Spousal Golf (A Survival Guide)

Guys, you might have the best woman in the world (well, actually, I do, so it’s going to be a tie at best), but there are seven words that she might say to you that should at the very least give you pause:

“Would you teach me to play golf?”

Now, before the females in the audience start a “Tar and Feather Gary Popovich” Facebook page, I need to clarify something. Sharon (a/k/a “The Golf Nerd Goddess,” or “GNG” if you are into the brevity thing) is a golfer; we each have our own group that we play with on Saturdays, and then we play together on Sundays. We have fun when we play together – sometimes we’ll compete (with handicaps, of course), but we always enjoy each other’s good shots, commiserate on the not-so-good ones, and have lunch and a cocktail or two afterwards (or sometimes during, if things are not going particularly well). Golf is a major part of our life together, and we both embrace it.

The distinction, however, is that Sharon was an experienced golfer when we met; it was one of our mutual attractions.  She understands the rules and etiquette of the game; moreover, while she has her inconsistencies like just about everyone else who plays, she’s capable of pretty good golf. As a couple, we have a combined total of 1 hole-in-one’s; my contribution to that number is zero.

And I do not subscribe to my Neanderthal friends assertion that “golf” is an acronym for “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.” There are plenty of women who can tan the hide of most of the guys I play with.

But back to “the question”.  If you are asked “the question”, the correct answer is “No.” That is not to say that you don’t want her to play golf. But if she’s truly interested in learning the game, you cannot be the primary vessel that transports her on that journey.

First of all: GET PROFESSIONAL HELP – as in a PGA Teaching Professional. In all likelihood, you haven’t a clue as to where to begin to teach a proper golf swing. In fact, unless you are a 5 handicap or less, you likely haven’t a clue about your own swing, and could probably stand a lesson yourself [NOTE: I am raising my own hand here].  MAYBE you can teach her to putt, but I wouldn’t impart any wisdom once you leave the green.  In any event, get her lessons, and talk with her instructor about what swing keys/thoughts are being discussed.  It will be helpful for you to remind her of these things, plus you might get some advice that’s applicable to your own game.

Secondly: THE DREADED “P” WORD – you probably already know that to become even a mediocre golfer requires a significant time investment and practice. Unless your wife has played another sport, she will probably not understand that, and you trying to explain that to her will be one of those arguments that you won’t win. Trust me on that one. But if it comes from her instructor, she might listen.

Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly): BEHAVE YOURSELF – beyond the technical aspects of the game, there’s understanding the etiquette and nuances of playing the game.  This, of course, is essential for any novice, but what you say to your male friend when he steps in your putting line (“Listen, [insert disgustingly explicit descriptor here], don’t step in my line”) will likely have you put on conjugal probation by the one you love.

My own attempts at dealing with Point the Third with both of my exes were like the brown acid at Woodstock; i.e.; not specifically too good. I recall an early round with Mrs. Golf Nerd #2 (a/k/a, She Who Will Seldom Be Mentioned Except for Illustrative Purposes) in which our respective shots wound up in the same general area. My ball was in the fairway; hers, unfortunately,found some nasty rough. When I helpfully pointed that out to her, she responded in accusatory fashion:

“How do you know that’s your ball and the other one is mine?”

“I’m playing a Titleist, honey. You’re playing a Top-Flite.”

“How do you know that?”

“I checked before we started.”

“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“Well, for one thing, your ball is pink.”

Ok, I did make up that last response. But much like man’s fundamental cluelessness regarding proper toilet seat maintenance, there are certain aspects of the game that may be intuitive to you but make no sense at all to your mate.  So you’ll probably want to curb your natural urge to be a smartass when explaining certain courtesies like not talking while another golfer is about to hit, or that the motorized golf cart is not an amphibious vehicle.

The good news in all of this is that there are more women playing than ever, and if your lady has friends who play, she might be able to have them be her collective golfing mentor. The GNG is particularly good at this; she has a group of women who are known as the “Klassy Beyothches” (a/k/a“The KBs”) who have a wide range of skill levels, from 8 handicap to rank beginners.  All they ask of the latter is that if one of them has reached 8 or 9 shots on a hole, then she should pick up and move on to the next hole.  The KBs have a lot of fun, move their way through the course at a reasonable pace, and definitely hold their own in the 19th hole.

In any event – the other thing to keep in mind is that you’ve might have been asked “the question” because she wants to spend more time with you. If that’s the case, then by all means, get her going on the game – but have a contingency plan just in case it’s not her cup of tea. And maybe write to Ann Landers. This is a golf column, not Advice for the Lovelorn.

Waiting to Tee Off At the Old Course

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