The very rich are different from you and me.
June 16, 2019 2:13 PM   Subscribe

A friend who used to play at Augusta every year during non-tournament weeks (his father was a member) told me that, at dinner in the clubhouse, you could see the power of the green jacket in the body language of the guests, as they fawned over their host. Yet there was also a certain gelding effect: “Dad was not a humble man, but he was always nervous at Augusta. He didn’t want to break a rule. The club turned these high-powered men into boys.”
Writing for The New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten takes us on a 10,000-word tour of Augusta National Golf Club during the 2019 Masters Tournament: its founding, its opulence, and its handling of media: “Inside the Cultish Dreamworld of Augusta National”.

For folks who have opinions without wanting to read a long article, Max Marcovitch at Golf.com has “7 things to know about the new, 10,000-word New Yorker story on Augusta National”
Paumgarten also provided a brief, matter-of-fact dispatch during the Masters.
posted by Going To Maine (38 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
"A certain gelding effect"? About his father?

Move on, nothing Oedipal to see here.
posted by jamjam at 2:49 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


The article on Golf.com is somewhat bizarre, and also really misleading.

For example, here's a piece of the original article:

Tim Jones, a senior project manager at a steel company in Louisville, told me, “Never been anywhere like this, where everything’s A1, from the hand towels in the bathrooms to the grass. I called my son. I told him, ‘This isn’t a golf tournament. It’s a cultural event where the Southern United States has its chest stuck out and is saying come down and visit.’ It’s been a hundred and fifty-five years since the Civil War, and yet we want to let people know we’re a strong people, a hardworking people, a proud people.

And here's how that's reported on Golf.com:

#5. It includes some political and cultural undertones

Or overtones? There’s plenty of first-person narrative in the story, and in one scene, the author describes a phone call he makes to his son to characterize some of the people he’s met and impressions he’s made. It’s, well, direct.

“This isn’t a golf tournament. It’s a cultural event where the Southern United States has its chest stuck out and is saying ‘Come down and visit. It’s been a hundred and fifty-five years since the Civil War, and yet we want to let people know we’re a strong people, a hardworking people, a proud people.’"


Basically, Golf.com provided a summary of the article for people who didn't want to bother reading a 10,000 word article written by someone who didn't want to bother reading a 10,000 word article.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 3:38 PM on June 16 [13 favorites]


I can't think of the last article I read that saw me wrinkle my nose in distaste so many times. There's not one single thing I can defend about high-dollar golf.
posted by potrzebie at 4:06 PM on June 16 [9 favorites]


Ain't it wonderful how our entire society revolves around making these guys richer.
posted by Reyturner at 4:42 PM on June 16 [15 favorites]


Augusta is one of the nodal points of our national toxic masculinity ley network. If I hear someone at work lionizing this place it usually means I’ll have to experience at least one temper tantrum in our professional relationship.
posted by q*ben at 4:45 PM on June 16 [35 favorites]


Oh God, I was at IBM in the early 2000s and was part of the women of IBM pressuring Gerstner to bow out of the club. I know it isn't the most important of issues, but it was just so offensive how unashamed they were about being sexist and racist. I can't tell you how many of my male peers who got all handwavy about how it was a private club. Like that made anything better at all.

There's a special place in Hell for Hootie Johnson, and I both believe and hope that he's rotting in it.
posted by frumiousb at 5:13 PM on June 16 [28 favorites]


In my last job, my former COO published an internal blog and one of the entries was all about how much he loved watching the Masters and the silky voice of Jim Nantz and tradition etc. He somehow tied it to work because they've changed the course configurations at Augusta several times and we need to change course in our company but still respect tradition.

He also had other entries about how employees should consider putting their kids into fencing classes and that we should all make our beds every day.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 5:37 PM on June 16 [9 favorites]


"...employees should consider putting their kids into fencing classes..."
I WISH my kids had taken fencing classes. We had goats. A normal fence means NOTHING to a goat.
posted by Floydd at 6:11 PM on June 16 [81 favorites]


I’m all for putting kids in fencing classes, at least for a few weeks.
posted by now i'm piste at 7:47 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


God damn right.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:47 PM on June 16 [16 favorites]


This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by fairmettle at 12:43 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


There's not one single thing I can defend about high-dollar golf.

