The Covid pandemic provided something of a kickstart for a boom in golf’s popularity. During lockdown and now beyond, people have remembered and realised the social, physical and mental benefits that golf delivers. At a time of tremendous stress for the world, golf offers millions much needed release, interaction and exercise.
Golf’s surge in popularity is great for the overall and long-term health of the game and golf will always be an amazing sport for new and established players. But growth brings its own challenges and recently golf has been something of a victim of its own success. For those of us getting used to the new golfing normal some of those can be a little tough to accept.
CHALLENGES FOR MEMBERS
The value of being a club member has undoubtedly risen in recent times. With clubs filling up and many now with waiting lists again, the membership arena is less of a buyer’s market than it was a few years ago. Becoming a member is more expensive and could take more time than it would have done three or four years ago. Those who have a secure club membership can relax to a certain extent but, as inflation threatens and the simple economic effect of supply and demand comes into play, it’s inevitable that subscription rates will rise.
Tee sheets are busier (although not as rammed as they were in lockdown.) At many clubs, members are having to think harder about when they’re going to play and planning in advance. New members tend to want to play more so, although it’s great for golf clubs to have more members on their books, they will inevitably be active playing members, taking up tee times.
Competitions are tougher to get a start in because of that effect too. Club events get super-fast sign-up with members hovering by keyboards or on hand-held devices when entry opens to try and snag the best times… Members paying hefty annual subscriptions don’t tend to like having to then enter a bunfight to get a start in the Spring Cup.
Increased traffic on courses means potentially slower rounds – That never tends to be popular with the more established members. In addition, increased traffic means more wear and tear to the course. And there’s a two-pronged problem there as more people on the fairways makes it more difficult for greenkeeping teams to get out there and complete regular maintenance and required repair works.
Member’s Guests rates are also on the rise as costs inflate and demand to play increases. The old days of taking on a guest for a nominal fee seem to be a thing of the past.
CHALLENGES FOR VISITORS
Getting times is inevitably more challenging with more people playing – both members and visitors. As mentioned above, trophy courses are being booked up well in advance and although times are available at most clubs and courses, visitors will have to be increasingly flexible to play at different times, on different days to those they would normally opt for. Visitor slots get snapped up and the heavy traffic can lead to slow play.
Booking for a group becomes more challenging when times are at a premium. Visiting parties need to be on the ball to book well in advance to find courses that can accommodate them.
And the prices are, understandably, going to be higher for visiting individuals and groups. There will be fewer deals to be had if demand is greater. They can still be found, but the game/trip organiser will need to root them out rather than having an abundance of options.
CHALLENGES IN RETAIL
The cost of equipment as with almost everything in recent times has risen as demand has soared and production and delivery costs have gone up. Buying a set of irons from a leading manufacturer will put a more sizeable dent in the bank balance than it would have before this new normal.
And expect to wait. Unless you’re buying something off the rack, lead times continue to be longer than they would. If you’re being custom-fit, gone are the days of your kit turning up the following week. Dig in for the long haul.
If you can get it. Supply continues to be an issue as demand has risen and infrastructure damaged. The cost of transport for manufacturers has risen considerably and that has a significant knock-on effect.
Bargains are tougher to come by as there are fewer items on the sale rails and retailers simply don’t have so much stock to start offering discounts.
These varying challenges have been created by one huge positive for the game – that more people are playing and are interested in the sport. But, for the next while at least, we must accept that greater demands on various aspects of the sport mean we’ll all have to pay a little more, wait a little longer and just be a touch more understanding if we’re all to enjoy this new golfing normal together.
Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and it was concentrated by his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
If you’re lucky enough not to have experienced depression then you probably don’t understand what all the fuss is about. “Why does everyone have depression all of a sudden?” You might wonder, as you go about your daily life, eating yoghurts and paying bills, generally living in ignorant bliss. And fair enough.
If you haven’t had depression, you can't fully comprehend it and why would you want to? Fuck depression. Depression is like an awful houseguest that you definitely didn’t invite to stay. But, here they are anyway, eating up your energy and making a huge mess. Depression doesn’t care that you have work to do. It doesn’t care that there are dishes in the sink and the bins need to go out. It devours your time and strength and will to continue.
Depression leaves you with crumbs. Crumbs are useless. You can’t do anything good with crumbs except make a delicious picnic for ants. Ants do not deserve picnics. It’s like if you got frozen in soup. It’s like hell. It’s like your head is full of cotton wool and static. It’s not a good time. I guess that’s why they called it depression and not Party Fun Brain. But who knows? I’m not a doctor. I’m just chilling. Anyway. You’re getting off topic as usual. This is so like you. Depression can do that to you.
What I was getting to was the point. And the point is this: What can you do when someone you love has got depression real bad? WELL.
