Why I don’t like golf but learned to play anyway

Outdoor recreation

Hint: It’s not because of the recent boom in popularity (and it certainly has nothing to do with clothing).


Illustration by Benjamen Purvis

RRecently I posted a photo of myself on Instagram getting ready to play golf. It may not seem like a shocking turn of events, but it was for the many friends who texted me, all with variations of “Lisa, you …Golf? “The only real difference between the messages was the number of question marks at the end of the sentence, and whether parts were written in all caps.

I admit that they were not wrong to be surprised. If you were to meet me, even briefly, there’s a good chance you’ll come away thinking, I bet she likes to spend her free time reading . And I guess my confused friends on social media would also say that of all the sports, golf, in particular, seemed to be the strangest.

There have been a lot of reasons for me, in my 30s at Cambridge, to stay away from the game. On the one hand, this has long been primarily the province of conservative white male types – not exactly my demo. There are also countless stories of private clubs that only admitted whites until they were forced to change by lawsuits and bad press, and I’m well aware that in the past (and even today). ‘hui), my Jewish last name would have kept me out of ties. as much as my sex. Even though the golf course is getting more and more welcoming, which I know I am still very uncomfortable every time I go to the driving range and am surrounded by white people in collared shirts. No one will tell me I’m unwelcome, but it’s hard to ignore the underlying sense of otherness when very few people are like me.

So why am I learning to play? Why did I suddenly put on shackles, along with a host of other Bostonians who were drawn to this pleasant way of hanging out with friends outdoors during the pandemic? Well, that has a lot to do with the other person in this Instagram post: my dad. See, several moons ago, I surprised him on a family trip by taking a few lessons so he didn’t have to play alone. I hadn’t picked a club in years when he wistfully asked if we could maybe play a trick in Cape Town at our first family reunion after vax. I probably wouldn’t have gone back there on my own, but the point is that once I established that I was ready to take that kind of step for someone in my life, there was no no way to undo it without looking like a little jerk. Eager to maintain my reputation for having a vibrant mind despite an additional decade of back stress, I decided to dust off my clubs and give the sport another shot.

First of all“I knew I needed a new instructor. When I first took classes 10 years ago, I accidentally pulled the club out on my backswing and nearly murdered my coach, who was standing behind me to monitor my form. Still haunted by the gaze of a man who had seen his life pass before his eyes, I decided it was best not to hold out my hand to him anymore. So I googled aimlessly for “golf course + Cambridge” until I found someone willing to stand near me while I struggled with a 3ft long metal bar at 8 hours of the morning. crime database, and I found someone to hire me as a student.

Spoiler alert: the first lesson didn’t go well. I couldn’t remember anything about how to hold a golf club, where to put my feet when swinging a golf club, or in general everything I was supposed to do when hitting a golf ball. If you’re like me, the thought of asking a stranger to critique what you’re doing with your body before the workday begins isn’t your favorite way to spend the morning. Best of all, after going through a grueling 30 minute session of questioning which part of your body you coiled and then unwound incorrectly, you then have to practice on your own at the driving range, where you will be surrounded by the men smashing the ball to the ground. 200 yards as you work to chip the ball, hurt.

Speaking of being judged, another delicious little thing about golf is that you pretty much have to wear a costume while you play. I’m pretty sure that when you play a basketball or soccer game, or some other sport that sports people enjoy, you can wear a free t-shirt from a fundraiser you attended there. is five years old and any old mangy gym shorts you can muster. However, when playing golf, players are encouraged to purchase something that I can only describe as formal workout clothes. I say formal and not athleisure because J.Lo would never wear any of these clothes and because almost all of them feature necklaces.

Women’s gear was especially appalling for my sensitivity: when I went to my local golf supply store to find something to wear on the ties, I immediately encountered a wall of neon pink. It wasn’t the faded salmon pink common in a certain type of millennial yuppie. This pink is the color you would wear if you lived inside a Trapper Guardian Lisa Frank circa 1992.

I know, it probably sounds silly to complain about clothes. But the point is, I’m a person who’s spent her whole life feeling that she just wasn’t feminine enough. I rarely wear dresses and the colors in my wardrobe range from dark gray to dark gray. Beyond the pink problem, however, the bigger problem was that I had just over a month to prepare for a game on a real course alongside real golfers, including my dad, who has been playing since he was a teenager and is now retired, what i understand is when your golf skills really improve. Luckily, it turned out that taking lessons from an expert actually improved me, as did practicing every weekend at a driving range. When you’re particularly bad at something, like I was at golf, going from zero to one is life changing.

When the day has finally come to take the course with my father, I had slightly more confidence in my abilities than a month earlier, and had gone from incessant anxiety about myself to some sort of what will be will bementality. It might not be what you would use to inspire the troops, but it got me out of bed that morning.

So how did I do it? Unfortunately, I did not become a golf scholar at the end of my life. But I was not terrible. I’m happy to report that I mostly kept the ball in play, or at least close enough that it could be found and easily returned to the fairway. Also, I have to admit that I hadn’t yet realized how pretty playing in Cape Town would be. It is quite possible that my exhortations to take in the magnificent views were not appreciated by my father, who struggled to play with unknown rented clubs. He also didn’t appreciate my stopping to take grainy photos of the turkeys roaming the fairways as he walked through the rough on an unsuccessful quest to find a stray ball. But as time went on and he acclimated to the clubs, his game improved and so did his mood. In the end he was a lot happier and said he would like to try the course again, as long as he could use his own clubs. I knew that was also his way of saying that he would like to replay the course with me, despite all the turkey photos.

Later my mom asked me if I thought I could play golf again soon. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I wanted to love what my dad loved (like I love sci-fi and baseball), but I still felt ambivalent about trying to love… golf. I started to wonder if it was even possible to teach yourself to really love something just because someone you love is doing it. When I explained to a friend that I played golf mainly because I knew my dad would like it, she said, “Wow, that’s devotion”. But I wasn’t sure I would agree with her.

There are a million things I can’t do for my dad, the main one being that I moved thousands of miles by the time I graduated from high school and never have was able to convince me to go home. This is something that I cannot forgive myself, but that I will not change either. We disappoint all of our loved ones in ways big and small, in word and deed, and perhaps the most terrible and wonderful thing about parents, if you are deeply lucky, is knowing that they love you all. the same when you drop them. . I know my dad loves me whether or not I can hit a golf ball straight down a fairway. So in the end it seems like a pretty small gesture for me to brave hot pink formal workout clothes and tough lessons because I know it makes him happy.

As for the future of my golf, it’s hard to say. But a few days after our big game, as I got ready for bed, I glanced over to where my clubs were awkwardly stuck in the corner of my room at our Airbnb, and I felt, coiled in my chest, a tendril of desire to grab them and see if I couldn’t play this course a little better before time was up with my dad.

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