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Monday, July 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Golf community debates role of ganja

While golfing has long been associated with the consumption of alcohol, many pros have only in recent years admitted to using marijuana and at least CBD products for either medical issues or recreation. (Getty Images)
While golfing has long been associated with the consumption of alcohol, many pros have only in recent years admitted to using marijuana and at least CBD products for either medical issues or recreation. (Getty Images)
Tracy Damon EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

Golf is already a chill game, but how much more relaxed could the activity be if you smoked a little green while on the green? More and more golfers admit to partaking in a toke on the links these days.

“No one honestly cares anymore,” said Kurt, a Spokane-area golfer who didn’t want to use his last name. “Everyone is doing it. Or not saying anything if you do. Golf is so awesome because you can get far enough away from everyone to sneak a smoke if you don’t want to do it in front of them.”

At the local level, this observation may be more or less true, but the PGA’s official stance is that it doesn’t condone the use of cannabis by any players.

In October 2019, Professional Golfers Association player Matt Every was suspended for 12 weeks after testing positive for marijuana, which he says he was prescribed legally for a mental health issue.

Player Robert Garrigus was also suspended last year after testing positive for THC in his system. He has since become a vocal critic of the PGA Tour’s marijuana policy, saying that if players are tested for cannabis, they should also be tested for alcohol.

While golfing has long been associated with the consumption of alcohol, many pros have only in recent years admitted to using marijuana and at least CBD products for either medical issues or recreation. Some even have CBD companies as sponsors, including Bubba Watson, Charley Hoffman, Lucas Glover and Scott Piercy.

And while individual players may not encounter any problems sneaking a smoke at Washington courses, it probably isn’t great course comportment. Even though the state allows use and possession of cannabis, there are laws against open consumption in public or activity can be seen by the public. Private courses also may have their own policies.

So what is the difference between using alcohol and marijuana on the course, since both are legal substances in some states? Some people say it’s really how well you play.

A May 2018 article in Golf Digest talks about putting three players of varying skill to the test to see how using marijuana affected their game. The end results were that all players tended to hit more longer shots while under the influence, but approach and putting accuracy took a negative hit. Overall, players using pot seem to have less inhibition and more enthusiasm about long distance shots but less fine motor control.

Kurt disagrees, saying smoking a little bit doesn’t appear to impact his game one way or the other.

“With golf for me, it’s a matter of luck or no luck that day,” he said. “I have tried so many times either way, stoned and sober, and it doesn’t seem to matter.”

Kurt golfs regularly in the warm months, at least once a week and often more. He says while smoking pot doesn’t help or hurt his game, it does improve his attitude.

“For me it really helps with not getting frustrated if I screw up or play bad. It helps me to brush it off.”

In his mid-40s, Kurt has been golfing since he started driving golf balls in ninth grade, then moved up to playing full rounds in 11th grade. He says he’s seen a big change on regional courses since those early days of sneaking a few beers on the course.

“I’ve definitely noticed a difference since I started golfing where everyone used to be uptight. Now you see a little of everything on the course. You go on a regular day and you not only see the older traditional crowd but a lot of guys with their kids and a lot of high school kids. I do think it might be the effect “Happy Gilmore” had on the game.”

Others are wishing that the buttoned-up attitude toward golf would change even more. In an anonymous 2019 survey of pro golfers by Golf.com, nearly 60 percent of 52 Tour players polled at the Safeway Open said the Tour should permit pot.

One in five players also admitted to having used cannabis within the last year, although poll results didn’t specify whether it was actually used while golfing. Which is probably a lot harder for pros in the spotlight than someone with a little lower profile like Kurt.

“If I’m golfing with someone respectable, I try not to do it (smoke), but if the wheels come off, I do and no one has to notice if you don’t want them to. You just tell them to go hit their ball and go the other direction behind the cart to take a puff. I’ve gotten pretty stealthy with it.”

Tracy Damon is a Spokane-based freelancer who has been writing professionally for 20 years. She has been covering i502 issues since recreational cannabis became legal in Washington.
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