People with depression need all the things other people need. Food, water, a billion dollars in unmarked bills – the usual. But it’s hard for us to gain access to those things sometimes, on account having a meatloaf in place of the brain you used to know. Yes, empathy and solidarity are wonderful things, as are flowers and little notes. Sometimes though, what we need the most is for someone to come over and put a wash on, or bring us food, or tidy away some of the depression clutter.
When a person's depressed, they don't know how long it will take to get them out of their slump, and sensing exasperation from friends only makes things worse. So relax. Depression goes when it goes. No-one invites depression in, to fester in their brains, and you can’t send it scurrying back to wherever it usually lives. Please relax. Just being there is good enough. Your friend will no doubt be working harder than you can imagine to stay alive and get through each day, so don’t try and rush them, or question what's going on inside their head. Just look at the outside of their head (where their face might be) and say “You’re strong. I’m here with you through this. You are going to feel better.”
DON’T SAY DUMB SHIT
Dumb shit would include: “you should eat healthier and exercise more”, “what are you sad about though?” “[Invitation to do something self-destructive and dangerous]”. If your friend is acting in a way you really can't get your head around, google is a wonderful resource. There are at least seven websites focused on depression that you can refer to if you’re confused. Plus, the internet has an amazing ability to explain any symptoms, although obviously consulting a doctor would be advisable.
Don’t nag your depressed friend to describe what their mental illness is, or convince you that it is a real and serious condition that has very little to do with being sad. THEY DON’T HAVE TIME. THEY’RE CURRENTLY BUSY BEING VERY SICK. Treating depression like it’s an indulgence or an embarrassment is validating the very real shame that we already feel. The world asks us to be ashamed. It asks us to be quiet. What we need from our friends is for them to say “you don’t need to hide this. You don’t need to be ashamed. This is happening, it’s real, and it’s not your fault. Also you want a tiny apple pie? Here you go. Here is a tiny apple pie. It’s so small, right? Wow. Amazing.”
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Don’t martyr yourself for our emotional health, basically. That’s not how any of this works. Do what you can do. Don’t do more. Don’t make yourself weak to try and make someone else strong. Your wellbeing is important, and I promise you you’ll only exhaust yourself, and end up resenting us if you make it your job to nurse us through the whole ordeal. So don’t. Depressed people can struggle to be good or engaged friends at times and you’re allowed to feel frustrated about that. Take time off from it all if and when you need to. You aren’t failing us by looking after yourself. We love you. We’re just too weighed down to express that right now. Also don’t take our shit. Unacceptable behaviors don’t get a pass because the person is depressed. You don’t deserve cruelty or abuse so please tell us if we're out of order; if not immediately then when our depressive episode has passed.
“Treating depression like it’s an indulgence or an embarrassment is validating the very real shame that we already feel. The world asks us to be ashamed”
HELP THEM STICK TO GOOD BEHAVIOURS / A HEALTHY ROUTINE
Breakfast needs to be eaten everyday. A walk in the afternoon is a good idea. Green tea can help. Everyone needs water. Taking medicine has to happen as prescribed. Whatever. These things seem simple but are often monumentally hard tasks when a particularly bad spell of depression comes around. A depressed person needs help doing the little things because to us they don’t seem to matter anymore.
Gentle reminders are good, or an all-caps text message that says “BITCH DID YOU DRINK WATER TODAY? ALSO LOOK AT THIS PICTURE OF A FRENCH BULLDOG EATING DONUTS. SO CUTE.” These sorts of gestures go a long way. Gently nudge us into behaving like humans. That way when the fog lifts and we can look around at our lives again, we won’t feel horrified at all the things we let slide. Maybe we'll give you a little kiss on the head, too – for being a pal. Thanks.
Before Peter Lindbergh immortalised Naomi, Cindy, Claudia, Linda, Christy, and Tatjana on the cover of Vogue in 1990, and launched them in their ascension to icon status, there was Gia. Arguably the world’s first supermodel, Gia Carangi paved the way for Campbell, Turlington, and Crawford – with the latter billed ‘Baby Gia’ when she made her runway debut.
Gia’s life echoed the classic rags-to-riches story, only, eventually, the riches made way for rags again. While her blue-collar background gave her an edge in the world of high fashion, and appearances on the runways of Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, and Armani saw her experience a meteoric rise to fame, behind the scenes all was not well. Struggling to cope with the pressures of her new career, Gia turned to heroin, and, despite kicking the habit a number of times and staging multiple comebacks, in 1986 she died of Aids-related complications at just 26.
