Good Golf

Making the “man’s sport” your sport.

Maybe your husband takes the kids to the driving range, and you want in. Maybe your co-workers discuss business on the course, and you feel left out. Perhaps you just want a way to unwind that has mental and physical benefits that you can enjoy during motherhood well into (gulp!) when you become a grandma. Whatever your urge to play golf, tackling the sport is within easy reach. And, the benefits can extend into all areas of your life, from enhancing overall health and family togetherness to boosting business.

“I started plying golf because it seemed like a good sport to learn to help my career,” says New Yorker Hillary Caceres, an employee at a pharmaceutical distribution company when she began going to the golf range four years ago. “It was a game that was often talked about by my male colleagues, and I hated feeling left out.” Sessions on the driving range soon led to 18 holes on the golf course and lessons to refine her play. Along the way, Caceres has enjoyed connecting with her colleagues as well as her husband, Al. Married at a golf resort in the Dominican Republic in October 2009, the couple regularly plans golf trips, discusses the game and loves playing together.

Chris Radentz, a mother of two teens in Florida, also felt like an outsider at work as non-golfer. Learning to play has advanced her career as a private banker and spurred new friendships. “I am no longer left behind at the office when there is a golf outing,” says Radentz, “and I have found some wonderful friends through the Executive Women’s Golf Association.”

Of course, even if you have the itch, finding the energy and means to learn golf as a mom can seem cumbersome. That’s where the experts come in. Pam Swenson, the CEO of the Executive Women’s Golf Association, answers key questions for getting started. Follow up Swenson’s wisdom with advice from Caceres, Radentz and Ron Grotjan, a senior certified instructor at the esteemed David Leadbetter Golf Academy, and you’ll be feeling on par with your colleagues and loved ones in no time.

How can women begin playing golf?
Numerous resources exist online to help women find teaching professionals, clinics and programs. Visit www.playgolfamerica.com and put in your zip code for local golf facilities and resources. A new program called Get Golf Ready (www.getgolfready.com) was launched by the golf industry in 2009. In five short lessons, you learn everything you need to know to play a golf course with confidence. Also visit www.ewga.com to locate the closest Executive Women’s Golf Association chapter. EWGA chapters nationwide offer new golfer clinics and many other activities taught by golf professionals.

Radentz dually encourages women to find their local EWGA chapter. “It is one of the most cost-effective ways to learn to play and continue to play golf,” she says. “You will have a group of other women who will support you, help you learn and give you someone to play with without feeling intimidated.”

Pro’s Tip: “Do it in pairs,” says Grotjan. “Find a friend who might be interested in playing the game.” Learning the game with a friend is less intimidating and overwhelming, the senior instructor reasons— something Radentz seconds.

What equipment is needed for golf novices?
Generally for a small fee, golf facilities can provide the golf clubs as well as the balls and tees needed for instruction. However, once you are ready to get on the course, you should have your own equipment. Much of the equipment today is designed for women. Pro shops and golf specialty stores such as Golf Galaxy and Golfsmith have trained personnel to assist women in finding the right equipment. Ask questions like, “Do I need a full set of clubs?” and “Is the length of each club right for my swing?” It’s also wise to test equipment before you buy.
Unsure she would like golf, Radentz initially resisted paying for loaner clubs or personal equipment. Instead, the now two-year golf veteran borrowed another woman’s full set of clubs to immerse herself in a group lesson while getting the feel of various clubs.

Pro’s Tip: Grotjan says that women need mere tennis shoes and at least a putter, a pitching wedge, an iron (preferably a 7) and a wood (such as a 3) along with plenty of tees for a first lesson. If you like the sport, he adds, consider investing in quality golf apparel, shoes and equipment, including standard ladies length clubs. Grotjan recommends women try graphite ladies shafts rather than steel shafts. Graphite are lighter than steel and absorb some of the shock when hitting a ball.

Any advice for finding a golf pro to give lessons?

The Professional Golf Association of America and the Ladies PGA have wonderful teaching professionals to help women learn golf, along with the site www.playgolfamerica.com for teaching professionals close to home. Look out for women’s clinics and promotions like Free Lesson Month, which grants complimentary ten-minute lessons during the month of May.

Pro’s Tip: Mentioning that certification is important, Grotjan suggests women enroll in a small group lesson for beginners. Such programs should teach the fundamentals of golf, including proper grip, posture and stance, before women sign up for a personal lesson. Head to www.davidleadbetter.com for programs run by the David Leadbetter Academy, where Grotjan instructs at the headquarters in Orlando, Florida. This flagship for 27 academies worldwide has two championship courses and a fabulous hotel, the Omni Orlando at ChampionsGate, footsteps from the training facility. Take the entire clan— the Omni is six miles from Disney World. Besides, the hotel has a complimentary nine-hole par 3 course that al- lows even the newest player to feel like a true golfer.