MASTERS FEVER TAKES HOLD

Golf fever has gripped the southern states of the USA as the PGA tour rolls through, climaxing with a big tournament along the road in Georgia next week. I hope to get a glimpse of it but we'll have to wait and see as tickets are rarer than hens' teeth. Let's hope the stars align or I'll be blogging from the outside.

Titleist golf capAfter five days over here, one thing sticks out the most: golf is "cool". South Carolina is a state built around golf. Hundreds of residential golf developments line the streets and so tens of thousands of people have golf courses in the back gardens. Golf is part of the mainstream. Golf retailers' signs beam out across the front of strip malls, and billboards of manicured fairways line the highways. At Hilton Head Island, golf tourism is at the very heart of the economy. But amid this flood of golf the "coolness" of the sport manifested itself in a local bar a couple of nights back...

I was catching up with old friends connected by the wonderful game of golf. As we walked into the bar, one thing gripped me even more than the paralytic AC/DC covers band in the corner frenetically exposing
their nipples to the crowd of diners quietly eating fried chicken wings and minding their own business. What shocked me was the sheer number of people wearing golf attire. Four guys were sitting around a table with their polo shirts (in New Zealand known as a "Bob Charles") tucked into their golf shorts. I walked up to the bar and passed a couple of girls commenting on the quality of a "par four" they'd played today. Then up at the bar were two guys, obviously on an awkward date with a couple of local lasses. So, as you do, both these guys had opted for a "back-to-front" Titliest golf cap to make the all-important first impression.

Mildly amused, we headed out to the patio to discover another group of rotund gents parked up next to us. These boys looked as though they'd got dressed in the local pro shop. Head to toe. So with some Bud-light courage, my friend went over to them and asked, "Do you guys want a match tomorrow?" To which they coolly responded in a Southern drawl, "A match of what?" "Golf!" said my man, but, judging by the blank stares, these guys weren't players; they just wanted to fit in with the crowd.

Cool golfNow tell me if I'm wrong, but back home on a Saturday night at the local, the golf uniform is as likely a choice as the cycling Lycras. And the last time I heard two girls talking golf architecture was, well, never. From my experience, there was one time when this "cool factor" in New Zealand spiked and that was during the NZ Open week in Queenstown (let's leave the debacle of this last summer to another post). Golf in Queenstown is heading to the mainstream and during the week at The Hills, New Zealand golf in all its beauty was showcased domestically and around the world. The corporates were in town and right behind the game, and there was a great feeling in the cafes and in the bars.