Stop The 2016 Election Golf Talk — The Sport Just Isn't Something Voters Care About
So far, many of the 2016 candidates are rolling out college tuition plans, talking about criminal justice reform, and focusing on the economy — so why is golf talked about so much in the 2016 election? It seems like media outlets are talking about golf constantly, because somehow the game has found itself at the center of the upcoming presidential election. Why? Because of Donald Trump.
Currently, Trump and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are in a bit of a spat, and they keep dragging golf into it. Paul released an ad earlier this week discussing Trump's previous affiliation with the Democratic Party. To go on par with him, Trump and his campaign released a lengthy response during which they also took the opportunity to insult Paul's golf game.
Recently, Rand Paul called me and asked me to play golf. I easily beat him on the golf course and will even more easily beat him now, in the world, in the politics. Senator Paul does not mention that after trouncing him in golf I made a significant donation to the eye center with which he is affiliated.
Instead of letting sleeping dogs lie, Paul rose to the occasion and took the bait. "While he appreciates Donald's golf skills, I will note that [the game] was on his home course that he plays often," said one of Paul's advisers, Doug Stafford, to The Washington Post.
All this hullabaloo over whose game is better kind of begs the question — who cares this much about golf? It makes sense that Trump is passionate about the game. He owns multiple golf courses across the world, and according to Trump, at least nine of them are worth $50 million each. He has boasted that he owns "the best courses in the world," and he's very discerning about who should pick up a club. In July, he told Fortune that he felt golf should be exclusionary by nature.
I think I'm in a minority, but I feel differently about golf. I feel golf should be an aspirational game, something people aspire to. People should come to golf, golf shouldn't come to them. ... It may be elitist, and perhaps that's what golf needs. Let golf be elitist.
And Trump has also used golf repeatedly to attack President Obama, who is a well known golf enthusiast. During his announcement speech, Trump offered to let Obama leave office early and go play on some of his courses. Earlier this week, he released an attack video featuring Obama playing golf and the Clintons dancing, interspersed with images of ISIS. "Politicians are having fun on our dime while the world is burning," the ad says.
The problem is that by focusing on golf, politicians are only increasing the distance between themselves and voters. The stereotype that golf is a rich man's sport is not untrue. The cost of clubs, lessons, and paying to use courses makes it very difficult for lower-income individuals to have access to the game, which can take years to master. And although the number of female golfers is growing, it's a pastime that is much more overwhelmingly played by men.
Also, despite many candidates knowing the power of the youth vote, younger voters just aren't as interested in golf. In 2002, the sport hit a peak with almost 23 million players. But according to Bloomberg Business, by 2014, the number of players had dropped by 14 percent. Millennials are not driving to the sport.
While most voters probably won't judge a politician for enjoying the game, when candidates such as Trump or Paul focus on it, it's unappealing. It's tangible evidence of the class divide between voters and politicians, and seeing a potential candidate worry more about how their golf game is than what they will do to alleviate student loans is off-putting.
So stop talking about golf. Voters don't care. Trump won't be elected because he has amazing courses (that most Americans couldn't afford to play on). And Paul will not lose the nomination because he's bad at golf. Focusing on this game takes away from larger, more important issues. And also, golf is just kind of boring. Sorry Trump.