BSR Oklahoma Magazine Show – July 28, 2017

BSR Oklahoma Magazine Show

BSR Program #202 – An Aspie and the game of golf

(BSR Program #201 – For airing on KTLR, 890 AM and 103.7 FM in Oklahoma City, released under a Creative Commons license)

Community Talk KTLR AM 890 Oklahoma City

NOTE: The following text is my working script. I sometimes make minor changes in the editing process that may be in the audio form of the show, but may not end up being changed in the text below, so it is best to think of the following text as being an “advance” or “working” show script/notes.


Welcome to the BSR Oklahoma Magazine show, with James Branum. This is BSR Episode # 202 first broadcast on July 28, 2017 on the radio and online at

In this episode…

  1. We will be airing an episode of Exploring Aspergia that delves into the world of GOLF as experienced by an Aspie.

  2. We will also be previewing some of our upcoming programs.

So stay tuned…



In today’s episode of Exploring Aspergia, which is episode #12,  I will be discussing the topic of what the Psychiatric community calls “obsessive interests” or “narrowly focused interests” but what many Aspies, that is folks on the Aspergers/Autism Spectrum, call simply “special interests.” And since this program is a show by, for about about Aspies, we will call them “special interests”

I should mention that today it will just be me, James Branum, but hope to have my wife and co-host, Becky, back on some future episodes very soon.

So… special interests… these are the areas of interest for many people on the Spectrum, but normally pursued with a much greater devotion that most hobbyists or enthusiasts might display. In the past, many well-meaning psychologoists, teachers, and family members saw these interests as something that was problematic and even something that should be squelched, but, today it is very clear that for many Aspies, it is our special interests that make us feel most alive and that give us the joy and calmness that makes the rest of life more bearable.

Obviously though, it can be tricky. For many of us, it can be a struggle to enjoy our special interests but to not bore other people with them, as the fictional character Sheldon Cooper from the TV show The Big Bang Theory very eloquently puts it:

You may not realize it, but I have difficulty navigating certain aspects of daily life. You know, understanding sarcasm, feigning interest in others, not talking about trains as much as I want to. It’s exhausting.  

Sheldon is right. It is exhausting to be so excited about what we love, but to know that most people won’t ever share our level of enthusiasm. But for most of us, at least by adulthood, we learn that our special interests are worthy of devotion even if others don’t get it, and that these interests can be shared with those who do get it.

And of course, many of us also struggle to make our special interests fit into our lives… lucky aspies find ways to get paid for engaging in their special interests, as did folks like Dr. Temple Grandin and John Elder Robinson, but many other aspies have to do something else to pay the bills and that’s hard. But whether it is a vocation or simply an avocation, special interests make life much more interesting and bearable for folks on the spectrum.

As to the nature of special interests— for some aspies, there is a singular special interest, often that develops in childhood but that continues for the rest of their lives, which if one is lucky might even lead to one’s career.

But for myself and many other Aspies, our special interests do vary over time, with some interests maintaining a special place in our life forever and others slowly fading away. I have had many special interests over the years – collecting (especially stamps), maps, world religions, shortwave radio listening and amateur radio, Legos, foreign languages, web design, bicycling, Oklahoma history, and many more, but over the last two months or so I’ve fallen hard for a new special interest… golf.

Yes, golf.

I know for many of my friends and family this has been a surprising development, as I’m not naturally a very athletic kind of person, but golf has pulled me in.

In the past I thought of golf as being a ridiculous sport that only rich people played and that was ecologically unsound, and more than a little boring. But I’ve come to see it a bit differently.

It started in May of this year. My wife’s parents had found my wife’s old golf clubs in storage, so we decided to go out to a local golf course with her parents to try them out. And so we did a little putting and chipping practice on the practice greens, and then we did some hitting at the driving range, just for an hour or so. Everyone had a good time, but I really had a good time. There was something about hitting the ball that felt good, that felt real, that felt visceral. I couldn’t explain it but I wanted to do it more.

And so I went straight away to a local pawn shop and bought some bargain golf clubs – a few very old woods (that were actually made of wood), a set of irons, a wedge and some putters, and I started going as often as I could to the driving range, and before long I tried to play a short 3 hole par 3 course, the Academy course at Lake Hefner. I was terrible, as I expected to be, but I loved it.

Before long I got my wife to start playing with me (who quickly picked up her game where she left it off from years ago) and tried hard to get my son to like golf, who has yet to be bit by the bug.

I just couldn’t get enough of playing. I hit lots of balls at the driving range, at Top Golf, and in the vacant lots behind our house. I still was terrible but slowly getting better, in part from learning some technique — mostly from books and online videos, but also from my wife and my father-in-law — but mostly just from tons and tons of practice.

And so I decided that it was time to get serious about this game. Partly because I was feeling so good when I played it, but also because it was an exercise that I could do every day and that I didn’t cause me serious pain. I am a big guy and I have bad knees so running is out of the question, so I previously had focused mostly on bicycling to stay in shape. But golf gave me both some leg exercise (since I tried to walk the course as much as possible) but also helped to strengthen my core and my arms. In fact, I could see from my time playing golf that this was also a sport that I could play for the rest of my life.. Many 70 and 80 year olds are stellar golf players.

