June 10, 2008

What She Really Thinks About Your Golf

A revealing round-table discussion with golfers' spouses covers everything from the amount of time you play to the signs that you're really pushing your luck

Jennifer Mahmood says golf is "sacred" for Rick.

Jennifer Mahmood says golf is "sacred" for Rick.

You've been there. You're coveting a sweet tee time with your buddies or planning a dream golf getaway, but you've got a challenge that can be every bit as daunting as a long carry off the first tee: approval -- grudging or otherwise -- from your spouse.

We were curious to hear the spouses' side, and to that end we put out a call to those whose significant others routinely take golf trips with buddies. Two foursomes of wives agreed to visit our editorial offices for a round-table discussion. We wanted candor, and boy, did we get it.

We learned something -- like when you should or shouldn't cut a golf trip short because of an emergency at home -- and we suspect you will, too.

Golf Digest: When you think about your spouse and his golf, would you say he plays too much, too little or just the right amount?

Jan: For him it's too little. I don't have a problem with him playing, because I enjoy it and I understand it.

Diane: If I felt like I could give him more time than I already do, then I'd love for him to play more. He tends to be a little unrealistic on the time it'll take because he wants you to be OK with him going -- but you know how long it's going to take.

Noelle: My husband looks at it like it's his therapy. He knows that he's going to be a better dad, a better husband, just cleaner in his brain if he's played and feels like he got the stress out. I know if he plays on Friday or Saturday, it sets the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Susan: For him it's not enough, but for me, any golf is too much. I'm not a golf fan. I think if he played once a month, I'd be fine with it.

Jennifer: I know he hasn't been able to make as many trips since we've had the little one. He tries to work it into business, so he takes an extra day, and I think it's great for him to do that. I play the game, I understand the love he has for it, and I certainly can appreciate him wanting to get out there.

Pat: I feel the same way. Especially if he's tried to work it into business and he's going to be away anyway.

Noelle: We balance it at our house. I have a sister in California, so I'll go out and do a spa weekend with her.

Georgiana: We have that situation, too. If he gets a weekend, I get a weekend.

Jennifer: It's funny you say that. If we go to a resort I'll say, "How many rounds do you think you'll play?" And if he says he's going to play every day, then I'll say "OK, I'll play one or two of those days, and then how much are the green fees?" Then I'll take that amount and spend it in the spa.

Pat: My kids are 14 and 11, and my son loves to play golf, so when we go, it's great bonding for my son and my husband. They get out on the golf course and the girls sit by the pool and do whatever we do, so it's fun for everyone. Everyone wins.

Jan: It's much easier when they're on a business trip playing golf because you don't really know how much time they spend. [Laughter.] But if they're playing 18 on a weekend you've got five, six, seven hours sometimes -- it's a long day.

Georgiana: Sometimes he'll be packing for a trip that's supposed to be business, and I'll look to see what he has out and I'll be like, "Gee, are you playing golf?" I see a golf shirt and pants. The jig is up.

Susan: I think what's hard is that I have two little boys, and I'm always left to deal with them while he's playing golf. So the golf stuff started off on a bad foot.

Golf Digest: How old are the boys?

Susan: Six and 9. It's changed from when they were like, "Oh, Daddy's gone; he's playing golf. Why doesn't he want to be with us?" Because it does take God-awful forever. But he'll get up early and play because he knows we're waiting for him to come back and go to the pool and whatever. It'll be great when they're older and he can play with them. I think he needs an outlet, but it takes far too long. I mean, it is what it is.

Jan: There are some women golfers here! [Laughter.]

Jennifer: If we've got a weekend coming up with family and he might not be able to get out to play golf, he'll take a day off or a half day off from work to play. My sister and I sometimes say, "Well, if you're going to take time off from work, then you should spend it with your family."

Golf Digest: How would you react if he said, "Hey, three of my buddies just called and want me to go on a weeklong trip to Scotland"?

Georgiana: "Oh, great, can I go, too?" [Laughs.] I wouldn't want to go with him and his buddies because I know that'd be a really special time, and I'd be like the fifth wheel. I'm sure they're not thinking, Oh, I can take my wife, too. So just let 'em go.

Jan: I wouldn't mind Bob going away to play St. Andrews for a week, as long as it's not every year. But then maybe on the second year, I get to go.