Twelve years after her death, Gia’s tragic story was committed to a film, with a young, almost unknown Angelina Jolie taking on the role of the troubled model. Her portrayal won her a Golden Globe, as she appeared alongside Hollywood heavyweights Faye Dunaway, who played modelling mogul Wilhelmina Cooper, and Mercedes Ruehl who played her mum, Kathleen.
Jolie played Gia with raw emotion throughout, exploring her drug addiction, childhood issues, and relationships with unfaltering sensitivity – having spent hours studying Gia’s TV appearances before filming began. In one, Gia was interviewed on an evening news show about the dark side of modelling and its ties to drugs. She was supposed to be the ‘bad model turned good’, but shortly before her slot, Gia snorted heroin backstage. Jolie admitted that she despised Gia at first, but in the end, confessed to The New York Times in 1997: “I’d like to date Gia. I’d want to be her lover.”
Now, as the film turns 20, we look back at Gia’s dramatic and ultimately tragic life.
Growing up working class in Philadelphia, Gia was a member of the ‘Bowie Kids’ in high school – a group of die hard fans who went to his concerts and adopted his unique blend of androgynous dressing as their own. Gia cut her hair short and dyed it bold colours, and shopped at vintage and second hand clothing stores, where she picked up men’s button-down shirts, distressed Levi’s 501s, and beaten-up leather boots. As one of the first openly gay models, she often visited DCA, a gay club in the city where, she met one of her first long-term partners: Sharon Beverley. Though Gia had a few trysts with men, she identified as a lesbian. In the film, one of her friends asks if she’s ever had sex with a man before. The model responds: “Yeah once. And I could have done that with a German Shepherd.”
SHE WAS THE ANTITHESIS OF OTHER MODELS OF THE ERA
Gia initially got her start with a local photographer in Philadelphia who saw her dancing, and began appearing in local newspaper advertisements, before heading to New York at 17. When she arrived in the city, Gia met with Wilhelmina Cooper, who was floored and signed her immediately. Gia embodied the contrast that the fashion industry craved during that era – in a sea of blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful women, Gia had no filter, wore no make-up and took risks. One of her first shoots saw her pose nude behind a chain-link fence with make-up artist Sandy Linter for photographer Chris von Wangenheim. The shoot was her breakout moment, and led to her modelling for labels including Versace and Dior, and legendary photographers like Helmut Newton and Arthur Elgort. She also starred in an iconic music video, for Blondie’s 1980 hit “Atomic”.
“When she was free and just being herself, Gia was unbelievable. That’s the tragedy of her story. You think, God, she didn't need drugs – she was a drug” – Angelina Jolie
WHEN WILHELMINA DIED, SHE WENT OFF THE RAILS
Cooper became a mother figure to Gia, whose own mum abandoned her when she was just 11, so when she died in 1980 the model was devastated. Though she often did cocaine in the bathroom stalls of Studio 54 and CBGB, Gia’s drug habit began spiralling. The drug trend at that time shifted to heroin, which brought coke users down when they were too high. Usually Gia snorted heroin, with the common understanding that people could only get addicted through needles – which was false. A generation of accidental junkies was born, of which Gia was a part. Anita Sarka, a DJ from former downtown NYC institution Mudd Club and friend of Gia told Vanity Fair: “In those days, everyone had this idea that being a junkie was very glamorous.”
...AND WAS SOON OUT OF WORK
Gia eventually started injecting and her habit became so bad that in one of her appointment books, she wrote (and misspelt) ‘Get Heroine’. Soon after, the track marks on her arms started showing in photos and only one photographer, Francesco Scavullo, requested her for work. During a particularly painful scene in Gia, Scavullo’s stylist says out loud, “What about that awful thing on her hand? It looks like a volcano,” while pointing at an abscess. Unsurprisingly, Gia’s career tanked. She garnered notoriety for scandalous stories like shooting up heroin in bathrooms during breaks, and on a Versace shoot with Richard Avedon she told everyone she was going out for cigarettes and never returned.
SHE WANTED TO KICK HER HABIT, BUT COULDN’T QUITE MANAGE TO
Despite several attempts at rehab and second chances from the likes of Albert Watson and Richard Avedon, Gia could never completely kick her habit and her modelling work eventually fizzled out completely. Broke and sleeping on friends’ and lovers’ sofas, when she was briefly clean, she took jobs selling jeans in a shopping mall in Pennsylvania and was employed at a nursing home as a cafeteria checkout clerk. In December 1985, though, she was diagnosed with Aids and the following year, she passed away – becoming one of the first famous women to die of the disease. No one in fashion knew of her death at the time, and so none of her colleagues and collaborators were at her funeral. Jolie paid tribute to Gia when the 1998 film wrapped, explaining that when she was free and just being herself, she was unbelievable: “That’s the tragedy of her story. You think, God, she didn't need drugs – she was a drug.”