The Whitest Greens

Fred Harper

Dear Augusta National Golf Club Members:

We know you're nervous. We know you're sweating. We know the hair in your ears positively curls with thoughts of what might happen to Augusta. Let's face it, it's a bad year to be perceived as any sort of elitist, especially after that whole Trent Lott thing. These days, the wood-paneled, Scotch-sipping, man's-man world you know and love is crashing down around you, and all you can do is wave off would-be intruders with trembling hands and a graphite Big Bertha.

But you shouldn't have to suffer while Augusta's President William "Hootie" Johnson fights to keep women out. Heck, even Hootie admits that eventually some particularly privileged and nonoffensive female will be granted membership. (All you can do is cross your fingers and hope against hope that it ain't Oprah.) It's all frighteningly reminiscent of 1990, isn't it? Thirteen years ago, before Tiger Woods changed the complexion of golf, you lost the fight to keep those people off your course, and a lot of your reputations were sullied in the process.

Well, not this time. We want to help you, and we couldn't care less if Hootie's doing the right thing. We're more concerned with the bottom line. This is Florida, and tourism is king. So in an effort to bring some of you 300 Augusta members -- and your platinum cards -- our way, we at New Times would like to introduce you to half a dozen clubs right here in sunny Broward and Palm Beach counties that we think you'll like. It's high time South Florida started attracting the right kind of tourists again.

This didn't used to be a problem for people like you. As recently as ten years ago at most every private and public golf course in the United States, prime Saturday-morning tee times were reserved for men. The goal wasn't to exclude female golfers. On the contrary, most clubs even reserved morning times on Wednesdays or Thursdays for women, being that they didn't have to work during the week anyway. As busy executives, Saturday mornings are the only time men have available to play. We may have lost that battle, but the war's not over yet! While most of the clubs listed here are not officially men-only, you will find that when women call for prime tee times, often they are told that the courses are totally booked.

Martha Burk and her followers have threatened Augusta's members, no doubt you and some of your friends, with media exposure and boycotts. It's a veritable witch hunt, only the witches are doing the hunting -- and they've enlisted the Old Gray Ladyto name names. The controversy brought the New York Times no small amount of grief after two of the newspaper's sports columnists claimed that their columns were cut when their opinions didn't jibe with the editorial board's Burkist agenda. Those were a nice couple of days, weren't they? For nearly a week, people were criticizing the newspaper instead of the newspaper criticizing you.

But now the spotlight is back on Augusta, and it only gets hotter as the Masters Tournament approaches. Burk and her ilk have threatened to stand outside the tournament, scheduled for April 10-13, wearing burkas in the same shade of green as the much-coveted Masters jacket. Can you imagine it? Hundreds of feminists screeching and disrupting the serenity of golf's most hallowed grounds.

But here in South Florida, there are at least six clubs where you can still drive down the fairway with your like-minded, like-complexioned, and like-sexed friends. Shucks, some of you might already be members!

We want to help you, because we understand you. We know you didn't join Augusta because you don't like women. Like Augusta member Boone Knox recently told USA Today: "We have nothing against women. I love them all. I've got some myself." In this day and age, you gentlemen simply appreciate that a man needs a place to escape from those he'd rather not be around. Why should you be subjected to the same whining, the same nagging, and the same politically correct, tolerant conversations you already have to have in your boardrooms and offices? You've paid a premium, in both dollars and time, to gain your membership to Augusta. And you shouldn't be forced to share it with undesirables.

There's only one Augusta, but for those of you seeking equally august clubs for golfing, yachting, dining, and doing business with others like yourselves, South Florida has much to offer. Clubs so exclusive and steadfast that not even two governors could make them change. Nestled between the perfectly manicured fairways of Arnold Palmer- designed courses, you'll find paneled dens replete with everything you want -- and nothing you don't. Below, we've listed suitable Augusta substitutes, all far from the rallying of pickets, out of the focus range of television cameras, and well under the radar for those who wish to challenge your right to freely associate (and to not associate) with whomever you please. As an added bonus, no one has even bothered to notice these clubs in months, and in some cases years, so there's little chance of you being called on to quit.  

