Time for another look at cars in ads appearing in places they clearly don’t belong. Today, we’re looking at another trope (age-old, as it turns out), cars parked/driving on golf courses. After all, who hasn’t looked at the pastoral splendor of a golf course and thought to themselves, “we should totally turf this joint by driving cars all over it.”
While horse racing might be the “sport of kings,” golf has historically been a sport of the elite. Everything about golf screams luxury, from the well-manicured acres of lawn to the implication that you have the luxury of 5+ hours of free time to spend on the links playing 18 holes. It is no wonder that luxury cars feature prominently in this trope.
The earliest example of this trope I could find goes back well over a century, to this 1912 ad for Lozier. Being a stylized illustration, it is hard to tell if the car is actually on the golf course, near the golf course, or in a sand trap. The connection to the country club set is made clear in the copy, just in case you missed it in the picture. And while the $5,000 price in the ad means you don’t have to ask, being equivalent to about $150,000 today means you still can’t afford it.
Lesser automakers like Ford were not averse to using golf courses to burnish their image, as shown in this 1930 Model T ad. The car appears to be on a driveway or cart path and not the actual course, but close enough for our purposes.
Of course, tropes don’t start out as tropes. They start out as someone’s creative decision to place a car in an unusual setting. Only after years and decades of reuse do they become tropes. The art director of this 1941 Nash ad, featuring a car clearly parked on a golf course, was making what at the time was surely a creative decision in placing their car.
Here we see a 1955 Oldsmobile Holiday 98 parked in front of Strong’s Island, the famous par-3 9th hole on the Ocean Course of the Ponte Vedra resort in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
This is what Strong’s Island looks like today. It is named after its designer, Herbert Strong, a British professional golfer who designed the hole (and course) in 1928. (Maybe I should do another series on the real-world locations of vintage auto ads).
This is perhaps the most implausible of golf course scenarios: Two men watching a golf tournament from the comfort of a 1957 Oldsmobile while parked in the rough. This scenario was so implausible it had to be rendered as an illustration and not a photograph. Who is that talking to the driver? A fellow golfer asking for pointers? Or a greensmaster asking them to kindly move their car? My guess is the latter.
I’m not 100% sure if this 1959 Mercury Colony Park is parked on a golf course or not, but it was too bizarre to leave out of this post. What exactly is supposed to be depicted here? An angry groundskeeper firing up the sprinklers to get rid of the trespassers parked on the green? No one seems to be too bothered by it, or even concerned enough to roll up the windows on the car. As always, I will leave it to the commenters to speculate further.
Wow! Here’s a 1960 Ford Thunderbird scoring a hat trick of tropes. We have the car on the golf course and the car beside the pool trope in the same shot.
Golf courses are colorful places, which is why ads featuring them are often shot in color. In black and white, the lush sea of green turns into a dour ocean of gray, which unfortunately affects your interpretation of the photo.
Why is the female driver of the 1962 Chrysler convertible on a cart path watching that threesome of men play golf? A jilted lover stalking an ex? A wife checking to make sure her philandering husband is actually at the golf course? Checkered past indeed.
Next up, a 1964 I-H Scout is being driven on what is quite clearly a cart path. At least the Scout’s narrow track and short wheelbase could make it plausibly pass for a golf cart, unlike the next photo.
Apparently they were out of carts at the clubhouse, so this twosome decided to just use their Buick instead.
Perhaps recognizing that this had become a trope, later golf course photos frequently show a pro golfer accompanying the car parked on a golf course, whether it is Andy Bean in the 1984 Jeep ad in the lede photo or Lee Trevino in the 1970 Dodge ad above. I guess people will figure that since they are pro golfers then they must be allowed to park their cars right on the course.