Golf a single hole, 18-mile course across the length of the city of Detroit. That was the assignment that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff set for himself in what could’ve just been a novelty report for Detroit’s Fox 2 News. Even though the par 3,168 course was clearly a stunt, the point was to illuminate the faces and places of a city facing hard times.
That does not make it any less of a challenge. “Right from the get go, I’m realizing this here might be the stupidest idea I’ve ever had,” he figures in the Fox 2 video. “It’s 100 degrees, I’m wearing black–and I can’t golf. But I’m committed because they’re talking of reinventing this city.”
“Besides, how many cities are so empty you can take a full on swing?” he later adds. The segment that’s the result of the idea (here is his route on a Detroit map) showcases plenty of shots of LeDuff teeing off near decaying architecture, on heaps of debris and in overgrown fields. It also finds him weathering his shoes literally melting off his feet.
He speaks to residents who hope that the area could start with a “clean slate” and listens to a police officer who remarks that the city council wants them to “take less and do more.” But the report strikes a more optimistic note as he reaches the Belle Isle golf club at the end of the assignment. “2,525 strokes and I golfed every inch of it,” LeDuff concludes. “I’m thinking back to what I saw behind me, a city, its people, holding on, waiting for a savior… I wonder if the people know that the savior might be found within themselves.”
(More: The Remains of Detroit)