Q: I've been playing golf for 20 years and enjoy my regular round with the same group of buddies every Sunday. My wife has recently decided to take up the game and now wants us to play together on her day off (you guessed it: Sunday). I accept her new hobby but she shoots in the 120s and I could never get the guys to include her, nor do I want to. How do I tell her I'd much rather keep Sundays for my regular foursome?
A: You "accept" her new hobby? That's awfully generous of you, considering golf has been a pastime of your own for two decades. Your wife is showing you a nice gesture by learning to play and you should do everything you can to encourage her. That doesn't mean you have to give up your regular Nassau, or make your wife a part of it. The key word here is "balance."
My mother resisted taking up golf for the first 35 years of her relationship with my golf-crazed father, but finally decided that if she ever wanted to spend some quality time with him, she'd better follow the old "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" adage. While my father was initially reluctant to play with a triple-bogey shooter, especially at the expense of golf with "serious" players, he eventually learned to balance his competitive golf with rounds with mom. It takes some planning, but as long as he fits her in on a regular basis, she's happy, and they're both thrilled with the added benefits of their shared interest in the game. They take golf vacations together and there are much fewer spats about time spent on the course. It's been a win-win situation for everybody involved.
As far as I can tell, if Sunday is the only day your wife can play, you have two choices: Move your regular round with the guys to Saturday, or make Sunday a 36-hole day and try to fit in both. Trust me, it'll be worth it in the long run.
Q: It seems physically impossible for the men at our club to let a group of women through, even if they're keeping us up. Yet if we don't let them through, we have a ranger on our backs in a matter of minutes. How do we deal with this unfairness?
A: In Sweden, where I grew up, it's a punishable offense not to let a faster group play through, and every golfer is educated and tested on how to execute a quick and proper transition. If you're a two- or threesome at any average Swedish course, you can play through five or six groups in one round without incident. It happens all the time, and rounds rarely take over four hours. Here in the U.S., I hardly ever see golfers play through.
I think you're right--there's a male-ego thing involved--but I also think many golfers in this country are either too polite to ask, to ignorant to step aside, or too unsure of how to play through properly. So instead, everybody stays where they are and rounds keep getting slower.
You say the men at your club "refuse" to let women through, but have you ever actually walked up to a group and flat-out asked them to? I can't imagine any player would turn you down if you addressed them in a confident way and promised to make it fast. Wait until the group in front of you has teed off on an appropriate take-over hole (usually a par-5 or a long par-4; that way, they don't have to wait for you to putt out), then ask to sneak through. Do not take any practice swings, be ready with the right club in hand, tee off and get out of their hair. Once they see that you can move through fast, they won't be as reluctant in the future.
As for dealing with quick-to-judge rangers, I'd suggest simply pointing out that you're keeping pace with the group in front of you and are not holding up anyone. If you don't have players in front of you but a group is on your back, then the ranger is right--you should let the players behind you, no matter what gender, play through.
Q: My wife and I are trying hard to get our 14-year-old daughter interested in golf, but she doesn't want to hear it. She spends her weekends by the pool at our club with her girlfriends but won't even consider coming down to the practice range to take a lesson. How do we get her excited about the game?
A: If memory serves me correctly, there's not much you can do to convince a 14-year-old of anything, especially if you're her parent. The only way you're going to get golf to compete with your daughter's social life is to ease off on the pressure and let her find the game on her own. Right now, there's little hope she'll give it the time of day, simply because you keep badgering her about it. In fact, even if she feels a slight curiosity, she's probably repressing it just to go against your wishes. She's 14; that's her job. Take the reverse-psychology approach. Stop talking to her about golf for a while. Let her know it's okay if she doesn't like the game, but that you still do. On your next family vacation (with no girlfriends around), take her to an LPGA tournament--don't force her to come, but sure, if she wants to, make room in the car. Watching girls close to her own age hit 300-yard drives in trendy outfits can do wonders for any teenager's perception of golf's cool factor. And if your daughter decides to experiment with the game after that, don't get too visibly excited. Let her discover how much fun it can be at her own pace.
--Stina Sternberg (Photo courtesy of Barrysworld.biz)