” My Life as a Golf Marshall” : Racism on the Golf Course?

I am certain to some golfers I am perceived as a privileged white man settling into a cushy retirement job as a golf Marshall.

I can’t deny the fact I am white but that hardly makes me privileged. I suppose I have been a potential victim of golf course racism. Is it not the virulent kind and deadly kind you are more likely to see in the United States where we are led to believe by the media is solely suffered by minority groups like blacks, Asians and Latinos. I can’t say, except for one incident, that I have been subject to golf course racism. And a Marshall’s job is anything but a cushy retirement job. The working conditions are less than what a privileged white man endures such as washing down golf carts, filling up golf carts with gas, getting an earful from rude golfers and fellow employees and clearing branches from cart paths and the fairway not to mention working in sweltering heat or in snowsuits in the late autumn to attempt being warm! I took the job as a learning experience and as a challenge plus with COVID there were really very little travel options.

I will relate one story where I was victim of racism. I encountered three young black men who are twenty minutes behind schedule on starting the 15th hole. I politely ask them if they can be so kind and do me a favour by picking up their pace as a nasty jam up is accumulating behind them. Pretty please! One lashes out at me and says “Fuck Off. We paid our fucking money and we want to play fucking golf. Leave us alone and stick your retirement job up your fucking white ass.” They are met as they leave the course and ream into the Pro-Shop manager complaining of harassment by two Marshalls (one of which was me) and the starter all laced with many “fucks” and “fucking”. Someone got out of bed on the wrong side blasting me with blatant racist slurs. I thought of how to reply in a sarcastic and non offensive manner but are dickheads like that worth the effort? No.

The next day I am playing golf in a foursome with a black man half my age and we are neck and neck playing similar golf, enjoying ourselves and having a great time. We get to the 10th hole and the Korean couple we are golfing with gets hostile and launches into my companion saying he has no manners, is rude, does not understand golf and they have better scores than he does! The viciousness of the attack causes my companion to shout back and say, “ Get off the fucking course!” A small crowd is looking and I feel caught in the middle trying to calm everyone down. Eventually the Marshall comes and breaks up the foursome but the couple is behind us now and at the next hole I hear them ripping into each other. Hmm I say. They could have equally launched into me but why my fellow golfer?. It smelt of racism.

For almost all golfers, at least publicly, other golfers are simply other golfers. The incidents above are the only public displays of racism I have seen in months on my golf course.

Is there some sort of inherent racism amongst staff at golf courses? I am sure there is. I have been to some private courses if you said “global inclusion and diversity” they would look at you with a blank face having no idea what you are talking about. Amongst the Marshalls and Pro-Shop staff at my course just about are all white males over 65 and there are less than a handful of women. There are some Asians and one black. Does this match with the patron’s ethnicity and sex? Yes the majority are white men with a small percentage of women.35% of the golfers are Korean and maybe 5% are black. So there is no parity of gender and ethnicity amongst the Marshalls and Pro-Shop staff but is this some conscious choice or simply the fact that the majority of golfers at my course are white men many of whom then gravitate to Marshalling and working the Pro-Shop as they know the course so well? Many Marshall as they love the sport and talking to and helping fellow golfers. Marshalling applications are open to all with golfing experience particularly those who have played the course for years. It may take the non-Caucasians to age into golf Marshalling and Pro-Shop employment but that may take a couple of decades. In the meantime if you have a chip on your shoulder don’t take it out on the Marshalls and Pro-Shop employees but look at management hiring practices and the tool of suitable candidates on the market. If there is any kinship amongst golf course Marshalls and Pro-Shop employees it is based on a commonality of playing golf and a love of golf

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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