'Practice" makes perfect: locating young people in golf club culture
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AbstractGiven its long history, conservative image, explicit norms and gendered, class-associated practices, golf has been acknowledged as a site for rich sociological investigation. Research demonstrates how golf club culture is classed and gendered, where the institutional nature of the golf club creates communities of affluent people who share in similar amounts of capital, constraining various non-hegemonic groups. This research examines golf club culture in Ireland and the influence of golf club practice on the experiences of young golfers (aged eighteen and under). The investigation is framed by critical feminism, while postmodern perspectives offer potential for new insights into golf club practice. Reflexivity and positionality acknowledge my subjectivity, bias and values in the research, and identify my positions of elite golfer, golf development officer, golf club member and researcher in the field. Along with a national questionnaire to the population of golf clubs, prolonged visits to the field include one-day visits to ten golf clubs nationwide, a three-month pilot ethnography and an eighteen-month ethnography in one golf club setting. Employing Pierre Bourdieu’s (1977) theory of practice, results indicate the symbolic practices used by golf clubs to classify and reproduce capital among young golfers. A creative nonfiction data representation attempts to communicate the institutional nature of golf club culture to a wider reader audience. The complex role of the golf club in promoting hierarchies among girl members is significant, where rules, restrictions and an achievement culture encouraged a dominated, ability-centred habitus. Advocating for inclusive social practice in golf, I also engage with my conflicting and compromising positions and selves in the field, highlighting the ethical dilemma and moral implications of the researcher-participant.