(Despite this list of attractive options, don't get us wrong: Not all of South Florida's golf and yacht clubs are so desirable. Maybe fifteen, even ten years ago, you would have found dozens of high-quality clubs, but several of our favorites experienced hard times in the 1990s, when the state began passing -- and worse yet, enforcing -- anti-discrimination laws. Stupid government.)

Until the feminists decide to move their crosshairs elsewhere, Augusta will be forced to defend itself. I'm sure we all agree that it's a necessary and noble fight. But you, the nation's most important business and political leaders, do not have to suffer in the meantime. We encourage you to visit some of these other luxurious clubs. If you plan on playing through the Augusta debacle, let us show you to the greens.


New Times

Adios Golf Club 7740 NW 39th Ave. Coconut Creek, FL 33073


Built in 1985 by now-deceased entrepreneur Dave Thomas (of Wendy's fame) with a golf course designed by Arnold Palmer, Coconut Creek's Adios Golf Club will make you feel instantly at home. Though Thomas has passed, Palmer's still a member at Adios, as is Dan Marino. With gorgeous greens and long, lush fairways, you'll be saying adios to Augusta's detractors in no time! So insistent is this club on its men-only policy that when President George Bush the First played these links in 1992, a female Secret Service agent was denied entry. Even Thomas' own daughter Wendy, whom he named his hamburger chain after, is not allowed to play this course. As reported in the Sun-Sentinel in 1995, Adios' initial fee of$60,000 and annual dues of$4,500 a year have managed to keep women away and its membership limited to 230 men.

The Everglades Club Inc. 356 Worth Ave. Palm Beach, FL 33480


As accomplished men in charge of America's top companies, you understand the importance of associating with your peers and only your peers. Few men and even fewer women are worth your time, and few clubs are as committed to protecting your right of free association as Palm Beach's Everglades Club, which has been catering only to the bluest of bloods since Addison Mizner built it in 1919. So important is free association to the Everglades Club that when Ivana Trump Mazzuchelli tried to dine here with a few friends (a group that included the Jewess Nikki Haskell) in 1996, a hostess reportedly called Ivana to say, "We like Nikki very much, but she's Jewish, and the club is restricted." Ivana and her guests reconsidered their plans and instead dined at home. However, Caryn Hackett, a former Everglades employee and herself a Jewess, claimed in 1994 that the club would occasionally allow Jews to dine. But don't let that discourage you from joining. Hackett said Everglades made such allowances only when the member bringing the Jew gave the club enough notice that it could construct a "thick hedge of palms and ficus trees where the other club members cannot see these forbidden souls."

There are many privileges to an Everglades membership. You'll get to rub elbows with those whose home addresses include the word compound and whose job titles begin with baron. Because of such prominence, Everglades has had its share of public scrutiny. In 1997 Atlanta businessman and Republican senatorial candidate Guy Milner terminated his Everglades membership because his association with the club was drawing criticism from members of the media and potential voters. (We miss you, Guy!) Since Milner left, though, the Everglades has remained scandal-free. To join the club's 1,100 members, the Palm Beach Post reported in 1999 that you need only pay an upfront fee of $35,000 and annual dues of $3,500. For this, you'll have access to the amenities, which include golf, tennis, croquet, and dining. Applicants also need two sponsors and must be known personally by three board members. Oh, and you can't be a Jew.

Palm Beach Country Club 760 N. Ocean Blvd. Palm Beach, FL 33480


We hesitate to recommend the Palm Beach Country Club but list it here anyway in the spirit of full disclosure. With golf, dining, tennis, private parties, and a $100,000 initiation fee, on first glance, it seems like a club you'd like to join. However, you might want to pass -- unless you favor gefilte fish and matzo balls or, to paraphrase good ol' Fuzzy Zoeller, whatever it is they eat. Opened in 1954 for affluent Palm Beachers who were denied memberships to the Everglades and other Palm Beach clubs, members include oilman and philanthropist Max Fisher and the late Oklahoma oilman Nathan Appleman. Need we say more?  

