The Guardian is criticised for saying golf is for elites

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 27, 2022 14:38

The Guardian newspaper has received a backlash for stating that golf has no social conscience and is “elite”.

The Guardian’s chief sports writer, Barney Ronay, wrote that, amid the launch of the first LIV Golf event, “it’s time to laugh at the golfers as they pretend, but also don’t pretend, to care about things”.

He added: “Golf is not a sport with any deep sense of public ownership or social conscience … it is in effect a refined version of all elite sport.”

He also implied that the game is too expensive for most people to play.

The Guardian then published letters by several people who wrote to it to show that the above is not the case.

Amanda Ing, a director of Whitby Golf Club, said she read the article “with a mixture of anger and disappointment”.

“All professional sports are far removed from grassroots participation – when was the last time the local kids were allowed a quick kickabout on the turf in their local sports stadium?

“Many golf courses have public access through footpaths and rights of way. Here at Whitby, our course is located on a stretch of heritage coastline and is a vital green space and amenity maintained by the club,” she wrote.

“Your article does a disservice to those of us who work tirelessly to promote and develop our golf clubs as part of our local communities. There are hundreds of clubs like mine – run by their members and engaging in the daily fight for survival. I challenge Ronay to visit us here in Whitby to understand what golf is really all about.”

Derek Haswell from Edinburgh stated: “Golf has never been the bastion of elitism that he implies. At my local club in Edinburgh, junior memberships start at £10 a month – and we pay £29 per month for our 13-year-old to be a member of a football team. A senior member playing twice a week will pay about £7 per round. The club has 15 membership categories, with a sliding scale of fees to make the game affordable to as many people as possible; such inclusive pricing models are common at other clubs.

“Also, you don’t need “hundreds of pounds of equipment” to play golf. I could easily buy a workable set of secondhand clubs for around the price of the new Liverpool FC kit.

“I am a classroom assistant. I don’t earn enough to pay one penny in tax. Are there golf venues that I can’t afford to visit? Sure. Are there clubs with membership fees way beyond my means? Certainly. Are there clubs that might balk at accepting a humble classroom assistant as a member, even if I could afford the fees? Probably – but only a tiny fraction of the 550 clubs in Scotland.”

And Chris White from Wiltshire wrote: “In Edinburgh in the 1970s, there were more than 50 golf courses, a lot of them council-owned, so golf was cheap and there were few entry barriers. When I was 12, my mum encouraged me to play golf in the hope that it would become my “thing”. She organised lessons for me, and I thank her endlessly as golf did become my thing.

“I moved to Swindon in the 1980s and found a great municipal course and again it seemed as if “everyone” played. I then joined a private club, and it was here that I encountered members with sexist and racist views. I never for a moment blamed golf for these attitudes – it is the people I blame. I now play at a local course that has a twilight rate of £18, which I’m lucky to be able to take advantage of during retirement. My left-of-centre attitude dislikes the LIV tour immensely in the same way that I dislike Saudi sportswashing in football and Formula One.”

This is not the first time of late that The Guardian has been criticised for not being fair when it comments on golf. In November 2020 it published a piece entitled: ‘A few reclaimed golf courses won’t stop the Arctic melting, but it’s the sentiment we need’. The argument was that golf courses ‘transform the native landscape into rolling greens’, which, stated the author, is bad for the environment because ‘publicly accessible green space [is] precisely the sentiment we need in the fight for climate action’.

And last year, in an article entitled ‘London golf courses could provide homes for 300,000 people, study says’, the newspaper quotes Russell Curtis, an architect, ‘design advocate’ appointed by London mayor Sadiq Khan and the author of ‘Golf Belt’, a study of how London’s golf courses ‘could help address the housing crisis’ and that ‘courses on public land could be used ‘in a more creative way’ to ease housing crisis’.

In both cases many of the claims made were disputed.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 27, 2022 14:38
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  1. Wanda July 2, 22:25

    I can imagine some people still say golf is for elites. I myself am a golfer and I don’t count myself for belonging to the elites. But for people who don’t know much about golf and they read about LIV and the huge amounts of money…I can imagine they think; elites! LIV is not the best promotion for our golfsport anyway!!!

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  2. Daynes June 27, 17:29

    Can The Guardian not make the distinction between LIV Golf (which I agree is a dreadful venture and will, hopefully, not last), professional golf in general and, most importantly, grass roots golf? Participation in the game has grown significantly over the past two years. The accusation of elitism, especially across the U.K., is so wide of the mark. Perhaps they’re just pandering to their reader-base.

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  3. JD June 27, 16:50

    It’s attitudes like Barney Ronays that would have kept Golf an elitist sport but where have you been these past few decades in the world of Sport Barney? Living like an ostrich with your head In the ground? The vast proliferation of golf over several decades with the development of pay as you play courses has forced the private golf clubs to become less elitist and more competitive and professional as golf became democratised but people like you who for a personal dislike of a sport and then don’t speak out at Councils closing Public Sports Facilities, often under false and dubious pretences, will only serve to make some sports more elitist again!! Where were you when Lewisham Council closed all the Public Sports facilities at Beckenham Place Park to recreate a country estate? With a Water Boarding pond? Gone are the cricket pitches, gone are the football and rugby pitches, gone are the PUBLIC Tennis Courts and gone is the 18 Public Golf Course – one of the first Municipal Courses in England if not the first and one of the last 18hole municipal golf courses inside Greater London! Barney keep to Cricket and football Sports you know something about!

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