The more I look at it and think about it, the more I feel that applies to any golf. Such a misuse of space and resources for the benefit of very few. And to mis-paraphrase Hannah Gadsby, if you are a man with small kids and you still make time to play golf, you are probably an arsehole.
posted by deadwax at 3:37 AM on June 17 [11 favorites]


Several years ago my partner landed her first big c-suite job. Along about six months into it a big vendor called her up and offered her a weekend trip to Augusta, during the tournament.

“Oh wow that’s awesome, do you think I should get a new suit?”

“You’re not going.”

“Oh man, dangit. That would have been something to see. The azaleas! Well you’ll have a good time.”

“I’m not going.”

“You’re what?”

“They don’t allow women members at Augusta so fuck ‘em, I’m not going.”

“But...”

“I already gave the tickets to [CEO] and [CFO] and they’re going. Even after I told them why, they’re still going. What a couple of jerks can you believe it?”
posted by notyou at 5:24 AM on June 17 [23 favorites]


Ctrl-f "fart" "gas" "flatulence" = 0 results

This story leaves out one of the most salient parts of my 5 years experience as a caddy at an exclusive private golf club.

Rich people are gassy AF.
posted by srboisvert at 7:04 AM on June 17 [15 favorites]


One thing that I didn't get from the article: Do all the rich people in their green jackets go to Augusta any time other than that one week of the Masters?
posted by clawsoon at 7:51 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Fuck Augusta, and fuck golf. Fuck it completely. Banish it. Destroy the memory of it.

I'm really not sure why ecoterrorists haven't targeted these courses. I mean, they're delicate chemical undertakings that could be fucked over with rock salt and a fertilizer spreader.
posted by uberchet at 8:40 AM on June 17 [11 favorites]


Such a misuse of space and resources for the benefit of very few.

There are some places that have essentially local, city/community/regional golf courses that are "mostly affordable" for the general public.
posted by jkaczor at 9:04 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


uberchet: I'm really not sure why ecoterrorists haven't targeted these courses. I mean, they're delicate chemical undertakings that could be fucked over with rock salt and a fertilizer spreader.

According to the article, somebody went to jail for taking a cupful of sand from Augusta. Imagine what the good and the great would do to you if you did something actually destructive to this holy sanctuary.
posted by clawsoon at 9:05 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


I suspect it's more that rich people are perhaps only slightly more flatulent than normal due to rich diets but that they're way more comfortable forcing strangers to endure their emissions. Speaking as a very gassy person, farting openly is usually an indication of intimacy and comfort with someone's presence, "the hug you can smell," as someone I can't recall once put it. If you're farting in front of strangers, it's instead a power play.
posted by Scattercat at 9:16 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


If you're farting in front of strangers, it's instead a power play.

I do like a good office fart-walk, on occasion.
posted by thelonius at 9:41 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I do like a good office fart-walk, on occasion.

I believe the phrase is "crop-dusting".
posted by clawsoon at 9:41 AM on June 17 [7 favorites]


Such a misuse of space and resources for the benefit of very few.
---
There are some places that have essentially local, city/community/regional golf courses that are "mostly affordable" for the general public.


I played my first golf on one of those courses you linked; McCall Lake. Let's set aside that the mostly affordable aspect involves public subsidies (not only are the courses losing money as a whole on operations, McCall was recently renovated for 7 million dollars).

McCall Lake is 198 acres plus the driving range; it's 27 holes (a 9 hole par 3 and a standard 18 hole). If every hole has a foursome at it, that's 108 people that can be playing golf at a time; a little under 2 acres per person playing sports. It's literally adjacent to the Jaycee Slo-pitch park (13 baseball/softball diamonds) and the Irish Athletic Club (3 rugby pitches, 2 field hockey pitches). These two facilities add up to 68 acres (ie 1/3 the size of McCall Lake), but 362 people can play at a time (not counting substitutes or officials). That's almost exactly 10 times more people playing sports per acre of land. And that's not counting other resources, like the fertilizer and mower fumes and so on (grass that's shitty by golf fairway standards is amazing by field sports standards).

