I've dined out on this story for the better part of seven months. Anytime people would ask what I was working on, I'd say, "Well, I went on a road trip, undercover, with an LPGA player named Kim Hall. We pretended not to know each other, and we saw how men reacted when Kim joined their groups at five different courses..."
People definitely wanted to hear all about this -- much more than my usual stories about buddies golf trips and/or real estate.
It is a pretty intriguing idea, after all. How would most men respond when a woman they didn't know joined them on the tee? Would they roll their eyes? Curse her under their breath? Mock her swing when she wasn't looking?
Truth be told, I would say her treatment by some of the men we met was worse than that.
Kim and I both arrived in Chicago on a Thursday night. She had spent the previous day in New York, posing for the photos you see accompanying our article. She brought with her a stylist, several boxes of wardrobe changes and her golf clubs. My colleague Stina Sternberg had helpfully forwarded a couple of extra boxes of equipment, which were waiting for us. (We couldn't very well have her pretending to be a beginner with top-of-the-line TaylorMade clubs.)
For the next two days, Kim would get up before sunrise and endure a lengthy makeup/costuming session. When she would emerge from her room to meet me in the hotel lobby, it was amazing. I've been telling people she "inhabited" those characters. She was VERY convincing.
Along the way there were weather hassles that complicated things and had us scrambling a bit. But in the end, the routine was basically this: We had booked tee times, separately, beforehand. We'd drive to each course in separate rental cars, to help give the impression we didn't know each other. We'd enter the clubhouses a few minutes apart and check in. Then we'd start taking notes, mentally and (when I could sneak away unseen) scribbling in a notepad.
After each morning round, Kim would meet up with the stylist and undergo another transformation. In the afternoon, we'd play again...and meet up for dinner afterward to discuss what happened during the day. For our final round, on Sunday, Kim had it easy -- she only had to "portray" herself: a golf pro.
When the article came out last week, I posted a link to it on my Facebook wall and a friend from many years ago commented, "... and you're just now discovering the discrepancies! Better late than never!"
Seems to me she's missed the point. This experience wasn't about "discovering discrepancies." Everyone knows golf has a long history of being unwelcoming to women and others. But it's also come a long way. Our goal with "A Woman Undercover" was simply to get a sense of how far.
Kim Hall and I will be discussing the topic, and answering your questions, in a Facebook chat this Friday at 2 p.m. Eastern. But you don't have to wait until then to ask your questions. Ask them now, in the "comments" section below, and we'll answer them on Friday.