For a game that has roots in shepherds striking rocks (the first Top-Flite?) across open fields, the perception of golf is one of walls. In fact, take a drive by most courses and the first thing you’ll notice is your sightline is obstructed. Maybe it’s an endless row of flat, rectangularly stacked stones, or tall, thin metal strands crisscrossing the sky, or maybe an impenetrable hedgerow reminiscent of Normandy in ’44, but for people born without a silver Scotty Cameron in their hands, these structures represent a silent, but unmistakable message: You’re not welcome. My name is Scuff Clark, proud member of BCN, and this my golf story.
This won’t surprise many but growing up in rural southwest Ohio during the 80s was the opposite of a golf hotbed. (Although we did have agricultural hotbeds.) When my friends and I weren’t putting in farm work, our springs and summers were filled with flyballs and dust from stolen bases. The year’s remainder was spent orchestrating fast breaks, gathering rebounds, and blocking shots. Traditional sports for an ordinary town that was extraordinarily poor.
Don’t get me wrong. There were locals that knew about golf and some had even cobbled together mismatched sets of irons and woods. But the community’s focus never strayed from America’s sports. Accessibility certainly influenced the area’s affinity for recreational activities. The closest golf course, a 15-minute drive from the town’s center, was a dairy farm until transitioning to a nine-holer in 1973, a mere seven years before the birth of many of my classmates.
For all the obstacles standing in the way of me learning the game, I did have one thing going for me, my dad. Dad was a salesman and his golf-obsessed clients always wanted a free round. He was more than happy to oblige but his tee times followed the convention circuit and were several hundred miles away: Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando, Houston, Boston, etc. It wasn’t until I became a teen and I began to think about my career possibilities that Dad sparked my interest in the game.
High school graduates from my town are rare, but rarer are those that attend college. Historically, my school inspires its matriculates to select one of three majors: Education, Construction, or whatever your favorite relative studied during their one semester stint at the local community college. The first two options were of no interest to me, so I followed my dad’s footsteps and majored in Marketing. It was then Dad said, “If you want to do business, you have to learn golf.”
So, on a hot late-summer afternoon, we drove 40 minutes to a beginner friendly (code for rock-hard fairways and slow, flat greens) golf course and borrowed a handful of left-handed clubs from the pro shop. (Yes, not only did I grow up in a non-golfing environment, but I also play from the wrong side. FML.) I don’t remember much from that first round other than having a blast hitting wormburners that rolled out just short of Dad’s drives – #BrownIsBeautiful. Oh, I am sure there were whiffs and putts that rolled 10-feet past, but I didn’t care. I was lovesick.
I no longer thought about hit-and-runs and only wanted to master the bump-and-run. I cared not for the arc of my jumper, but for that of my swing. The intense love affair continued until college at which point golf’s cost separated me from the course. When I did play, it was like a long-distance lover. Visits were sparse, extra special, and never long enough.
Now, my wife and I have good-paying jobs and four beautiful kids, ages 7, 4, 3, and 9 months. We live three minutes from an excellent, affordable public course. And, it’s no longer the knowledge of how to play, the proximity, or money that keeps me from getting the reps I desire. It’s time.
When I drive past courses, I see barriers surrounding the properties in a different light. No longer do I view them as deterrents to outsiders but as defenders of my wild hooks and screaming slices. Without question, this perspective is only possible because I possess the wherewithal and knowledge of the game. I am fortunate, but a minority of golf adoption considering where I grew up. And there are millions of others out there just like I was 20-some years ago – unaware of the game and with limited accessibility. That’s why BCN and the Some Guy’s Backyard movement are critical. We must make golf affordable and accessible to break down walls of exclusion and ensure we shepherd the game forward.