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Quinn L. Richardson-Newton

SPT-501 20TW5 Southern New Hampshire University

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GOLF & SOCIAL CLASS 9-1 Final Project: Research Proposal

 

 

Golf & Social Class

Introduction

The game of golf has been dated back to 100 BC, when early forms are traced to the

Roman game of pagancia, which the participants used a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball.

Also, during the Song Dynasty (960 CE to 1279 CE) in China, they played chuiw an, which was

played with several clubs and a stuffed ball (A Brief History of Golf, 2017). One can imagine,

the game and technology has changed since then. The PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association)

was not formed until 1916 and women only started playing with men in 1952. A game, which

such long history, comes with many rules, etiquette, and the need of money to play the game

today.

The game of golf is getting more and more expensive every year. The price of golf clubs,

with the newest technology, continues to skyrocket. A new driver can cost as much as $500 –

$1,000, for one of the thirteen clubs that you need to play a round of golf. A set of irons can run

the common golfer up to $2,000. After all that, they still need a putter. A club that is considered

the most important club, can also be anywhere between $500 – $1,000. After that’s all said and

done, a new golfer is still missing equipment. They are still in need of a golf bag, clothing, shoes,

and other miscellaneous equipment (range finder, golf balls, tees, divot tool, ball markers, etc.).

Now that they have their equipment, it’s time to find courses to play and “belong” to a golf club.

There are 15,500 courses in the United States (Lumen Sports, 2020), which include many public

and private courses. Some of the best public courses to play include Shadow Creek, Pebble

Beach, and Whistling Straits. Since they are considered the best, they are expensive for the

common golfer to play. Shadow Creek is expensive as $500 per round, Pebble Beach is $495 per

round, and Whistling Straits is $340 per round (Golf Courses in America, 2011). The private

courses require memberships in order to play. These memberships are not easily accessible. The

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less expensive courses just require payment to join. Other courses require letters of

recommendation, references, and include an interview process; not to mention the hefty

payments after all of that. One of the most expensive golf memberships in the world, Liberty

National in New Jersey, costs $240,000 per year. The Commissioner of the PGA, Tim Finchem,

went on to say, “I think it’s one of the most stunning settings for professional golf there is on the

planet”. This golf club includes an on-site heliport, yacht services, and numerous spa services

(Golf Industry Central, 2017). Liberty National may be an extreme case, but there are private

courses that expensive as well. Other courses, like Augusta National in Georgia, are completely

private and do not allow women to play the course.

As seen above, golf is an extremely expensive sport. The game is driven to attract and

serve a certain type of social class. With golf being so expensive, the common golfer would have

a difficult time playing the game on a consistent basis. The purpose of this study is to determine

whether golf and social class have a direct correlation. Golf is not strictly for the middle and

upper class, as anyone can play, but the constant increase in price to play is forcing players away

from the game. Some semi-private courses drive up their price to push public golfers away in

hopes of keeping the etiquette and integrity of the club.

By researching different courses all over the country and surveying golfers from those

courses, there will be a better idea of how the courses operate to attract new members and how

existing golfers feel towards the price of the game.

Literature Review

With the sport of golf being geared toward a certain social class and demographic of

people, golf uses a common “etiquette” and dress code to help separate the common golfer to the

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higher ups. Before the etiquette and dress code, it was race. Separation of white and black

(Dawkins, Braddock, Gilbert, 2018). African American youth first served as caddies at the all-

white golf clubs during the 1800s and early 1900s, which did provide early exposer of golf to the

African American community. The purpose of Dawkins, Braddock, and Gilbert’s (2018) article

was to “describe the role played by the earliest African American golf clubs in promoting golf

among African Americans”.

With going into further detail, Dawkins, Braddock, and Gilbert (2018) explain that

African Americans had created their own golf clubs mainly because of the country’s segregation

and racism against African Americans. They stated, “the earliest African American golf clubs

sought to develop golf as a sport that would be interwoven into the social fabric of black life at

both elite and grassroots levels and free of barriers to enjoyment and participation for blacks”

(Dawkins, Braddock, Gilbert, 2018). In any given sport, African American athletes had been

viewed as inferior. Especially during the Jim Crow era (late 19th to early 20th century), sports

were aimed and promoted towards whites only. Which led to African Americans creating their

own organized leagues. In the golf world, golf was able to exclude African Americans with the

“Caucasians only” clause. With only one, widely known African American golfer on the PGA

Tour, Tiger Woods, golf was viewed not very popular within the black community (Dawkins,

Braddock, Gilbert, 2018). Throughout the early to mid 1900s, African American golf clubs had

rose around the country to help promote the sport of golf within the black community. Their

hopes were to create networking through tournaments, men and women, to help increase the

popularity. In conclusion, Dawkins, Braddock and Gilbert (2018), had concluded that the rise of

African American golf clubs during the 1920s-1940s had advanced the popularity of golf within

the African American “society” elite and the black masses.

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Although there was no precise research methods and data presented, Dawkins, Braddock,

and Gilbert had given qualitative research on how golf had separated African Americans,

especially during segregation times, from the rest of the golf world. Without having quantitative

data, is their only limitation. This study directly correlates to my proposed research study of how

golf promotes itself to certain social classes and demographics. With golf separating whites and

blacks early on, it shows that it can still happen today. Yes, golf is more popular within the black

population. As you see more African Americans on the PGA Tour, not just Tiger Woods.

Much like the separation of white and black people in the game of golf, Cock (2008),

looks into golf and the exclusion of masses within South Africa. Cock’s purpose of study is to

show the social exclusion of golf within South Africa. This study takes a look at how expenses of

certain golf clubs exclude certain people. The River Club has an entry fee of R200,000 (local

currency) and an annual fee of R25,000 (Cock, 2008).

There are different forms of exclusion that Cock looks further into such as, exclusion

from arable and grazing land, exclusion from communally owned land, exclusion from scarce

water sources, exclusion from access to fishing and recreational sites, exclusion from heritage

sites, exclusion from decision making, exclusion from decent work, and exclusion of social

classes and social categories (Cock, 2008). Not only has golf excluded the common people from

participating from the price to play, it has also taken away daily life for South Africans. The

exclusion that directly relates to my proposed study is the exclusion of social classes. This

exclusion is based on how expensive the courses are to play. Cock (2008) gives more examples,

the Johannesburg Country Club costs RI5,000 entrance fee and R5,000 a year. At Tsitsikamma

Coastal Golfing estate membership fees are R40,000 per annum; At Fancourt membership fees

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are RI3,350, and RS50 for IS holes. At Pezula visitors pay R775 for I8 holes. Not only is it

expensive for the common golfer, there is an elaborate etiquette and dress code strictly imposed

for different golf courses.

Cock goes further in how the golf courses have taken away land for daily life, which

would be a whole other study to research. There is a limitation to the study, that Cock focuses on

the more expensive golf clubs. Cock mentions that there are over 500 golf courses in South

Africa. Could some of those courses be available to the lower class? Or are all of them geared

toward the social elite? Again, this study was more of telling the facts rather than conducting

research. That is another limitation of Cock’s article.

Ceron-Anaya (2015) goes further into the research of the exclusion based on social class

in Mexico. The purpose of Ceron-Anaya’s stu

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