Chris BaldwinThis Week at March 27, 2007

Native American tribes deserve credit for rescuing golf in the United States

Like most kids of my generation, I played cowboys and Indians with little sense of any social undertones. My dad loved John Wayne movies and made sure his son saw plenty of them.

So it's probably no surprise that it's not until now that I've gained an appreciation for Native American culture.

Make that Native American golf culture.

If you play golf, you have to give thanks to the tribes throughout North America. Has any other group done more for golf on this continent in the last decade?

Think about your favorite courses, the ones you wake up in a dream about playing again. Chances are at least one of these is Native American owned and operated.

This isn't some PC rant calling for us all to join hands and sing around campfires. It's an appreciation for a group of modern businessmen who seem to now get golf better than the white man.

What are the common characteristics of Native American golf courses? They're almost all free of houses, the biggest pox on modern golf. Sure, Native American reservations might have more open, unused land, but how many golf businessmen have had huge advantages and failed to use them? Plenty. Greed for more has ruined many a golf course.

Native American leaders deserve credit for recognizing that golf could be a nice revenue producer while fitting into their appreciation for land.

It doesn't stop at wide-open courses with nary a condo in sight either. Native American golf courses seem to hold the customer in higher regard too.

Whether it's a place like We-Ko-Pa outside Scottsdale that's drawn mad praise, or a more out of the way spot such as Barona Creek 40 minutes and another world from San Diego, the same obsession with making sure you're happy comes through.

They're completely different tribes. In completely different golf markets. Yet the experience of caring what every golfer thinks rings universal.

Maybe it takes a society that's been made to feel like outsiders to treat everyone like insiders. In golf, the ultimate old money game, it's a very refreshing attitude. Only you'll hear other owners moaning about how regulations give Native American courses unfair legs up.

Time to look at your own house first.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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