Both sets of my grandparents, one set Jewish, the other WASP-y, were avid golfers. They lived in Florida, traveled to Arizona and Scotland and belonged to various clubs in the ’60s and ’70s, when middle class folks could actually retire and spend their time golfing.
On a recent trip back to NYC, my mom dug out a pair of chiffon yellow Bermuda golf shorts with my grandma’s initials embroidered on them and gave them to me. Thanks Mom, maybe I can wear them in some hipster renaissance outfit somewhere in SF.
My mom pulls crazy things out of boxes and storage places in her small Greenwich Village apartment; like hordes of clowns coming out of a circus car, the treasures just keep coming. These were pristine and had probably been cloistered away for more than 30 years. Suffice to say I am NOT a golfer, save the mini golf experiences with my kids. I get the appeal though, and can perhaps imagine, that some day it might be of interest to me.
Golf, however, is a huge part of the travel market and I have written about golf courses and destinations for years. Two recent stories got me thinking about the symbolism of golf in today’s world. The New York Times story: Revolutionary Cuba Now Lays Sand Traps for the Bourgeoisie and the NPR story charting the golf course casualties of the recession, seem to encapsulate so many of the changes rocking our country, the global economy and the geopolitical shifts in the world.
Ironically, Cuba is now building greens, hoping to woo more tourists, while Florida and Georgia, two of the go-to golf states, are converting some courses to park lands, primarily because of a decline in traffic and revenue. Smaller, less glitzy courses are the first to suffer following the real estate boom and bust. Course construction was fast and furious in the Go-Go ’90s and now there is too much supply and not enough demand. Across the U.S., 600 golf courses have closed in the past five years. The National Golf Foundation, or NGF, expects another 500 more to close in the next three years.
In Cuba, fifty years after Castro closed all of his country’s courses calling golf the “epitome of bourgeois excess,” Cuba is rushing to green light at least four luxury course projects in an effort to attract the global golfing elite to the Caribbean nation. Even Castro’s old comrade, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, is still trying to do away with his country’s courses, to make room for housing for the poor. Cuba as a golfing mecca…the times they are a changin’.