All's fair in love and golf

By Stina Sternberg Illustrations by John Ritter
May 28, 2008

Q: I love my girlfriend, but she wants me to give her golf lessons. Frankly, golf is my alone time, and I don't have the patience to teach her. Help!

A: I'll resist calling you an insensitive snob because I understand where you're coming from. Teaching someone you're close to how to play golf is a big commitment that takes a great deal of persistence and patience. But that doesn't mean you should deprive your girlfriend the joy of learning the game. Just be honest, and tell her you'd rather someone else teach her (which would be much better for her progress, anyway) and that you'll tee it up with her when she can play well enough to keep up with the pace.

But if you want to keep her around, you're going to have to suck it up and take her to the range now and then as she's learning. Who knows, she might pick up the game quickly -- or she might decide golf isn't for her. But you need to let her decide.

__Q: My wife and I have a friendly competition against one another. My wife is fairly long and consistent off the tee. On a course with four tee boxes, she plays from the forward tees. I say she should play one tee back. There's no such thing as the "ladies' tees," right? A person should choose based on handicap and distance off the tee. Your thoughts? __

A: You're right. Whether your wife plays from the first, second or fifth tee is irrelevant: All that matters is what yardage she chooses in relation to how far she hits the ball. And that goes for you, too; ideally, each of you should play from distances that leave you with a similar club into greens on par 4s.

A reader once sent me this formula to calculate a player's ideal course yardage, and I love it: Multiply the average distance you hit your 27-degree club (typically your 5-iron) by 36; the total you get is a good distance for you to play from in yards. I hit my 5-iron about 145 yards these days (a brutal but honest assessment), which means my ideal tee yardage is 5,220. I realize that I have a lot more fun playing from a yardage that allows me to hit short irons into a few greens, just as the guys I play with can.

Q: Why don't women get the honor after winning a hole? I understand there's a risk of getting hit by a ball if you're on the forward tees while the men tee off from the back, but I'm happy to take cover after I go first. I want my honor!

A: Then by all means, claim it. If you feel strongly about it, I doubt anybody would stop you. But you're missing the point. Sure, there's a safety risk involved in letting the forward-tee players in a group hit first, but the main reason golfers should tee off from back to front is that it saves time. The back tees are usually closest to the previous green, so it just makes sense that those players go first, and the whole group moves up together.

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