Homosapiens are drawn to community just as any other species. We seek religious groups with shared beliefs, watering holes with people who share hardships and celebrations, political groups with ideas of future change or call to return to imagined idyllic pasts. If it’s true that every individual is the leading act in their own theatre, those autonomous beings long for groupings that are bigger than themselves. We’ve all undoubtedly come across marketing strategies based around doing as others do, i.e. over 300 million burgers sold or more people using the iPhone everyday more than any other mobile device.
One can guess at why we are drawn to this. Perhaps change in large or small degrees relies on communion. Or perhaps survival in and of itself is dependent upon reliance. Even simpler, we may just want to feel as though we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. There’s a reason the severest form of detention is excommunication from human contact. There are studies that have found human touch and proximity to have a physiological effect on infant and child maturation. As my mentor use to tell me, we may die alone but everyone is born inside of a group.
So what the hell are we talking about here? Why did the golf column just begin with a paragraph on human interconnectedness? Well, quite simply, golf is just another form of it. A conversation continues in and around golf as to what the rules and norms of the golf course should be, and I’d like to posit that if interconnectedness and inclusion are not at the center of it, we are taking a step away from the foundational tenants of golf tradition. Golf Digest printed a statement from Quail Ridge’s general manager in its July issue stating that all apparel that isn’t torn or indecent is acceptable at our course. Golf Digest was doing a larger survey of how expectations are changing throughout the country on decorum and presentation. Not surprisingly, the numbers suggested that older rules were being relaxed, even if they were being replaced with newer, more necessary ones (cell phone use).
Here in Michigan, more and more private clubs are being forced to either open their doors to public play or lower the standard for membership. While golf is more tightly bound to the market than other sports due to the necessity of space (land is valuable), the sagging economy is forcing a change in values and culture.
Golf has long been regarded as a “gentlemen’s game.” As sexist and elitist as that phrase may be it points towards a sort of decorum that all golf communities share. Not stepping in putting lines, hitting in order, remaining quiet and still while others hit, offering encouragement or frustration at good and bad shots are all a part of the culture of golf. Give me nine holes with a person and I’ll tell you a lot about their character away from the course. So while the particular elements of golf’s culture are changing, the central tenants of graciousness, patience, competitiveness, and companionship at the course remain. Golf is just another excuse to get together. And community will never be the property of any exclusive group.