The Latest Executive Tool: The Weed Whacking Golf Driver

by Peter Block on March 28, 2011

Tagged as: Raising Children / Local Economy / Food / Safety / Health / Land/Environment / Care of People on the Margin

We often criticize our consumer society in this space, but some purchases are just too good to pass up, especially when it comes to something that will give us an edge in the ultimate Corporate Sport: Golf. Before getting to the purchase recommendation, let me remind you:

Golf is the ultimate Corporate Sport because:

A. Companies buy membership in golf clubs for their executives. They would not do this if it were not good for business. They continue to do it despite the crackdown on corporate perks.  

B. It allows well-off people to get away from not-well-off people. Every other sport except yachting and polo has been democratized.

C. The golf course is a place of consummate order. Grass is cut in four predictable lengths:  Green. Fairway. Fringe. Rough. That is it. Every course in the world abides by these distinctions. Plus you have strictly enforced tee times; if you show up at 7:15 to start the round and your tee time was 7:12, put your club back in your bag. There are no surprises in the order and routine of a golf course. Perfection within reach.

D. Finally, it’s a well-known fact that cheating is allowed, and what’s more it is common.  Now, with the revelation that follows, we have evidence that it is encouraged.   

The 2010 Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue now offers the “Weed Whacking Golf Driver.” I quote from the catalogue: “This is the golf driver with a built-in grass trimmer, ideal for surreptitiously improving one’s lie.” With “a simple flick of a button on its plastic bottom flips open the clubs bottom to reveal a single-string trimmer…”  You can “activate the trimmer for a quick clearing of obstructive grass.”

The Weed Whacking Golf Driver becomes a new metaphor for the essence of institutional  life, life in the private sector. Played honestly, golf is too difficult to master. No one can meet the game’s expectations of “par” without aids like this driver. The act of “clearing obstructive grass” finds its parallels in the workplace. The need to clear obstructive employees. The need to clear obstructive regulations that try to protect the common good. The need to clear obstructive competitors from what was formerly known as the “free market.”

All these impediments can be removed metaphorically and in real life by the “simple flick of a button,” which in the private sector translates to the “simple flick” of Human Resources when it comes to people. The “simple flick” of lobbyists when it comes to state and federal legislators. The “simple flick” of investment bankers when it comes to purchasing the competition for the sake of market share.

The golf tool appears in the Hammacher.com catalogue and they would not use up this space if the product did not sell. Its number is GU-79148.

You may say this is a joke gift. Maybe. Probably. But it would not be funny if it did not touch on the truth.

The private sector is good at certain things: creating order, winning, making money, creating jobs, improving their lie, appreciating the elegance of four different lengths of grass and the nuances of how to play on each of them. We need those systems for that and a hundred other things. Let us just not be lulled into believing that democracy and care for the commons, including our neighbors and neighborhood, are safe in those same hands. There are too many tools on the market that offer shortcuts and skate close to ethical boundaries when trying to balance the tension between economic efficiency and sustaining a set of human values we hold essential to our society.                        

This is not meant to be a call for morality; just realism. I play golf. I have moved the ball by hand into a better position on occasion. I like weed whackers. The realism is simply that we cannot privatize or put into corporate hands those precious things that require a genuine concern for the common good. Schools. Government. Health. Public lands. The Environment. When we decertify public employee unions, or stop public funding for public broadcasting, the arts, and service programs for our young people, we are putting the future of our democracy at risk. We are yielding to the call of the same hands as those flicking a button to remove obstructive grass.

~ Peter ~