Golf is by it's inherent nature a sport that consumes a lot of land and resources per capita, and there's nothing that can change that.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:05 AM on June 17 [8 favorites]


Caddyshack wrote this article in 1980, and was much funnier.
posted by chavenet at 10:41 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I'm really not sure why ecoterrorists haven't targeted these courses. I mean, they're delicate chemical undertakings that could be fucked over with rock salt and a fertilizer spreader.

The groundskeepers at the course I worked at had shotguns "For scaring away Canada Geese" who do a little golf course ecoterrorism.

They also fired them at my friend and I when we tubed down the river that cut through the course collecting sunken golf balls (ostensibly blanks - we didn't stick around for confirmation).

(and this was in Canada)
posted by srboisvert at 11:29 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I'm really not sure why ecoterrorists haven't targeted these courses. I mean, they're delicate chemical undertakings that could be fucked over with rock salt and a fertilizer spreader.

Imagine how much money would get spent putting guns and other paramilitary gear into the hands of the too-racist-even-to-be-cops dudes that would get hired to guard every golf course in the country if something like that happened. How much fossil fuel would be burned renovating the courses. All of which would somehow be paid for mostly by taxpayer funds rather than the fortunes of rich people.

The only upside I can see might be that directing so many resources to surveilling, infiltrating, and harassing environmental groups might take a little bit of heat off of our Muslim neighbors for a bit. But it would probably be mostly growing the police state rather than redirecting it.
posted by straight at 11:48 AM on June 17


Thank you all for reminding me why I love metafilter.
posted by Captain Fetid at 12:15 PM on June 17


The more I look at it and think about it, the more I feel that applies to any golf

My friend, have you heard the good news of Disk Golf?
posted by persona at 12:56 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


> For folks who have opinions without wanting to read a long article,

You know us so well.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:57 PM on June 17 [7 favorites]


Such a misuse of space and resources for the benefit of very few.

There are some places that have essentially local, city/community/regional golf courses that are "mostly affordable" for the general public.


I was thinking of the public course 200 metres away when I made the comment. Mostly it just seems to throw public money and land into the mix rather than fixing anything. Yes, the public can go and play golf there, however it still attracts very few people, all of whom are white, male and fairly well off. I don't think I've seen a woman on the course.

Often I don't see anyone at all on the course, which is a shame because they moved a creek to make it and it's a hundred acres or more of really nice open space in the middle of a city. I know I'm not alone amongst the locals in dreaming of what it could be if it wasn't facilitating blokes bashing balls around.
posted by deadwax at 3:49 PM on June 17


"if you are a man with small kids and you still make time to play golf, you are probably an arsehole."

Sigh.

So I swung a golf club for the first time in my life last week. I was being taken to a corporate event, and the company treating me rented out the top floor of a Top Golf facility. I wasn't psyched to go, because I've never swung a golf club in my life, but there was free food and alcohol and I really like the folks at this company, so sure, why not.

I got up to swing and had no idea what I was doing. My first three swings sent the balls way out to my right, but on the fourth I stopped thinking about it, and I connected, and that ball fucking flew. Straight, high, and far. This perfect, elegant parabolic trajectory that hits the physics/engineering/athletic/meditative part of my brain all at the same time. Hooked. I'm hooked.

So I spent the night hitting balls. I hit 3+ buckets of balls, which I think is somewhere upwards of 200 swings. I asked someone to video me, and everyone back home who's seen it says I'm a natural. I figured out this trick where if I completely clear my mind of all thoughts my swing is fluid and powerful, and I connect with the ball perfectly every time. As soon as I think about what I'm doing (is this arm straight? are my knees bent? am i leaning too far forward?) I completely fuck it up. If I think about anything else (did I leave the iron on? did I send that email?) I completely fuck it up.

The image in my mind during my swings was a lake, mirror still, that stretches from hoizon to horizon, reflecting the sky. Perfect still horizon in 360 degrees. Perfectly calm. No wind. No clouds. Whoosh. Thwack. Repeat.

So I don't want to get into golf. I don't want a set of clubs (yet), I don't want to pay greens fees, but I do want to swing a 1 wood as many times as I feel like in quick succession, and there's a driving range literally 3 minutes from my office, and Tuesdays before noon is half price.

