I used to play golf all the time. It was something I enjoyed and could hold my own playing, even playing from a few of the men’s forward tees depending on the course. When I got divorced from my first husband, an avid and very competitive player, I invested in a brand new set of clubs, new bag and travel bag. I was most proud of this purchase because until that point I had always used hand me down clubs of my former husbands. I was making this my own game and thought it would always be something I did.
When I moved across several states and started seeing someone seriously again, the clubs were used less and less. They eventually ended up in our attic. I knew they were there but I always had something else I wanted to do or had to do. Years later would come our son and my attention was even more taken away from the casual golf game. Plus, I didn’t have anyone to play with so it seemed silly to spend that much time and money on a golf round. With cart rentals and course fees for tee times, it can be a pretty expensive day and there were other things we needed to spend money on so year after year the clubs collected dust instead of pars.
On a recent trip to Florida to visit my in-laws who are both retiree golfers that belong to a private course, we took out the clubs thinking we’d play on the golf range. There was a little junior set I had saved inside my travel bag with my clubs that were now almost perfect for our son. It would be his first experience on a range and grandpa was all too willing to give him a lesson. We spent our evenings out on the range, cheering on our son as we watched him learn to keep his head down and look where he wanted his ball to go. He made contact with the ball and even got a couple a little in the air.
As he and grandpa went through the basics, I took out my 7 and 8 irons, heading to my own neatly stacked pyramid of range balls. My hands instantly went into that familiar overlap with my thumbs lined up on the front of the shaft. I bent my knees and squared up to red striped ball sitting in front of me. Deep breath and a quick thought of how I hoped I wouldn’t miss it and look foolish. It came back to me quickly. All of it. That slow upstretched reach of the club followed by a swift swing through, keeping my head down of course.
The balls flew with the occasional miss and bad shot mixed in reminding me I was not the same player I used to be. It was all like it used to be with a slight left curve to my swing. It felt familiar and good. I felt my back constrict with muscle memory and motion and my swings ending on that perfect toe stance of my back leg. I smiled on the way back to the house that evening, proud of my son who thoroughly enjoyed himself and of how well I felt from hitting too. It was pleasant and enjoyable. I wondered if my son and I shouldn’t try to find a local range when we got home from our trip. Maybe get us both some lessons and take up playing some.
That thought though was quickly replaced with a memory of chauvinistic golf is towards women. Certainly things have changed since I used to play regularly but I heard many of the same old comments I used to hear float back into my memory. Women couldn’t play as fast or the lessons provided to women were referred to as the beaver club. Tee times for women on most private courses were and still are restricted to certain days or times unless you were mixed with men or playing in an event. It didn’t matter that I am 6 foot tall and years ago could hit better than some men, I was still definitely a woman and hence relegated to this special beaver club category of player.
When we got home my husband put the two club sets neatly packed in my travel bag in the garage instead of directly back to the attic for fresh dust. It was like I felt them calling me begging to hit more balls. A quick Google search found a nearby range and small executive course but I still felt intimidated. Was this the sport I wanted to pick back up and deal with the chauvinism from men and competitiveness of women? Had it changed enough to find that connection of women who were looking to do something together without having it related to coffee, shopping or workout classes?
I only knew one other women in my current friend group that golfed and she did it with her husband only though she highly recommended their private club so we could connect more often. I wasn’t convinced I was going to play enough to justify a few hundred dollars a month in membership fees though. It was enticing and may one day happen but for now I’m going to enjoy just hitting balls at the range with my son and watching his interest blossom. I haven’t asked her about the chauvinism level there yet either.
My life is completely different from when I used to play and yet the game of golf still has many of the elements I loved and hated in it. Now it feels like a natural outlet for physical activity that I can enjoy with my son though. It offers the chance to connect with him and perhaps even find a network of women I can call friends. It however will never be without those chauvinistic comments and limitations where women have yet to break through. It is natural and yet very unnatural for that reason.
I am preferring to see it as a connection of me though and ability to walk among beautiful courses building physical strength, flexibility and confidence. Anything that can give you those things has to be a journey of natural living and I intend to explore it with that perspective.
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