CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- I have a friend who was the captain of her golf team in high school. I only found this out by accident, and when I asked her to join me for a round some time, she only shook her head and said no. She'd be embarrassed because she hasn't played in years. Another friend of mine used to go out and break 100 at will. Her rives were a sight to behold. But lately? Not so much.
It turns out that although women make up the fastest-growing group taking up golf, they also make up the largest group that's leaving it. What's going on here? What happened to all these golfers? Curious, I asked around. And here's what I heard:
1. Children. While one can play while pregnant (I did it myself, playing right up to my due date), toting around an actual infant on the course is not good for one's game. For this reason, many women put golf on the back burner for one, two, three, or more years. Do dads do this? No, they generally feel no guilt leaving the kids behind to go play. Perhaps women could take a page from their husband's book and either a) let hubbie do his fatherly duty once in a while, or b) get a babysitter and go out and enjoy a golf date with said hubbie. I have three kids of my own, so I know how this goes. But I also know that it's not insurmountable. Yes, Virginia, you can be a mother and play golf too.
2. Work. If you're working 9 to 5, often putting in overtime and maybe even traveling, it's hard to fit in a five-hour round every week. This is a tough one, because unlike the first reason, you can't hire a babysitter to do your job for you. You can, however, play nine holes after work, or just hit a bucket of balls to stay in practice. In my area of North Carolina, we have Knights Play-a lighted par-3 course that's open until midnight. If you're lucky, you have something similar. Something like this should fit with anyone's work schedule.
3. Time. This is actually an encapsulation of the first two reasons; however, it's a top reason why women stop playing. Sounds like an excuse to me. Only three of the U.S. presidents of the last century didn't play golf. If they can find the time, chances are you
can too. (FYI, those three presidents were Hoover, Truman, and Carter.)
4. Pride. Not playing becomes a reason all by itself. Perhaps you had to take time off to have a baby, or go on a trip, or maybe you were sick. And now that you've been away, you're virtually guaranteed some embarrassment when you return because your game is not up to snuff. Take heart-a long hiatus doesn't have to mean the end of your golf career. Think of it as a new beginning. Take a lesson or two, stay on the range your first few times out. Ease back into the game slowly, and you'll remember what you've been missing. You might discover that you're better now than you ever were. And even if you discover the opposite, who cares? Just ask the folks at badgolfer.com-you don't have to be good to enjoy golf!
5. Lack of playing partners. Your regular golfing buddy moved away, and you can't get your husband out on the course. I'm familiar with this one. However, you might be surprised by how many opportunities are out there to find new golfing friends. If you're a member of a club, you're probably already familiar with ladies' day. And many other possibilities are out there just waiting for you to discover them, even if you don't have a home course. The Executive Women's Golf Association, for example, has chapters all around the country, offering eague play, outings and tournaments. What a great chance to meet some new playing partners! Check out www.ewga.com for more information. Love means never having to say you're sorry, and joining a group like this means never having to say you can't play.
So now we know why women quit golf. Why should they come back?
1. Fun. If you have children, you know how important it is for them to have free time to just play. But why should they have all the fun? Don't you deserve even just a few hours of fun yourself? A happy mom makes for happy kids. Don't feel guilty for having some fun of your own.
2. Stress relief. Had a bad day? Feeling tense? Nothing clears your mind better than a good round of golf. Even a bad round of golf can do the trick. Fresh air, exercise, picturing your pointy-haired boss's head on the little tee while you swing away-all these can do wonders for your mental health.
3. Exercise. Walk eighteen holes and you've just walked five miles. If you carry your clubs, you're burning more than 600 calories per round. 600 calories! Step aerobics, Pilates, and Tae-Bo can't hold a candle to the kind of fitness you can achieve with golf. So park the cart, buy some comfortable shoes, and get out there.
4. Relationships. Can you think of any other sporting activity where you can talk for four or five hours straight? Golf naturally fosters close relationships. And it's tailor-made for couples. The handicapping system means a woman who drives 140 yards has just as good a chance of winning as her husband who belts it 300. And vice versa.
5. Networking. How many deals have been made on the golf course? Men aren't the only ones who should take advantage of golf's networking opportunities. You can work your way into your boss's good graces by inviting him or her for a round at your home course, and get to know your colleagues better at a company outing. And the beautiful thing is, you really don't have to be good! You'll get respect just for being there, and we all know letting the boss win is probably your best bet anyway.
Whether you're 25 or 65, these might be the best golf years of your life. Don't let them go to waste! No more excuses-come back to golf and see how good you are now.
Jennifer Mario has worked as an editor and writer, both full time and as a freelancer, for almost ten years. She began playing golf four years ago, became addicted immediately, and now plays to a 16 handicap. A graduate of Duke University, she resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband Jeremy and three children, Gretchen, Reid, and baby Charlie.
January 14, 2005
Jennifer Mario is a regular contributor to the TravelGolf Network and the author of "Michelle Wie: The Making of a Champion" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2006). She began playing golf in 2001, became an instant addict, and realized there was a shortage of golf writings from the woman's perspective. A graduate of Duke University, she lives in Durham, N.C. with her family.
We all love golf course rankings, but there's quite a bias involved, huh? Host a major championship and you're basically guaranteed a spot on the list. What about the average duffer who's more impressed with the beer list than the slope/rating - or prefers friendliness over the fine, imported lotion in the locker room? Where's our list, hackers? Answer: Right here.
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