Growing up as a rare girl-who-golfed (VG&CC Junior Ladies Club Champion ‘08, pool of one) I’d always conceptualized “beer cart girl” as my ideal summer job. It just seemed like such a cool-girl gig: riding around in a cart full of booze, getting tipped by rich people, wearing a SKORT. My parents told me often, “oh, you’d be perfect for that job,” and I sensed they were right. I already had a small arsenal of skorts.
I worked four summers as a beer cart girl, and as you can probably guess by the title of this article, it wasn’t quite the green-grassed utopia I imagined. For the sake of fairness and transparency, though, I should make it clear that it wasn’t all pigs in polo shirts. Lots of sunshine, a handful of very pleasant Daves, and the opportunity to write bad poetry during lulls made for a not-so-bad way to pay for school.
But when you’re navigating a sport that is still rooted firmly in a culture of white male prestige, and that is only now allowing women members at some of its top international courses (welcome to the new age, Royal Aberdeen!), and that boasts the acronym Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden, you’re going to see a fair few khaki-panted douchebags getting thirsty and yelling for “the girl” because what’s the point of paying $120 to stumble around in the grass for four hours if you’re not going to enjoy the “perks of sport,” meaning bland lager served by women 50 years your junior?
Yada yada we all know golf courses are a breeding ground for male bravado—problems the gratuity system only exacerbates—but after four years as a Cart Tart (a term I’d like to take back, by the way) I feel it’s my civic duty to reflect on some of my strangest, most problematic encounters, if only to show golfers how they might better their sport. Because this is the present-day, and comments like “you’re going to make a great wife someday” and “I’m going to give you an extra toonie because you look so pretty in that hat” and no longer considered compliments. Were they ever?
Going “Nose-Blind” to Misogyny
If you stood next to a vat of raw sewage for a very long time, I imagine you would eventually become accustomed to the stench of boiling feces and cease to be bothered at all. This is sort of what happens on the golf course, except the poo-stink is misogyny. What I mean is that, when you get scolded most Tuesdays for not wearing your bikini because “that should be your uniform on men’s day, haha!!” you kind of forget how gross it is and excuse it as harmless old man humour. Is it? Sometimes I still forget.
There was a guy who came to the golf course semi-regularly, always alone and always with a big, professional-looking camera on the passenger’s seat of his golf cart. Other than the fact that his golf partner was a Nikon, he seemed pretty normal.
Then one day he asked if he could take my picture. I stammered out something like “uh...I guess… yeah… OK…” because “I’d prefer if you didn’t” was beyond my capacity at the time. I smiled awkwardly from behind the wheel of my cart and let him take a photo or two.
“Great. Great,” he said, snapping away. I tried not to think about what he would do with the photos.
A week or so later, my manager called me into her office saying someone had dropped an envelope off for me. It was big and yellow and I did not feel good about it. I was finished my shift, and so I took the envelope to my car to open. Somehow I knew the contents would be NSFW.
They were, but for reasons of personal embarrassment. Inside the envelope was a massive photo of my face, out of focus and cropped so tight my neck didn’t even make it in. The photo had also been photoshopped with an amazing lack of skill and taste: my eyes had been brightened to a shade I’ll call neon-emerald, and hovering near the corner of my chin was a large purple butterfly. Was this some kind of bizarro love token? Or an attempt to show me my own true beauty? Either way, a larger-than-my-actual-face picture of my face with a bug stenciled on it failed to win my affection.
I never saw him again, except in day-nightmares when I imagined him hunched in front of a computer screen, drenched in blue light. His cursor hovered over the butterfly as he adjusted its position on my face. A little to the right...oh wait, too far...and...ah, there we go.
The Set-up Artist
There was this actual dreamboat of a pro-shop boy whom I’ll call “Sunglasses” because that’s what I very astutely called him in my head before I knew his name and also because I rarely saw his naked eyes (he was a man of mystery who also knew about UV danger and this combination of obscurity and sun-smarts somehow made me sick with lust).
So me and Sunglasses had a pretty lacklustre flirt thing happening for a while and I guess one of the club members—I’ll call him Dick, for accuracy’s sake—caught wind of our budding romance and decided he wanted to help us take things to the next level. So on a hot Tuesday night (men’s night, nothing good ever happens) Dick told me that Sunglasses was working alone in the pro-shop and it would be very rude of me not to pay him a visit. OK, Dick, I’m not quite sure what you think is going to happen if I go visit Sunglasses “all alone in the pro-shop” but given that our most substantial conversation so far has been about what kind of employee discount I can score on a Nike Dri-FIT t-shirt for my dad, it’s doubtful I’m going to end my night polishing shafts with him in the back room.
Anyhow, I rolled my eyes and told Dick to please stop making comments about my potential courtship with Sunglasses (it wasn’t the first time he had attempted to ignite the flame) but like all the worst Dicks he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
At the end of my shift, Dick strolled up to my cart, parked near the pro-shop, and said that Sunglasses wanted my number. I didn’t know whether Dick was serious or not but suddenly Sunglasses came bursting out of the pro-shop, naked eyes shining with confusion, as Dick shoved a pen and paper in my face, ready to take my info the way his generation knew best. Panicking, I scribbled down my number and watched Dick hand-deliver it to Sunglasses, who made some awkward small-talk before retreating into his pro-shop den.