So today I was looking on eBay at used drivers. There's a ton of variables (steel shaft? graphite shaft? extra flex? regular flex? stiff? super stiff? titanium head? what angle? what volume? how long do you want the club? what grip do you want?). I have no idea what to choose, so I think sometime soon I'm going to a local shop and tell them "yo, I want to leave my desk on Tuesday mornings, hit balls for 60-90 minutes, and I want to do it with the club that will send them the straightest, highest, and farthest, so what club should I buy? Oh, and I need a glove because I shredded my hands the last time I did this."

And that's my new thing. I hit balls and the only way it works is when I completely calm my mind.

I don't need a green jacket. I just need a club and a glove. And that big calm lake in my head.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:59 PM on June 17 [6 favorites]


spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints, you should read The Inner Game of Tennis, it'll resonate strongly with you.
posted by Captain Fetid at 10:18 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I don’t actually think this is a story about golf, though it’s easy to read it as such. It’s a story about money, and how people act. It’s about asking club members to be helpful all the time while steadfastly keeping women out of the room. It’s about being awed by Condi Rice giving you help on a demo course while you sell $50 million of merchandise. It’s about $1.50 pimento cheese sandwiches for everyone who gets to come while saying that Tiger Woods is fine now.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:40 PM on June 17


pimento cheese sandwiches

what a weird shibboleth
posted by thelonius at 8:03 AM on June 18


Everyone should read The Inner Game of Tennis. It's the kind of book that buzzword-spouting business types think that crap like Seven Habits is. I'm not as much a stoic as I used to be, but I've often thought that if you sent a kid off into the world with just a copy of Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius and a copy of The Inner Game of Tennis, that kid would probably be pretty well-prepared.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:41 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Interesting article, but it really doesn't dive deeply into the machinations behind all those new multimillion dollar facilities built over the last few years. Look at this lovely rolling park just outside the National's fence. Until recently it was an entire neighborhood; some of my friends grew up there. About 15-20 years ago the National quietly started buying up properties there (using shell companies); then once word got out who was behind the purchases they quickly moved to buy everything else, basically paying whatever it took. There were only two holdouts. They then moved Berckman Road (where the street view is from) to the other side of the old subdivision, and leveled every house. That rolling land you see is now used for parking one week a year and sits vacant the rest of the time. They bought an entire shopping center across the street and now use it for preparing that food described in the article. they have also bought a couple of other shopping centers and apartment complexes adjacent to the course for who knows what purpose. They bought a portion of the adjacent Augusta Country Club presumably to lengthen the 13th hole. More on their real estate purchases can be found here and here. So basically, they have spent hundreds of millions on all this land, and that is before they even did anything with it. Right now they are building a tunnel under Washington Road, the major thoroughfare that goes by the club, so that all the trucks that move stuff in and out before and after the tournament can get in and out more easily. There is a rumor that they are planning to build their own interchange on nearby interstate 20 so that members and patrons can go directly to the club without being inconvenienced by driving through town. That is probably just an urban legend, but who knows? This is the same group, after all, that managed to get a tax break for renting their houses during the tournament. I don't know if it is the intended effect of all this, but the tournament (and club itself) is slowly becoming dissociated from its namesake town. There are a number of members who are locals, sometimes of surprisingly modest means, but they are often from families who joined in the 40's and 50's when the club was struggling and as they die off they being replaced with the ultra-rich. The catering that I mentioned: it used to be done by local businessmen and women who made the pimiento cheese sandwiches and other food sold on the course. The neighborhood that became a parking lot? The people who lived there made a few extra bucks each year selling parking in their yards. The new housing that is being built on some of that land takes away from the rental market in town that week. The tournament will always be a big boost to the local economy, but more and more every aspect of the tournament is coming under the complete control of the Augusta National.
posted by TedW at 9:10 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: Summaries of articles for those who don't want to bother reading them by those who don't want to bother reading them either.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:27 AM on June 18


It sounds like a university, but not.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:52 AM on June 18


If the millennials are going to kill golf, Augusta looks like the Final Boss.
posted by emjaybee at 8:39 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


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