A little bit of elitism is not necessarily a bad thing.
We're all a little guilty. If you'd rather be at Pebble Beach than Dyker Beach, if you'd rather play with friends than strangers, you've got the makings of a Golf Snob. The term surfaced when we put together the article about what golf would be like if holes were 15 inches in diameter instead of 4¼. The golf snobs hated the idea. It got me thinking about the Golf Snob Index. Basically, the lower your GSI, the more you object to the 15-inch hole and what it stands for.
Snobbism is best exhibited in a golfer's reluctance to play with high-handicappers, beginners, women and children. Or even play public courses or dreaded municipals.
Though not all private-club members are snobs, the more memberships you have, the higher your propensity for snobbery. Clubs that have separate clothing for members and nonmembers are my favorite form of logo-snobbism. (Hint: The members wear just the club symbol without the name.)
Old wealth leans that way, of course, along with Wall Street types, especially those who made their fortune in ways that cannot be explained.
Low-handicappers generally have a low GSI, as do long hitters. Snobs seem to be playing one set of tees longer than their game supports—often slowly, while complaining about the pace of play.
There are rules snobs and equipment snobs and walking snobs, but the most overbearing of all are architecture snobs. Some sniff at the thought of playing a course built after World War II. Some snob-bloggers annoy me with their contempt for the work of certain architects when we all know that the worst design is still a beautiful place to play. Some snobby rich guys skew toward minimalism; a little harder to take are the snobby rich guys who skew toward maximalism.
Senior Writer Jaime Diaz, who reported our 15-inch story, says: "As much as I think caddies are overrated and too expensive, I hate when golf snobs treat caddies—or the locker-room guy or the parking-lot guy—poorly.
They probably treat all kinds of 'little people' badly away from the game as well, so it's almost not fair to call this golf snobbery. But it would rank high in my GSI."
A bit of elitism is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Pebble Beach is better than Dyker Beach. Elitism is about high standards, but the application gets us in trouble.
So before you read Jaime's story, take the GSI test on this page. People who love the game and care about its future need to get over their snobbery and consider some new ideas and options.
I was talking about this with Charley Raudenbush, the general manager at Pine Valley. He said, "Anywhere you go in golf, if you thank someone for doing their job, the response you'll get invariably is two words: No problem. We've become a nation of no problem. In golf, we need a different two words: You're welcome. We just need to figure out a way to make golf more welcoming."
Not for us, because we're already in, but for the people coming after us.