How can I encourage my niece to play golf? Is there a rule for how to mark your ball on the green? Your questions, answered
Welcome back to the women’s mailbag, where we answer questions from our female readership. If you have a question, you can submit it here. This is female-focused, but guys, if you have a question, we’re not going to ignore you.
How do you encourage young girl golfers to love the game at an early age? We just gave my 1-year-old niece a tiny plastic golf set. I hope she grows up to love the game. – Lynn, Washington D.C.
The fact that you want to include your niece in your golf life means you’re on the right track. I have a 1-year old so I’m new on this journey, too. There’s not a lot you can do when they’re this little, but we bring our baby to the range in her stroller and on golf courses (when they allow it, we’ve been rejected at a few.) We have a putting setup at our house, so she grabs golf balls and rolls them around, and drags my putter across the floor as she crawls. While none of this guarantees she’ll end up loving golf, I do think it’s important because it shows her that golf is a way to get outside and spend time as a family.
I think that when you're dealing with little kids, keeping golf casual keeps it fun. Growing up, my parents made golf an always-available option. In the same way that we had bikes and soccer balls around, we had golf clubs around. Golf wasn’t some big event that we had to go get dressed up for and spend five hours doing on the weekends, it was built into the flow of our day to day. We had the freedom to hit wedges in the backyard, my brother built a mini putting course in our side yard and later a green with a couple pot bunkers in the backyard. We’d go play six holes in the evenings, hit the range, and have putting contests on the living room carpet with plastic cups as the target. Golf was made to be informal and as competitive as we wanted it to be. (Three of the four of us kids played collegiate golf, so it got pretty competitive.)
As your niece gets older, it’s key to find similar-aged kids to play with. There are a lot of great ways to meet kids who golf in your area, from LPGA USGA Girls Golf clinics, to PGA Junior league.
It’s also important to note that not all kids are going to like golf, no matter how they’re introduced to it. I was one of them. My mom loves telling the story of four-year-old me yelling, "I hate golf!" at her while we were on a par 3 course. She told me that was fine and I didn’t have to play. But golf was always around, always an option for when I was ready for it. And it has taken over my life. So, be patient if your niece doesn’t love it right away. She might come around.
Do you have to mark your ball directly behind it? – Sharon, New Jersey
The majority of golfers put their mark down squarely behind the golf ball, but you can also mark your ball on either side, according to the USGA's definition of marking the ball.
The important thing is to make sure you put your ball back down in the same spot. So, if you mark your ball on the right side, place your ball back down so the marker is on the right side of the ball.
If you're interested in the exact USGA rule, it's 13.1 b: Marking, Lifting and Cleaning your Ball on the Putting Green: Your ball on the putting green may be lifted and cleaned. The spot of your ball must be marked before it is lifted and the ball must be replaced.
People get themselves into trouble when they mark their ball one way and put the ball back in a different spot. You have to return the ball to its original place, or you’ll face a penalty. The penalty for playing from the wrong place is two strokes, so making a mistake when marking can be costly.