thought were intended for them.
It’s this sense of hope that The Bridge Golf Foundation nurtures in the young men we help. Through immersion in golf and related activities, we provide access to a world of possibilities both on and off the course. It’s not a matter of giving kids a new game to play. It’s about showing them that the world is full of opportunities to grow and learn in places they might have never considered before.