Jennifer: If he took the St. Andrews trip instead of us having a family vacation, then we'd have a problem. But we do take a family vacation, and I offered him, "You know, when you turn 40 years old, you can go to Doral. When you turn 45, you can go to Scotland." I think it's important for him to get away.

Golf Digest: That brings up a good topic, the balance between the family vacation and the golf trip. Does anybody feel like their balance is off a little? Maybe a little more golf than family?

Diane: I sometimes feel like he thinks he's entitled to more golf than I feel he's entitled to. For some reason he thinks he's supposed to be getting all this time to play golf because he goes to work every day and I'm staying home. I'm working, too, and when he's off I'd like him to be taking some of the pressure off of me. I want him to play, but it's not supposed to be the focus of his life whenever he has time off.

Jan: I truly believe it makes a big difference how old your children are. If you have small children, then it's hard. If you have older children, like we have, then it's not so hard.

Golf Digest: On some of your husband's longer trips, is there any guilt factor when he returns? Do you say, "No golf this weekend"?

Diane: I hope I wouldn't have to say that.

Jan: You've been away for a week playing golf, it's a given you're not playing this weekend.

Susan: He knows better.

Golf Digest: Should he even ask?

Georgiana: Beg. [Laughter.] One week he went on this trip where they were playing like 36 holes of golf each day, and he wanted to go out on Saturday. I said, "How many holes of golf have you played this week?" When you get more than 100 in a week, I think you've played enough golf.

Noelle: For those of us with little kids, it's such a bigger issue. It's hard because you don't want your children to be resentful of your husband going away. I think it's important for us as moms to make sure that kids know that it's OK that the dads are away and doing something without us, and we can do things, too. You don't want kids to think that you're not happy with the dad being away.

Susan: Golf is such an addicting thing. You know what really helps is if you get them that knee surgery. He had knee surgery in December, so he couldn't play golf [on a family vacation] in Arizona. It was really weird. He didn't have as good of a time. He was like, "That wasn't as good as our other vacations." I thought it was great, and the boys loved it.

Jennifer: It's amazing how quickly they'll recover from that injury, though. When he realized it interfered with his golf game, you never saw anybody recover so quickly. Holy cow, motivation. I say, "Nowhere else in your life are you this anal retentive and focused on what is right and what is wrong and the rules." He irons his clothes, his shirts and cleans his clubs every time he plays. He doesn't like to follow the rules in the rest of his life, but golf, it's you know . . . sacred, that's the word I'm looking for.

Diane: It's all mental, what your mind is focused and ready to do, for what you want. He was trying to find any spot to clean his clubs, and I'm like, "Could you just wait until the kids are asleep to clean your clubs? I think your clubs are OK for now."

Jennifer: I don't know how they do it. I'm impressed by their endurance. I would need a vacation.

Golf Digest: We have a few hypothetical situations to throw out. Let's say your husband is in the middle of a buddies golf trip a plane ride away, and a pipe breaks and floods a room of your house. Does he cut the trip short and come home?

Diane: What's he gonna do? [Laughter and nodding of heads.]

Noelle: No, but if the opposite happened, I would come home.

Jennifer: He would ask if he should come home, but it would be a rhetorical question.

Golf Digest: Another situation: Your husband is on the same golf trip, and the family pet becomes seriously ill.

Diane: Unless he wanted to come back -- he's really attached to the dog, and he might want to, but I'm not going to tell him to.

Golf Digest: Next level: You fall down and break your arm.

Diane: He should come back. If you can't handle the kids with it, then he has to come back.

Jan: Bob wouldn't even ask, he would just be on a plane and come home.

Jennifer: Yeah, especially with the kid, because we don't have that much family nearby, and it would be tough to find someone to help.

Golf Digest: One last one: Somebody breaks in to the house [the group groans], takes some of your things [more groans], the police have been through the home and declared it safe [shaking of heads].

Pat: I want him home.

Jennifer: He would come home.

Jan: I don't think they'd have a question, they'd all come home.

Golf Digest: On a lighter note, do you have any sense of what the men do on these trips? Are they gambling?

(Many voices, together): Oh, yeah.

Jan: Well, I gamble with my women friends.

