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Grumpus Golfers, Changing Times PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jay Beskin, BT Contributor   
June 2019

We detect the whiff of party poopers

TPix_JayBeskin_6-19here is no worse position for a writer to be in than having to defend a bunch of old guys playing golf, or having to criticize a bunch of kids having fun on a water slide.

Like it or not, golf has become associated with privilege, with stuffy old fat cats being carted up and down manicured lawns by hungry proletarians groveling for handouts.

At its funniest, we see superannuated geezers wheezing as they line up their putts that will miss by a country mile, followed around by sad, middle-age caddies who serve as doormen, bellhops, concierges, chauffeurs, and valets.

At its most riling, we see young attorneys with pompadours and swagger who stride purposefully from hole to hole, giving off an aura of some great explorer discovering new vistas and conquering the vastness of nature for future generations.

In point of fact, all the pomp and all the pomposity are transparent forms of posturing that only maintain their air of importance if everyone involved plays their roles to perfection. The motivations of the participants in this slow-moving symphony are easily spoofed, and comedians like Rodney Dangerfield and Jackie Mason found easy pickings when they made films along these lines.

By contrast, the kids in water parks are a serious business, and trying to poke fun at them is as much fun as poking yourself in the eye. We all identify childhood as a time to release the irrepressible joy and energy of fresh life, and nothing embodies that vision more than wearing a pair of trunks, sliding down a watery ramp of some kind, and landing with a huge splash in a pool of water while yelling gleefully. There is no script for the actual yell, but Mother Nature usually gets kids to emit sounds resembling “Whee!”

What kind of creepy killjoy, spoilsport, party pooper, and child hater would even think of downgrading this most exhilarating of human activities, this spontaneous ebullience, this most genuine celebration of nature?

So, as you can readily see, in beginning to catalogue the virtues of the golf course against the vices of the water park, I am preparing to run a marathon over quicksand -- not an inviting prospect.

Still, there is a valid point to be made here, and make it I will, come whatever vituperation may.

Our story goes like this. In the early days of Aventura, the City of Excellence, something called the Turnberry Country Club came into existence. Well, actually the name posed a bit of a problem, because there was a Turnberry Country Club outside Chicago, in Lakewood, Illinois. Whether or not an actual negotiation took place between the two entities has long been shrouded in mystery -- and if I have any inside information, I promised not to tell -- but over time the Illinois entity began calling itself Turnberry Golf Club and the South Florida club, under new management, calls itself Turnberry Isle Country Club.

The more important point to this column is that the club, with its golf courses, was baked into the urban design of Aventura -- if not from Day One then very shortly afterward.

The idea was to provide an outlet for golfers, certainly, but the larger point was something else entirely. And here I am going to ask you to step out of a conventional worldview for a moment and consider the virtues that golf, or the golf course at least, bring to urban planning.

Environmentalists may not see it quite this way, if only because a part of them is drawn to the romantic notion of nature thriving untouched in pristine purity. More realistically, nature is more likely to be protected by humans when they get to tend it a little and spruce it up for public consumption.

Bring in some landscapers and some horticulturalists, and you will see a queenly Mother Nature dressed up for the royal ball.

The result of this is that golf courses become the capitalist version of protected nature preserves. If you don’t mind the little cup with the flag in it as the focal point in each scene, having 18 adjacent sections of greenery, each with a uniquely tailored topography, provides a nice island of repose for the eye amidst the urban jungle of concrete and steel. And so it came to pass that early buyers in Aventura were sold on the country club as proof that the city would not lack for a serenely viridescent quality.

Nor are we accusing anyone of a bait-and-switch. The country club had some nice years, fulfilling its initial promise. You can go on the New York Times website and read a lovely piece from May 9, 1987, titled “Courting Danger: The Fall of Gary Hart.” It describes the heyday of the club and how it found itself suddenly thrust into the heart (Did I say heart? Oy!) of a national scandal concerning presidential politics. Apparently the fat cats were all having kittens at that time. (I promise I’ll stop now...)

After Marriott purchased the property, thought was given to redesign, and in 2017 the company announced a $175 million renovation plan. This brings us into the present time, when the revamped area now carries the cumbrous title of JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort and Spa, including, among other excesses, the aforementioned water park.

Folks who used to look out their windows to survey a transplanted slice of Scotland with lush rolling greenery now find themselves affronted by a far splashier panorama, not to mention the “whees!” that have replaced the wheezes.

I am not going to pick a side in this one, because I jealously guard my centrist turf, positioned equidistant from the fussy fuddy-duddies and the freewheeling frolickers. Still, there are lessons here to be learned about the ultimately futile effort to balance the urban, the suburban, and the rustic; to balance, the classy, the tasteful, and the tacky; to balance the old-fashioned, the newfangled, and the classic.

Nobody ever gets exactly what they want, and the most well-intentioned promises can only be kept for so long.

As an attorney, there is some expectation that I should play a little golf once in a while, whether with colleagues or clients or both. My favorite club (as in golf club, not Golf Club) is the “two-irony,” and I do tend to slice to the left. One thing a golf course has over a kiddie park is that when you turn 18, you can take a drink!

 

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