Bradford Wilson is one of the golf world’s most quickly-growing media personalities. From his podcast, to national commercials, to his own YouTube series, Bradford works tirelessly to make golf a more diverse and equitable game. He’s also a massive advocate for golf in Southern California.
I spent some time with Bradford, to unpack his golf beginnings, and where he sees the culture ultimately working toward.
Connor Laubenstein: So I guess I’ll start with the most basic question I could possibly think of, which is: tell us about yourself, Brad.
Bradford Wilson: Man, I have to start honoring my creative titles. I am an actor, a filmmaker, a golf content creator, and a podcaster. But most importantly, I am a good friend, a good partner, a good son, a good brother, and a good uncle.
CL: And how did golf come into your life?
BW: I started playing at the age of 12. I grew up in a town that had a public golf course, and a public tennis court, and a public pool, and public basketball courts, but instead of basketball or swimming or track or football or stealing bikes, like all of the other neighborhood kids got themselves involved in, I found myself on the golf course shagging balls and and hitting on the driving range.
I was invited to a church camp in which the camp leaders played golf during their downtime, just around the camp. They brought clubs with them, and would hit balls, after the kids would go to bed. One night I was up late and I shouldn’t have been, and I saw the guys hitting balls, so I went over and told them I said hey I can, I can do that. One of them handed me a golf club, and was like, “show me.” And right there I hit the most pure wedge shot I’ve ever had in my life, and still at the age of 31 I’m still trying to replicate that shot. But from the moment that club made contact with that ball, I knew that golf was going to be something special to me.
CL: So you’re from New Jersey, but you relocated to California. What differences have you found playing golf in Southern California, versus anywhere else that you’ve played?
BW: It comes down to the people. The folks that I play golf with in Southern California are a lot more diverse, and a lot more open-minded than the folks I grew up playing golf around. You would be hard pressed to find a neck-tattooed ex-pro skateboarder, +2 handicap golfer in South Jersey. But they make up most of my playing partners here in Southern California. I just generally find that the folks in Southern California are more welcoming to different types of people that show up on the golf course and how we’re going to be.
CL: Describe for me your ideal golf day in LA right now, like if you were to go play golf tomorrow, what would that day look like?
BW: An ideal round in LA, for me, takes place at Roosevelt golf course. It is a full course meal in nine holes, with one of the best views of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. It has all of the elevation, it challenges you to hit every club in the bag. It’s very walkable, which is my preferred way of navigating the golf course. Cole Young would be there. Ryan Murray would be there. And John Nichols would be there. There might be drinks, there might not be; we might light up a little something. And then there’ll be music playing from somebody’s bag. This is at twilight, so we get that golden hour light that that beautiful Southern California sunset, 77 degrees. That’s it.
CL: What’s the soundtrack, coming from the bag. If you have DJ control, what kind of vibe of playlist are you going with?
BW: Kaytranada is the soundtrack to that round of golf right there. It’s a little bit of pop, it’s a little bit of EDM. It was born in a New York City underground hip hop club. But then, made some bad decisions in its 20s and linked up with the pop and EDM guys. That’s what Kaytranada is to me. And that’s the perfect soundtrack.
CL: Okay, on this golf day, what is your ideal mid-round snack?
BW: Strawberry Uncrustables. That is going to probably rub some people the wrong way, because folks get really territorial about their PB&J. But strawberry jam on my peanut butter sandwich is undefeated—give me that Strawberry Uncrustable all day and just ice cold water.
CL: Here’s one you know I enjoy. What are some of your favorite golf smells?
BW: Oh, I love this question. The number one now that comes to my mind is a little bit of sweat, that kind of seeps down from the brim of my hat. That, and the inside of my glove.
CL: Hmm, the glove sounds similar to the hat. What does it smell like to you?
BW: Yeah, it’s just like wet leather, grass, and bogeys.
CL: Can you speak a little bit to how golf culture is changing?
BW: I love the direction golf seems to be going. I love that there is an effort to diversify what the game looks like, with regard to who the game is marketed to. Golf conversations feel different now, from even 3 years ago. And that is a direct effect of influencers and content creators: they push the needle, they’re producers, they’re creative forces who are changing the conversation, actively within their own audiences, and within their own following. And I love that groups like the SCGA exist, because they are platforms on which creators can broaden their reach. And from where I sit, audiences are more receptive.
CL: So where do you see your place in that change, and where do you hope to see it go, because of you and the collective, in the next few years?
BW: I see myself as an active participant in driving the change in the golf industry. I have a support system to thank for how wide the reach has been: primarily our podcast, Group Golf Therapy, as the platform to drive important conversations such as diversity and mental health.
Because of how social media works, I’m able to take my wildest and craziest thoughts and put them out in the world, and folks are listening to that, which is wild. My hope for the future is that we continue as a community to follow along this trajectory, so that more voices like mine, and like Group Golf Therapy’s are widely celebrated.
CL: How has it been working with the SCGA? Where do you see their part is in playing into this larger cultural shift in golf?
BW: I think Southern California is tapped into something that the rest of the country should be paying close attention to. With regard to how growing the game is actually done, the SCGA has social groups for literally every type of golfer. And that kind of representation matters: if more folks are clocked into what the SCGA is doing, that benefits the golf culture at large. If the rest of the world taps into what they are doing, I think it just opens up the can of possibilities for other programs in Southern California, in Northern California, in northern Illinois, in southern Florida, wherever. There should be more programs modeled after the one that SCGA have built here in Southern California.