There is a battle going on in San Francisco to save Sharp Park Golf Course, located in Pacifica about 15 miles south of the city. The course is one of only two municipal sea-side courses in the world that were designed by Alistair MacKenzie. You’d think that would be enough to protect it. But no. There is a hearing today in Federal Court in San Francisco to consider a motion on the part of the plaintiffs (that would be the anti-golf course contingent) to, among other things, halt mowing on nine holes of the course. Well there’s the spirit of compromise so sorely missing in America today! It reminds me of that scene in The Three Amigos where the bandito says, “I like these guys, they’re funny. Only kill one of them.”
There is a great deal of information on this controversy available on line, so I will dispense with a detailed summary. Here’s the essence of the debate: The course is home to two endangered species (one frog, one snake). I’ve seen photos of them and they’re nice looking critters, especially the snake, and I certainly don’t wish them any harm. The environmental groups advocating the course’s closure are relying in large part, as you might expect, on the need to close the course in order to protect them.
There’s a problem with this. There is a way for golfers and frogs and snakes to coexist, or in other words, to have their Rodney King (“Can’t we all get along?”) moment. The argument that we have to choose between golf and the environment is a false dichotomy in this instance, and in many others I might add. There are measures that both preserve the course and protect the critters.
But obviously this didn’t resolve the issue, because otherwise why would I be writing about it? The more liberal elements of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (and believe me, that’s getting pretty liberal) are still pushing for closure and conversion of the course into part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. And what might they be using as additional leverage in this debate? Why the lousy image of golf, of course. For lots of folks golf is just polo without the ponies. It’s a lot of rich old white guys farting around, smoking cigars and making deals to screw the 99% when they get back to the office.
As Exhibit A, check out this video that’s on the website of the San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club:
It’s a cute piece of propaganda. But notice a couple things. Except for the first shot of a golfer pushing a cart, whenever you see golfers in motion they’re in golf carts. Fat lazy bastards. Even the guy with the electric cart looks like a twit with his stupid gadgetry. There’s a shot of two long lines of parked golf carts just waiting for their chance to go out and crush some helpless amphibians. And on the other side of the issue? Oh look it’s little kids flying kites with their Dad (a thousand dollars says that guy drives a Prius), and then, as the background music swells, a shot of virtuous people on bicycles, so much more wholesome than those, ugh, golfers.
There’s also a gratuitous shot of water being pumped out of the course and into the ocean. The image of a brown liquid spewing out of a pipe is a guaranteed winner when it comes to making an environmental argument. It doesn’t matter that in this instance it’s fresh water that being discharged (Oh my god!) into the small body of water adjoining the course known as the Pacific Ocean. These pump shots always look nasty. We’ve seen decades of this kind of footage on shows like 60 Minutes and it’s hard not to see this and assume, yuck, that’s gotta be sewage or industrial waste.
So how should we as golfers respond? I’ll take that up in my next post.