And so yes, I was loving this game, but I had a couple of things that were holding me back — the issue of class and money and the question of ecology.

So let’s deal with these questions… Golf has a reputation for being an expensive sport, and with some good reason. Thankfully I discovered there are cheaper ways to play.

First and most obviously, used pawnshop and hand-me-down golf clubs work. Yes, I know the golf how-to guides will tell you not to do this but I humbly disagree. Playing with old clubs can be loads of fun.

Second, used/recycled golf balls can be purchased at local sporting goods stores, and a watchful eye can often find a lot of free balls left behind in water traps by other players.

And finally there is the question of where will you play? — Thankfully, there are some cheaper courses and driving ranges out there, and even the chance to play for free if one can find a vacant lot close by.

So, I found a way to make it work in my budget and not feel too guilty about it. But I was stuck with another question — is golf, culturally, a sport that excludes folks of different races and classes, and if so is it an appropriate game to play.

Historically, the answer has been yes. No sport took as long to desegregate racially as did golf. Things are different now, mostly, with a lot of players of different ethnic and racial backgrounds on the courses I visit, but that history is still there.

But… class segregation is not history, but still alive and well—- as illustrated by this excerpt of an interview with Donald Trump. by John Barton from Golf Digest:


Trump: I would make golf aspirational, instead of trying to bring everybody into golf, they will never going to be there anyway. They are working so hard, as they say, to make golf a game of the people. I think that golf should be a game that the people want to aspire to, through success.

Barton: So you would like for it to be an elitist activity?

Trump: It was always meant to be. And people get there through success. The great athletes, they all are golfers. They all want to play golf. Now what happened…

Barton: But in Scotland when it started, it was a game of the people…

Trump: It can still be, but it should be. . . they cheapen the game with with what they are doing. In my opinion they cheapen the game. Golf should be an aspirational game, and they’re taking aspiration out of it.

And this wasn’t the first time that Trump has said this In an interview with Fortune magazine, from 2015, he was asked if his views on golf were elitist, and this is what he said:

It may be elitist, and perhaps that’s what golf needs. Let golf be elitist. When I say “aspire,” that’s a positive word. Let people work hard and aspire to some day be able to play golf. To afford to play it. They’re trying to teach golf to people who will never be able to really play it. They’re trying too hard. Because of the expense of playing, and the land needed, golf is never going to be basketball, where all you need is a court.

For me… these remarks at first infuriated me, but then it motivated me, because I don’t think rich people should be the only people that get to play golf. It is a sport that people of all ages, abilities and genders can easily play together, and a sport that is more adaptable than most for play by many disabled people.

And so I decided that I will play golf and I will do so in part to spite the elitists like Trump who don’t want ordinary working class people to enjoy this beautiful game. And I will play on my terms… using old clubs and using every coupon and bargain I can find to get out there and play.

And… I should add that I’m not alone in doing this. In our city we have some excellent places to play golf very cheaply. Some of my favorite places to play frugally include:

1. James E. Stewart Golf Course, 824 Frederick Douglass Ave in Oklahoma City, right by Douglas High School near the intersection of NE 10th & MLK. A great 9 hole course with two par 5 holes. Very doable either walking or with a cart. Green fees are $10, 7 for seniors and 2.75 for juniors. If you want a cart it is $5.75 per person.

2. Lake Hefner’s Academy Course – Three holes, all par 3. Super easy but a great place to learn how to play. Most of the time it isn’t crowded so you can play at least 2 times through but sometimes even 3, to make it nine holes. The cost is only $6.75 and this one is meant to be walked.

3. Speaking of Lake Hefner, all of the 18 hole OKC municipal courses have reduced prices in the evening, around $9 per person in green fees for the last two hours before dark, and reduced cart rental prices as well.

4. Lastly, and my favorite so far, is a hidden treasure, The Links at Oklahoma City Golf Course, at 700 NE 122nd St, just a little to the East of Broadway extension. The Links is a 9 hole golf course surrounded by an apartment complex. Residents of the complex get to play, I think, for free, but non-residents can play too. Green fees are around $10 for 9 holes. Cart rental is around $7 per person, but this course is a good one to walk, assuming you don’t mind walking up some hills. The best bargain though is to get a non-resident membership, which includes not only unlimited green fees, but also access to the pool, tennis and basketball courts, the cost of which comes out to being about the same as family membership at the Y.

The Links course is really cool and insanely hard, at least for me as a beginner. 6 of the 9 holes incorporate water features and there is a good bit of elevation change over the length of the course.

Ecolology – discuss negatives (water, pesticides, carbon cost of mowing) and positives (open space, wildlife, etc.) and mention that the issue will be discussed in future episodes more

For future episodes…

August 4 – Special episode, a commemoration of the 100th Annivesary of Oklahoma’s Green Corn Rebellion

August 11 – A new episode of Mennonite Radio, starting a series of exploring the book of Mark

August 18 – Special program discussing the ecllipse coming on August 21