In a competitive match in my early golf days, my opponent commented right before I hit my shot, “That sure is a narrow opening up there between those traps.” Fortunately, I put it on the green in spite of her jab. Not sure why it is so, but women players can be pretty wicked to beginners.
When I decided to take lessons and improve my golf game, I made a specific plan to get my game into shape. I loved to practice. Being at the chipping green at the end of the day and honing my shots was heaven on earth to me. The women at my club pretty much thought it was odd that I actually practiced more than I played.
My life was busy chasing my two toddlers around and holding down a part time teaching position. I had very few five-hour windows of time to get eighteen holes in. Practice sessions became my juiciest golf experiences. I loved the feeling of holing out a sand shot. Chipping into the hole on two consecutive shots rocked my world.
My favorite putting drill is still putting five balls around the hole at three to four feet and making all of them or starting over. I can remember when the only way I could make this drill successful was to place the balls eighteen inches from the hole. The results? Even now when I don’t play as much as I used to, I am still deadly from four feet in!
The biggest and most painful surprise in those days was how the women at my club reacted to me. While my scores were still in the low hundreds, there was not much cheerleading going on. The women who were more experienced, read scoring in the low 80’s, belonged to a pretty tight clique that was hard to penetrate.
Once when I was in a match, I had forgotten to load my pockets with tees and ball markers. When I asked my competitor if I could borrow a coin, she said no. I had to take an embarrassing trip back to my cart to retrieve a marker and then proceeded to lose the hole.
Not all of the women were so difficult to get along with. Thank goodness. I was used to men sneering at me as I approached the tee and then proceeded to dribble a thirty-yard shot into the rough. There are a few real jerks out there–one even peed next to his cart with me just yards away. Come on, guys.
I think it was my practice ethic and my inner knowledge of the game that gained me the respect of the men who encouraged me early on. I still enjoy healthy respect from male playing partners. I also am committed to helping women feel comfortable as they take up the wonderful game of golf.
If you have been treated rudely in golf … PLEASE don’t let that stop you from enjoying the game. Sure there are a few turkeys out there…hens and toms, but there are the nicest people ever playing golf and you can hook up with them more easily than you think.
Here are five steps to getting the most out of your golfing experience:
1. Take Lessons: Simple but true. This is the fastest way to not only get the respect of the golfers you work and play with, it is also the only way to really enjoy the game. I once played with a gal who claimed not to care as she whiffed more than a third of the time. Hard for me to believe that. Golf is a bit counter intuitive and a good pro can short cut your learning and make it a lot of fun for you. If cost is an issue, find a couple of friends to take lessons with you. Most pros will gladly teach a mini group if you ask and this brings the price down for all of you!
2. Practice: While it is true that hitting buckets of balls can be a little boring, there are ways to make it more fun. Once again, meeting a friend at the range for a little practice and then lunch is probably less expensive than a shopping tip or a movie. Shared interest in the game will pay off for you later when you are ready to go to the course. Again, the expense of range balls is not an excuse. Putting and chipping you can do for free….just bring your own balls. Nothing will get you respected quicker in this game than having a stellar short game.
3. Find a league in your area: From Craig’s List to Meetup.com to WomenonCourse.com and in the local happenings section of your newspaper, you can easily find groups of people to practice and play with. I met my sweetie by joining the San Diego Single Golfers Association. Once you have some basic skills, take a deep breath and get out there!
4. Chart your progress: “I don’t like to keep score!” I hear that a lot and I can’t blame people. If you are scoring in the 70s … for nine, it isn’t so fun to count. I developed my own scoring technique when I was learning. I actually counted up the good shots I had on each nine. Sometimes it would only be 6. Yikes. As I improved, the good shot score grew higher and higher. I created graphs and charted my progress. The visual was inspiring for me and I loved seeing the improvement. Later when I counted score conventionally, I could track as my score dropped from the 50’s for nine to the 30’s.
5. Create a Personal Scoring System: When you are beginning, you must be realistic with your scoring expectations. I always recommend that beginners start their golf date by changing the score card to suit their game. Straight away I have them cross out all of the par fives and make them par sevens, the par fours become par sixes and the par threes become par fives. That way, in your own scoring system, you have many par and birdie opportunities throughout your round. Amazing how your score will drop with this simple adjustment!