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Dinner – Metropolitan Golf Club – Monday 19th February

The Society held its first dinner for the year at The Metropolitan Golf Club – Monday 19 February

Our guest speaker was Dr Joshua Ralston, who is in Melbourne on a three-month lecturing position at the University of Melbourne.

Dr Ralston is a professor of religion and politics at the University of Edinburgh with a focus on the interactions between the Middle East and the West.  

He has written or edited four books on themes such as religious diversity in Europe, populism and religion, and Christian-Muslim relations. He’s currently writing on how sport helps us understand the transformation of Saudi Arabia and modern global politics. 

Dr Ralston is an avid golfer and a member at North Berwick Golf Club, Scotland. He has already managed several games on the Sandbelt since his arrival at the beginning of January. 

The title of his topic was    “The Politics of Golf: Saudi Arabia and the transformation of professional golf.” 

Joshua’s talk was enlightening and very entertaining and we are grateful to him for giving up his leisure time.

We also give thanks to Michael Clayton who assisted us in securing Joshua as our dinner speaker.  

To read more about this wonderful evening ..please see John Trevorrow’s report.

  Report on Dr Joshua Ralston’s talk to at Golf Society dinner at Metropolitan GC, 19th February. 

Have you ever wondered why the rulers of Saudi Arabia have spent billions of their petro-dollars buying into international golf by creating and funding the LIV Golf League? 

The answer, according to academic Dr Joshua Ralston, is deeper than the common assumption that the authoritarian Saudi regime simply wants to ‘sports wash’ its dubious international reputation for human rights. 

Dr Ralston is from California, and a late convert to golf and member at North Berwick Golf Club in Scotland. He is an associate professor of religion and politics at the University of Edinburgh and has written studies on religious diversity in Europe, populism and religion, and Christian-Muslim relations. Dr Ralston is currently a visiting scholar at Trinity College, University of Melbourne and was guest speaker in February at Metropolitan Golf Club for the Golf Society’s first dinner of the year. His talk, titled “Saudi Arabia and the politics of golf”, drew a packed house of 138 GSA members and guests. 

His view is that Muhammad bin Salman al Saud, the crown prince and Prime Minister who is the probable next King of Saudi Arabia, is aiming to diversify his nation’s future from reliance on oil and gas to broader economic interests. Sport, including top-level soccer and golf, is among his targets. 

Dr Ralston laid out three essential reasons he believes are behind the Saudis’ investment of more than $3billion so far on LIV Golf, which this year will play its second Australian tournament in Adelaide. 

 

  1. National

The Saudi regime wants to transition its society, build new economic hubs, and attract wealthy and influential foreign investors. Golf is one of the ways of doing that. It is also a sport that is appropriate within Saudi culture because it can be played together by men and women in culturally acceptable ways. 

 

  1. Regional

Saudi Arabia is playing catch-up against its more international neighbours Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia already contains the two most important sites for Islam — Mecca and Medina — and LIV Golf gives them another chance to increase their reputation and influence within the Middle-East region. “Why buy a team when you can buy a whole sport? LIV Golf helps to set the Saudis apart in their regional rivalry,” said Dr Ralston. 

 

  1. Global

Golf is a mid-range sport compared to soccer and basketball, he says, but is a very rich sport. Fortune-100 companies and executives are involved in golf, and the game also gives unique opportunities to build personal relationships on the golf course with important and influential people. It gives the Saudis a key foothold in international connections. 

 

“LIV Golf is part of a broader group of aims for the Saudis to make themselves indispensable both economically and globally,” Dr Ralston says. Finally, he pointed out that western nations have for more than 70 years made a “Faustian bargain” by dealing economically and militarily with Saudi Arabia while not looking at what the Kingdom does in terms of women’s rights, human rights and authoritarian behaviour. 

Golf gives us a window into our morally complicated world, he says. Understanding and respecting different cultures is vitally important to global understanding and international relationships, but so too is holding fast to values of justice and human dignity.   

Dr Ralston’s timely talk was enthusiastically received by the diverse and influential crowd. The audience included board members from a number of golf clubs, Golf Australia CEO James Sutherland, many key people from Metropolitan GC, and a large number of guests. Two old friends with a combined 150 years of playing golf were also there. Metro’s legendary pro Brian Twite and Peter Stickley, who caddied at Metro in 1951-52 and was assistant to Brian in 1955-57, enjoyed 9 holes together before the dinner. They were joined on the course by Tasmanian former champion and professional David Good. 

– John Trevorrow 

 

                     

The Society gives thanks to the club and staff at Metropolitan GC for their wonderful hospitality which ensured for a most enjoyable evening for our member and their guests.

Thank you to many that have passed on positive and lovely feedback.

We took the opportunity to record Joshua’s talk   Please click on the link below to listen.

https://golfsocietyaust.com/wp-content/uploads/GSA-Dinner-recording-19022024-Speaker-Joshua-Ralston.mp3

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