The Riviera Country Club 1155 Blue Rd. Coral Gables, FL 33146


Like the Sailfish and Everglades Clubs, Coral Gables' Riviera Country Club came under national scrutiny in 1991 when Federal Judge Kenneth Ryskamp was nominated for a position on the United States Court of Appeals. In no time at all, Democratic Senators Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy, from their positions on the Senate Judiciary Committee, were grilling Ryskamp about his Riviera Country Club membership. The club had long existed without black or Jewish members and, unreasonable as it is, the Judiciary Committee found this objectionable. Ryskamp told them that no blacks or Jews had ever applied to join the club, but his response came too late: The damage had been done. "It was all politics," Ryskamp said. "I was defeated by the liberal groups who rallied against me." As Augusta members, you can probably relate.Twelve years later, the liberal groups have backed off Ryskamp, who still holds his bench in Florida's Southern judicial district. Likewise, the spotlight hasn't hit the Riviera Country Club since then. We think you'll find it's still the fine club it's always been.

Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club 2425 Maya Palm Dr. W. Boca Raton, FL 33432


While most clubs claim to fight the good fight for members, few do so with the vigilance of Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club in Boca Raton. Located completely inside the Royal Palm community, the club's leaders call themselves "commodores" and have yet to fall to liberal invaders. Royal Palm's commodores have kept the membership decidedly Anglo and Christian for nearly 44years, even as the gated neighborhood (nay, the entire city of Boca Raton!) has become a haven for those of the Jewish persuasion. Today, just 11 months after settling a discrimination investigation with the Office of the Attorney General, Royal Palm has managed to keep certain elements of the community out, all the while quieting the naysayers. Its strategy? It admitted a lone Jew, a guy named Jeff Baker -- the husband of a Christian wife and son-in-law to one of the club's members (besides, his name doesn't sound Jewish).

So determined to make membership comfortable for people like you is Royal Palm that not even the pleading letters of Gov. Jeb Bush himself could make the club change its practices. And though armed with stacks of complaint letters and two files thick with substantiated allegations, when the lawyers from the Office of the Attorney General sat down with Royal Palm's attorneys to settle, the club was the clear victor. These days, the AG's office is satisfied that Royal Palm has now agreed to begin accepting applications from Jews and other minorities but has made no promises to offer any Jews or other minorities membership. The club doesn't even have to tell the OAG if there are any Jewish applicants because, cleverly, the club's attorneys argued that inquiring into one's ethnic or religious background would be discrimination! (The attorney for one of the Jews denied membership called the settlement "a toothless tiger.") A defeat for the legal system? Sure. But a triumph for the American way -- not to mention states' rights and Southern heritage. Standing strong in the face of civil rights claims, lawsuits, threatening letters from the governor, and angry neighbors, Royal Palm will no doubt stay in the bright white right for years to come.

Sailfish Club of Florida 1338 N. Lake Way Palm Beach, FL 33480


The 1990s were scary years indeed at the Sailfish Club, a yacht club in Palm Beach. Under pressure from the NAACP and B'nai B'rith, then-Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles threatened not to renew the club's dock lease if the club didn't admit some blacks and Jews. Bob Butterworth, then the state's attorney general, fired off an angry letter to Sailfish, threatening to post "No Trespassing" signs on the club and tear down its docks if minorities weren't allowed in. The club tried to maneuver legally around the state's anti-discrimination laws but in the end had to cave -- a little. Now, eight years after the controversy, a few Jews are members, and the club says it has asked some African-Americans to join, but as of yet there have been no takers. Regardless, we think you'll still find Sailfish to be a pleasant escape from, well, all these problems.13

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