The outcome of this exchange was a few half-hearted texts followed by a few half-hearted Facebook messages but then Sunglasses said “your sweet” instead of “you’re sweet” and romance was dead. (I’m totally kidding. I was more than willing to overlook grammar if it meant going on a date with a ball-polishing hottie. But I don’t think he was actually very interested in me.)
The Private Investigator
This guy was literally a PI, but he also had an usually keen interest in my weight and whether or not it had gone missing.
“Have you lost weight?” he’d asked. “You’d better be careful, missy,” he’d scold, eyeing me.
Ten seconds later: “Or maybe you’re gaining weight?” he’d say, reevaluating my parts. “Oh I just can’t tell!”
He made comments like this almost every time I saw him, and while I’d love to say I was the type of girl who either a) dismissed these remarks with an eye-roll and continued work unphased, or b) called-out his string of commentary as “unwanted and invasive, ya prick” in the hopes of preventing further interactions, I was more inclined to remain silent and consider the possibility that every person on the golf course was sizing me up, not because I’m an exceedingly anxious or image-driven person, but because I am a human navigating the world and sometimes this is how we think.
In his defense, maybe PIs think everything and every body is worth their investigation?
Ladies Who Lunch
I don’t have a ton to say about the women on the golf course, probably because comparatively speaking there aren’t a ton of women on the golf course. Yes, we had a Ladies Day and no, I didn’t make much money from it. Yes, there were bonafide snobs and 65-year-old Queen Bees who wore nothing but pastel, but not everyone was like that. There were some great women.
What did bother me, though, was the lack of meaningful interactions I had with the handful of women I saw everyday. The men genuinely wanted to talk to me and see me, and even though some of these guys were unenlightened bozos, it feels overly bleek to say that every friendly wave and hello from a man had something to do with my physicality. But then I consider the way some of the women responded to me (curt “no-thank yous,” meager tips, lack of acknowledgement altogether) and I’m left wondering why there was such a discrepancy in “friendliness.” It makes my brain hurt to think about. Did these women resent or blame me for something? Was it possible that, by putting on a short skort and some lipstick, then offering customers “service with a smile” from my candy-striped wagon of beer, I was catering to male fantasy and therefore complicit in a cycle of gender oppression and inequality they’d been facing their whole lives? Entirely possible. Or maybe they were just mean.
Everyone’s a Joker
There are two main branches of Golf Humour: Dad jokes and dirty jokes. The dad jokes never bothered me because they were always harmless. “Hey, you got any birdies/holes-in-one/good games/eagles left for sale in that cart?” was something I heard almost everyday, usually followed by a boisterous laugh and a request for orange Powerade. This routine was a bit tiresome but I much preferred it to, “Wow! My game is up and down like a new bride’s nightie!” Yucky.
There was one fellow in particular who prided himself as something of a Joke Master King. Everyday he played, he would approach my cart, lean against it with one arm on the roof (pit positioned right in front of my face), and share his daily zinger. Here’s an example of one of our interactions:
JMK: So they got this new cereal. Do you know what it’s called?
JMK: Prostitutes. And do you know why?
JMK: Because instead of going snap, crackle, pop, they just lie there and bang!
I didn’t actually boo him. In fact I think I even laughed a little—nervously, awkwardly, and not because I thought the joke was funny, but because as a young woman tucked ‘neath the shade of a very imposing armpit, I was—get this—uncomfortable. There was also the fact that he was a well-liked club member surrounded by a group of other well-liked club members, who apparently didn’t find it problematic that their buddy was telling a 22-year-old a joke about sex workers. It’s not that I wanted his buddies to “save me” from this interaction, but it would have been nice for someone else to acknowledge that he was being a creepy little shithead. Though admittedly I wasn’t totally innocent, either. I wanted money. I knew JMK was in it for a roast beef sandwich and a Budweiser, and so if I drove over his toes or called him a perverted asshole I probably wouldn’t get my precious toonie. Which brings me to...
The Realization That You Are Also Part of the Problem
I alluded to this briefly before but I often felt like a bit of a shitty feminist while working the beer cart. I hardly ever called people out for condescending behavior or outright sexism, and this failure to react left me wondering if I was reaffirming certain prehistoric beliefs, namely, that the man says what he wants without fear of consequence while the woman (me) stays quiet and perpetually fears consequence (in my case: no tip, loss of “good” reputation, loss of job.)
That said, I don’t think it’s wrong to partake in the performance of eager-to-please femininity if that’s what you want, and if both parties are aware of and OK with what is, at its base, a transaction. But in an exceptionally traditional, conservative setting like a golf course, it’s hard to imagine many men thinking, “oh, what a nice little show” instead of “ah, the world is in its proper order” when the beer cart girl rolls up to the tee box, advertising Budweiser on special and complimenting a mediocre shot.
But, at the very least, if a dude gets drunk on the course and asks you if he can “piss in your ice bucket” and you don’t tell him he’s out of line, well, you’ve missed an opportunity for progress. (For the record, I did tell that guy he was being disgusting and that I wouldn’t be serving him anymore. A small win.)
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This article originally appeared on VICE CA.