The new girl: Changing women’s golf clubs in midlife

womens golf club membersIF THE Sharp Park Business Women’s Golf Club had offered lifetime memberships, I would have bought one. This eclectic mix of ladies from 20-something to 80-something had given me a place to go along the California Coast on Sundays during years when I was without family and then struggling to build a business. To give back, I took on roles as handicap chair and then co-captain. Many members of that women’s golf club were part of the celebration when I got married earlier this year.

And then I moved to Colorado without my women’s golf club.

After about a week in my new home, it occurred to me that I was without friends and without job. And, while I set out to do the things that would bring friends and job, I had no power to instantly create them.

What could I do? Join a women’s golf club, of course.

HOW I FOUND THE WOMEN’S GOLF CLUB FOR ME

I quickly connected with the women’s golf club where my husband plays in the men’s club, and made a date to play on one of their Tuesdays as a guest. A couple of spring snowstorms cancelled us out, and I still haven’t played with the club.

Searching the internet, I found EWGA’s Denver-area chapter and saw that their spring kickoff was coming up, so I signed up for the breakfast program and the golf that followed. Snow began falling the night before and the golf course that morning looked lovely — for a sleigh ride. I liked that it was a big, well-organized group with several after-work leagues all around Denver in summer and a monthly weekend tournament in-season. This seemed to be a better match for me, because I believed I would eventually be working weekdays.

I also emailed a couple of other women’s golf clubs that play on weekends. One of them rotated its golf among six or seven area courses, which sounded appealing. So I emailed to introduce myself and ask if I could come out and play as a guest and see if we were a fit. The response came in: “Oh, we don’t do that. Here’s an application if you want to join.”

I sent the same email to another club that plays every Saturday morning, requires a maximum 31 handicap and seemed to have a fun slate of tournaments. The response came in: “We would love to have you come out and play. How about this Saturday?”

LIFE AS THE NEW GIRL

That first Saturday with the Broken Tee Women’s Saturday Golf Club, I played in a foursome with the long-hitting captain and two other bombers. I learned that the club did not play the most forward tees, where I’d scored well in recreational rounds, but instead played a front-and-back combination at about 5,800 yards. I could see why.

The captain filled me in on club procedures and nuances. I loved the emphasis on pace of play and the adherence to the rules of golf, and my companions seemed unflustered by my comparatively poor play. At the 19th hole, I wrote my check.

“I hope you all weren’t being this nice to me just to get me to join,” I told the captain with a wink. She laughed.

My 23 index got me extra pops, but it would be weeks before I would break 100. My second week out, I was once again paired with three bombers, one of whom hit one of the best shots I had ever seen to reach a par-5 in two. Another had a bad day and I felt somehow to blame, as if she thought my poor play infected her.

Every week I played in a new foursome of women, because it was club policy to rotate and thus deter cliques. I tried to write notes on my roster at the end of each round so my middle-aged brain might remember names and something about them. Other than that one uncomfortable round, all of the members seemed interesting, fun and welcoming. They commiserated on my struggles to conquer a new course, and when I finally broke through one Saturday to win low net with a gross 94, they laughed and clapped as I excitedly raised my arms a la Muhammed Ali.

JOINING A WOMEN’S GOLF CLUB? TAKE MY ADVICE

  • Play every week. At first it may feel obligatory. Suck it up. Because you will never get comfortable with a new group until it’s not new anymore.
  • Go to the 19th hole. Even if at first you sit quietly with your adult beverage, you will gain insight into the workings of the group. Soon, you won’t have to sit so quietly.
  • Be friendly and complimentary. Don’t get so involved in your own game that you forget to say “Great shot!” to your companions. Trust me, you will want to hear this occasionally in return.
  • Know that you are not likely to be invited to pair up with a partner or a foursome for the first few team events. I asked the committee to pair me up for the member-member (they did), and for a subsequent team tournament I quietly put the word out with a few members that I was looking for someone (I was invited into a foursome). For the final partner event of the year, I practically begged one of the club’s long hitters to play with me. She agreed and we had a blast.
  • Remember that old Supremes song, “You Can’t Hurry Love.” If you tend to lead, restrain yourself. This is very much like dating (ugh) and it is going to take some time to find your comfort zone and make friends you would want to invite to your wedding. Don’t push it.

At season’s end, I volunteered to organize a match play championship for the club next year, and I vowed silently to make a couple of “emergency golf” tee times for reaching out to my new golf pals on good days over the winter.

Of course, I can’t help but do some California dreamin’ as the leaves here turn brown and the Sharp Park gals continue their perpetual season. I won’t ever replace them, but replicating them seems like a worthwhile goal.

Have your own tips for a newbie? How about for clubs that want to attract new members? Comments welcome.

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  1. Jennifer

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