By Adrian Logue

A recent series of tweets from a beginner golfer described an appalling but all too plausible experience of being excluded from the second round of a two-round club competition – allegedly for being considered a “burglar” after posting the leading score in round one (the tweet is not supplied here for the privacy of the player).

For emphasis – this is a relative beginner – a keen new convert to golf whose handicap is high but trending downward after only a dozen or so handicapped scores. Also, for emphasis – this player is a subscription-paying member of the club that was running the competition. And for further emphasis – the player was leading after the first round…

This new golfer’s introduction to the game was typical – they’d been learning for around two years, joined a club and later found the courage to participate in competitions – an intimidating step up. Far from being encouraged and guided through the outmoded rituals of Australian comp golf, they describe an unwelcoming culture of suspicion and pernickety bureaucracy.

The official explanation – as recounted by the player – was a hasty excuse about registration being required two weeks in advance on a piece of paper in the locker room – not just in the online booking facility (which accepted the player and registered them in the competition). Unofficially, a friend with knowledge of the decision claimed it was because a “regular” would be a “more deserving” champ… that alone is outrageous but compounding the issue the word “burglar” was thrown about…

“A burglar?” the player asked, “what’s that?”.

“Umm,” the friend stumbled, “it’s someone who keeps their handicap high to win competitions”.

Understandably, the player was not familiar with this term and found the very concept perplexing. Like any new golfer, they are keen to improve and get their handicap down as rapidly as possible but are vexed by the inconsistency and fluky form familiar to all golfers.

Surely no beginner can ever be considered a burglar? Burgl’dom is the exclusive realm of bitter, insecure, small-minded, seasoned golfers who believe themselves smart enough to play the system. Even then it goes against human nature to be marked with an index that is worse than one’s underlying ability. Despite what anecdotal claims are thrown about, the true burglar is a rare breed and extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence, which does not appear to have been provided in this case.

The player’s own claim is extraordinary, and the particulars of this story might be challenged, but the familiarity of it cannot. This scenario and many like it are happening at golf clubs throughout Australia every day. Truly inclusive practices require more than just having the right software systems in place. Clubs should also welcome self-reflection on the human aspects of their golf operations and cultivate a culture that doesn’t tolerate clique-ish behaviour and exclusion.

In a bittersweet footnote – the player was permitted to participate in the “regular” comp on day two – but the score would not be allowed to count for the multi-round comp. They posted another excellent score – easily good enough to win the two-day aggregate which would have earned gold letters on an honour board. A potential proud achievement, but this new club member was denied that feeling of collegiate acceptance and celebration with new friends. Instead, they’re expressing fear and anxiety about competing in future comps. Growing the game anyone?