Susan: My sense is, at the end of the game they have to rehash every single shot.

Jennifer: I'll sit and listen because I know how important it is to him, but if he ever gets short with me, like, "I don't want to hear all the details" about something he doesn't care about I'll be like, "Oh, really? I have to listen to every single hole, shot by shot? You'll listen to my story."

Georgiana: He comes home with some good gossip sometimes.

Golf Digest: Like what?

Georgiana: I'm not going to be throwing dirt ... but dirt.

Golf Digest: Does anybody think that their husband is slightly crazier than usual when he's on the road with his pals?

Georgiana: You know, it is stress relief. When I go away with my girlfriends, I unwind.

Susan: There's one guy in every crowd who wants to go a little bit crazier than the others.

Golf Digest: Do you ever say, "Oh, you're going on a trip with him?"

Georgiana: Sometimes he's got a couple of friends that I'll talk to before he goes on the trip. I tell them to make sure that he behaves. Just because these are his instigating friends, so they'll get him to do things that he wouldn't normally do.

Golf Digest: What about the money? Do you have any idea how much he's spending on a golf trip?

Noelle: I do a lot of Internet stuff trying to get them the best deals they can get. I try not to control and quote, "This is how much you can spend," but I check out whether he has hotel points to get a free night or that kind of stuff.

Susan: I honestly think he should go and eat great, stay someplace great, and come back happy.

Golf Digest: Can you tell as soon as he comes in from playing a round whether it was a good day or bad one?

Tracy: He usually acts like he's worked really hard and we're supposed to feel sorry for him. We aren't supposed to think he's out there having a good time. He's working. I say, "What are you talking about? You've been out there with your buddies having a good time." And he says, "Yeah, I had a good time, but just so you know, it's not all just fun."

Golf Digest: Of those who do play golf, what's it like playing with your husband?

Jan: I told Bob when we started playing, "If you're a scratch player, then you can tell me what to do; if you're not, then you're not telling me what to do."

Georgiana: Well, the dynamics are interesting out on the golf course. He's a much better golfer than I am, so I tend to get the lessons on each hole or fairway. We have a couple who play together, and the woman is very good, and she told me they have a rule that they aren't allowed to comment on each other's playing. The only thing you're allowed to do is laugh, and I said, "OK, I like that." I mean, he likes to see me play well because he gets excited for me, but when I'm not playing so great it's as if I'm really trying to not play well. But I'm doing my best.

Jennifer: I found two things with my husband. One, the better he got, the more relaxed he was with me. The other thing was, when we went out and I wasn't doing well he was concerned that I wasn't having a good time. I said, "Listen, I don't play golf that often, and I know I'm not going on tour next year." Once we got to understand that, it was a better time.

Golf Digest: Do you ever speak with your husband about how playing with their buddies compares to playing with you?

Jan: Bob has much more fun with the guys, and I have much more fun with my women friends. It's a whole different atmosphere. Once you throw women in there it changes the whole thing.

Golf Digest: Would your relationship be better or worse if he played less golf with his friends?

Diane: Played less golf? Probably worse because he'd be wanting to play. When there's a tournament on TV -- which there always is -- he's like, "Oh, wow," and you can tell that he wants to be playing. My 3-year-old tries to change the channel to something she wants to watch and she says, "No golf, Daddy."

Noelle: My husband recently set up a net in our garage, so now we can no longer park our cars in the garage. It's a big net, underneath our bedroom, so I'll hear him hitting balls. He's constantly doing it late at night. I hear the whhhhhh-chhh! and I go down at 2 and ask him, "What are you doing?" and he says, "I'm doing my therapy."

Diane: If he didn't want to play golf, it wouldn't be a problem. If he wants to play but isn't, it's a problem.

Noelle: I'll try to negotiate the nine holes versus 18. For some reason, forget it. He doesn't want to do that.

Jennifer: I don't know if it's guilt or if it's that he wants to be sure that I'm not feeling, you know, left out or resentful, but I get flowers a little bit more during the summer and there's just the extra questions like, "Can I do anything for you?" "Do you want to go out tonight?" Or, "Do you need to go someplace this weekend?" Maybe it's another reason I'm happy that he gets out, because he's happier and more out to make sure that I'm happy, too.