On a recent vacation to Florida to visit my in-laws, we played golf with my husband’s father who is ninety, healthy, with an active mind. These are the primary reasons we took up the game.
Golf is a good reason to take a walk in a variety of beautiful settings around the country and abroad, many times with beautiful gardens or baskets of hanging flowers provided by the women in the community, and lakes that attract wildlife. Although walking doesn’t provide good cardiovascular exercise — though some courses do provide some amount of uphill climb — the walk does stretch muscles and allow gravity to bear the weight necessary to prevent osteoporosis.
Golf also provides a social setting that many people use to form friendships and business contacts. And playing the game while traveling will introduce unusual people from all walks of life. The game is sufficiently challenging to exercise mental muscles needed to calculate distances, select the proper club, use the proper stroke, play the changing course conditions, and avoid hazards. Strategy is essential as is focused concentration.
Golf is a Constant Challenge
Golf is not an easy game. My first year of play, I found myself crying on several occasions when I got too tired, was treated rudely by more experienced players, or became so frustrated that I wanted to scream. But all the reasons mentioned above provided the motivation to stick with it. My advice is start, don’t give up, and don’t allow anyone to make the game easier. Also start in the fall and play off-season to avoid frustrating more experienced players. The pace of the game is slower and you’ll have more time to make mistakes and learn.
The first time I played, I went with my husband’s parents. The first lesson I learned about golf came from my eighty-year-old mother-in-law, who weighed a hundred ten pounds at the time. Body strength and size is not a requirement to get a good clean shot. To get a good clean shot, all that is needed is to bring the club squarely to the ball and follow through. The club does the work. Many people have an awful time learning to hit the ball correctly because they want to pound that ball 300 yards and think that by swinging fast or powering through that they can make it go further. This is not true. Doing the above will only pull you off your center and make you miss the ball, or make you slice or curve. A steady, even stroke, with your head perfectly still and your eye on the ball throughout allows the club to do its work and make your shot straight.
When you start playing golf, the first thing you need to do is buy golf clubs. Don’t buy expensive clubs to start. That way if you quit, you haven’t wasted very much money. An adequate beginner’s set will cost about $100 with $30 for a bag and $50 for a pull-able cart. Use the driving range to practice all of your shots. I started by only practicing my drives with a 3 wood until I could get a clean, arching shot off the tee. I then added hitting all my irons. Later, I added a 7 wood and then a 5 wood.
Other costs include a glove for $10, tees, a visor or hat for under $30. Golf shoes are optional many places and I find tennis shoes or hiking boots for wet conditions do nicely. Proper dress includes shorts, slacks, and shirts with collars. Some places require you to tuck your shirt into your pants.
Golf can be expensive, but there are many public golf courses with senior, junior, sunset and early riser rates that can help save on course fees. Also, some courses have season passes that allow you to play as much as you want. Don’t feel like you have to join a private club with huge joining and maintenance fees to start.
Get the Proper Form First
The primary reason most people don’t do well when they start playing golf is their wrists are unused to the weight needed to swing a golf club. To cure weak wrists, swing those clubs and do push ups. I was exhausted after walking nine holes and hitting the ball the maximum ten times every hole when I started, but I pushed on to do all eighteen holes every time. Play golf and you learn what you need to know. Learn endurance and you master the game. Play badly placed balls and you learn judgment. If you try to hit a ball through trees, you are likely to hit the trees. Your four iron plays the flattest arch of any club and is good for getting you out from underneath low branches. Additionally, a 7 iron or a pitching wedge with the edge of the club held flat to the ball will produce a low arch for shorter distances.
Practice, Practice, and More Practice
Practice at a driving range also builds wrist strength. It costs less for a bucket of balls; about the number you’d play during 18 holes. The driving range also teaches you the average distance your club will drive a ball. Learn to calculate which club will bring you the distance needed. For most women, that means hitting your best driver off the tee, your longest wood until near the green and whichever iron will get the proper distance. I also use a 7 wood or 6 or lower iron instead of a 5 wood when I’m in thick rough or in flat sand or need to have a higher arch to get me over a river or up a hill.
Additionally, most courses and driving ranges have a putting range. Use these to learn how your putter works. Again, power doesn’t help. Use the stroke to vary the distance the ball will travel. If a foot long back swing moves the ball ten feet, a six-inch back swing will likely move the ball 5 feet. On every course you visit, before the game starts, practice knowing how far the back swing will move the ball. The varying conditions of length, wetness, sanding, uphill and downhill slopes, and plugging will affect how far the ball will travel.
That’s it. Learn to hit the balls under every condition and golf becomes the most challenging sport ever imagined. I remember laughing at people watching the game on television thinking it the most boring game in the world. But watching others play teaches you many of the tricks of the game. And taking a lesson from a pro never hurt anyone. And the best news is, if persistent, the game can be played for many, many years.