Where There's Smoke
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In Southern California, Weedmaps' 30-year-old CEO, Justin Hartfield, partakes regularly at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Beach Country Club, Anaheim Hills and Arroyo Trabuco, among others. For the most part he fits right in, though he has a buddy who leaves Hartfield out of his group when playing with a certain conservative friend. "It's funny because this guy will have a double [cocktail] at 9:30 a.m. and another double at the turn, but if I brought my torch out, he'd be like, 'What the f--- is this?!' "
Some golfers believe weed gives them a competitive edge. One California financial executive recalls trying to qualify for the U.S. Amateur in the late '90s and struggling through the first of two 18s. "My brother was on the bag and he said, 'Why don't you go into the woods and smoke up?' So I did. And it calmed my nerves. I ended up shooting a couple under, and my name was on the leader board. I ended up missing by a shot."
Others like the way it helps them tune out distractions. "When I was stoned and playing golf, nothing else mattered," says a former college golfer, now a 32-year-old Connecticut paralegal. "My station in life, how much money I had, the fact that I was single, etc.—all of these things were inconsequential." Wholly focused on each shot, "I played my nastiest golf," he says. This included the day he took his 36-hole Playing Ability Test, required to become a PGA member. He passed. "I used to say, 'My handicap is 4, but when stoned, I'm scratch.' "
One important thing to keep in mind: Whatever weed might do to your game, it has also been shown to affect short-term memory. A couple of New York City-area golfers learned this lesson a couple of years ago. They'd shot the low score at a member-guest tournament and decided to take a little "drive" to celebrate before claiming their prizes. "We got back, showered and went to the dinner," one of them recalls. "We looked at the leader board, and we weren't on it." What had happened? "We forgot to hand in our scorecard."
GOING SHOPPINGI bought my supplies at one of The Clinic's clean, brightly lit locations. Elle Shobe, a cheerful and knowledgeable young "budtender" and a former Miss High Times, walked me through my purchases. For about $100—expensed to Golf Digest—I walked out with an eighth-ounce of Sour Relief bud, one of the center's in-house strains, 10 marijuana-infused lemon drops, a THC gingerbread cookie, glass pipe and lighter.
It was my first purchase, legal or otherwise. Yes, as a younger man, I might have taken hits from passing joints at concerts or backyard parties, but I had never felt the need to buy any. This meant I had a few things to consider before traipsing down to the intersection of marijuana and golf for this assignment. My boss at Texas Monthly, where I'm an associate editor, would have to approve. I needed to ask my wife. Would we say anything to our 11-year-old daughter? What would her teachers and school administrators think? And what about her classmates' parents? In the end, it was my wife's mother who expressed the most concern. "What if you get addicted?" she worried.
She meant the pot, not the Golf Digest assignment.
POT AMONG THE PROSWeed and the PGA Tour have an unfriendly relationship, at least officially. "Marijuana is illegal in the U.S. and most other countries," reads the tour's anti-doping-program manual. "Involvement with illegal substances goes against the spirit of our sport."
No doubt there are some players who light up, though. In 2010, Matt Every served a three-month suspension from the tour after he was arrested on a misdemeanor possession charge—a charge that was later dropped. "Honestly, man, I know more people who smoke marijuana than who don't smoke marijuana," Every told reporters. "I know that's probably not the politically correct thing to say, but it's the truth. It's not a big deal to me."
Robert Garrigus told Golf World he'd smoked pot while competing on the Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour. "There were plenty of guys" who did, he said in a 2011 interview. Former tour caddie Michael Collins suggested in a Golf Channel interview that it's happened on the PGA Tour as well.
Last year the World Anti-Doping Agency made it easier for marijuana users to avoid detection. Now, an athlete's urine needs to show 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter to get a "positive" test result. That's 10 times the old threshold. But the PGA Tour isn't budging. Its random drug tests, which it began administering in 2008, continue to use the much lower 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter, says the head of the tour's anti-doping program.