Pete Flanigan: Smails Mindedness

“Caddyshack” is arguably the best golf movie ever made (at least until they make “Tin Cup 2: The Cuppening”). When people think of “Caddyshack”, they often focus on the comedic tour-de-force performances of Bill Murray or Chevy Chase. They might quote the classic lines or dig beneath the surface to explore the class warfare storyline roiling below the surface.

Today though, I want to focus on Al Czervik. All Al wants to do is to play golf and have fun, and who can blame him? The game is supposed to be fun! When Al tries to bring that “golf = fun” mentality to Bushwood Country Club, he runs up against a brick wall.

The members of Bushwood have to wear jackets inside the club and their idea of fun is sleeping drunkenly in their leather chairs. There is an enforced decorum on the course, which only puts a civil veneer on how terrible they treat the caddies. There are many, many club rules (for example, a prohibition on betting), which are haphazardly enforced and used as weapons if needed. If I described a country club’s environment along the lines of Bushwood, the last thing you would do is describe that club as “fun”.

The embodiment of Bushwood is Judge Smails who has a distinct idea of what golf should be and enforces his idea with an iron fist. Al upends Smails’ ideas of fun by playing music, having fun while dancing (paging “Footloose!”) and while Al’s attitude could be described as boorish at times, its definitely the antidote to the stuffy culture of Bushwood and Smails.

So what does ANY of this have to do with apparel that you wear on a golf course, in real life, in 2017?

There is a scene in “Caddyshack” where Al is checking out the Bushwood pro shop and commenting on the various things for sale, including a hideous fedora that, of course, Judge Smails is wearing in the pro shop. Smails is humiliated and stalks off which reinforces the idea that who Smails is, even down to what he wears, represents the old guard, the uptight, “no fun” nature of Bushwood (which is a proxy for country clubs writ-large).

Nowadays when I hear arguments about men wearing jeans or women wearing yoga pants on a golf course, I think to myself, “why are golfers still Smails rather than Czerviks”? In a recent Golf.com survey, 80% of the respondents said they would not join a country club if members were allowed to wear jeans.  I couldn’t find a similar survey for women’s yoga pants, but it is telling that country clubs have a lot of problems with those types of clothes among many others clothes women want to wear on the course. Heck, even the PGA has weighed in on what is appropriate for women’s clothes with an article all about what they should wear on a golf course.

If you look at how I dress on the course, you might put me in the Judge Smails camp. I almost always wear collared polo shirts and usually long pants or Bermuda shorts. As I reflected why I dress how I dress, a few reasons make themselves clear. I grew up being taught by my dad that such an outfit is how you are supposed to dress on the golf course. This has been reinforced later in life as I have played more private courses which have still strict guidelines on their clothing, so I buy accordingly.

Just because that is how I have been conditioned to dress doesn’t make it right though. One of my biggest complaints about golf is how elitist it is and often I find myself siding with Czervik rather than Smails when I hear about a private club’s rules. Of course, private clubs have the right to set their own rules, they aren’t “public” after all (insert rich guy laughter muffled by a cigar).

Yet these rules aren’t doing private clubs any favors. The number of private clubs is decreasing, they are losing members and the members they have are increasingly getting older without a younger generation coming in to replace them.

Some private clubs are recognizing they are in a bad position and have diversified what they offer at the club (i.e., making it more “fun”) and even have loosened up on the “no jeans” rule (good job Broadmoor!). There will always be clubs full of people like Judge Smails and there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with it, but to think that their way is the ONLY way is a mistake.

The reason I golf is to have fun. I dress the part of what I think of as a “golfer” when I play golf partially based on how I was raised and partially based on what we see on TV. However, dressing the way I do has NOTHING to do with the enjoyment I have on the course and I would never stand in the way of someone enjoying themselves on a course if they were wearing jeans, yoga pants or a clownsuit.

In 2017 I suggest we all don’t take golf as seriously, we defeat Judge Smails and in the immortal words of Al Czervik, “So let’s dance!”

Follow Pete Flanigan on Twitter @ReGripped

pete_flanigan_bio_picPete Flanigan a/k/a ReGripped has more musings on golf that you can read at www.re-gripped.com. You can follow his quest to play all of the Coore Crenshaw designed golf courses at www.coorecrenshawquest.com. If you know of any way for ReGripped to play Cypress Point, he will put on a giant gingerbread costume and dance in front of your house. You can catch ReGripped live and direct on Twitter every week for #GolfChat.

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