Here’s the thing.
I’m one of the least likely demographics to be as obsessed with the sport of golf as I am. There are definitely other arguments to be made (race, income, country, etc.) but I’m sitting on a triple threat that could prove lethal for my love of the game:
– Firstly, I’m female. Yes, I realize the LPGA is a thing and that there are plenty of women to be found on courses, but let’s not blindly play the feminist card here: golf is, as a rule, a man’s game. In fact, many of the women I know who play only do so because a father/brother/boyfriend/husband needed a partner. And most of those women wouldn’t be caught dead watching a tournament on TV.
To be clear, that does NOT make those women any less skilled at the sport – if they’re anything like me, being introduced to a new challenge is equivalent to the universe throwing down the gauntlet. And beating the person who introduced you to it is the only proper way to truly pick it up. You gotta want it.
But at the end of the day, no matter our handicap, there are still men whistling at us when we tee up and insulting our intelligence when we walk into a golf store. Generic sexism is something I can deal with, but being a woman who loves golf can never just be that simple. People assume I’m only into golf because my boyfriend is (he doesn’t even play). Others assume I know nothing about the sport off the course (I probably know more than the average scratch golfer). Or they fawn over me because I’m an anomaly. Can’t I just really like the sport, same as you?
– Secondly, I’m a beginner. I realize how dumb that sounds, and yes, everyone starts off a beginner. But consider this: unless you get into the game as a child, you meet adversity at every turn and a new barrier to entry pops up right as you hurdle the previous one.
The first barrier to entry: The cost. Equipment, clothing and green fees are astronomically priced. You can find bargains (and sports more expensive, like hockey) but 50% off of a lot of freaking money is still a lot of freaking money.
Even if you have hand-me-down clubs, you still have to pay for balls, a glove, shoes, the course fees, tees and all other extraneous costs. And that’s just for one round. If you’re willing and able to shell out a small fortune for a Sunday afternoon game, that’s lovely, but maintaining those costs along with lessons can be daunting for a newcomer (especially one with student loans and a car payment). We constantly hear that the game is suffering, but the cost to participate hasn’t been adjusted to reflect the economy or cost of living. Which means the Sunday morning members keep their tee times and the newbies stick to TopGolf and the driving range.
Score one for The Old Boys’ Club.
The second barrier to entry: The difficulty. The sport itself is its own deterrent. I can honestly say that golf is one of the most frustrating things you’ll ever attempt – a literal love/hate relationship. Even if you start with lessons and build both your swing and your confidence the correct way, you’re still going to shank it or whiff it or embarrass the hell out of yourself in front of your boss. There are only so many times a self-respecting human can fail miserably before they revert back to bowling or something at which they have more measurable skill.
Score one for nobody. Seriously, nobody.
The third barrier to entry: People who have no patience for beginners. This is the big one in my experience. You want me to play your sport and spend my money on your favorite brands to keep them afloat, but the moment I’m in front of you, struggling on the long par four, you have NO patience for what I’m going through. Even though, more than likely, you were in my (ridiculously overpriced) shoes not long ago.
After a year or so in the game, I feel anxious and nauseous whenever someone is playing the hole behind me. And anxiety and nausea don’t help me drive the green. On multiple occasions, I’ve had THAT guy behind me. The passive-aggressive douchemonger who doesn’t have the balls to ask me if he can play through, but instead settles for loudly complaining about pace or how he can’t believe someone can’t get it there in two.
Just a note from all the beginners out there: Screw. Off. More than likely, the only reason you can get it there in two is because you’ve played this exact course every Sunday since the Bears drafted Jay Cutler. And from what I’ve seen, the people who talk the most tend to be the ones who have no technique or etiquette. You aren’t a stud because you can intimidate the person in front of you or because you’ve learned how to make your golf deficiencies work for you on the back nine. If someone were riding your ass because you were slacking, you’d intentionally slow down. Fairways are no different than highways in that regard. Back off or do the right thing and play through. I promise, having you in front of us is far more appealing than being able to hear the bullshit you’re spouting to your playing partner.
Score two for The Old Boys’ Club.
– Thirdly, I’m a millennial. There’s been some talk recently about getting more of us in the game; after all, we’re ending 2015 with the top three players all under the age of 30.
But there’s still disdain from the older generations when they see Rickie Fowler’s bright colors and flat-brimmed hats. There’s still an agitated huff from the early morning group when they see the 20-somethings in gym shorts and tennis shoes hitting the par-three course at noon. There are still complaints from the OG golfers about how tech and new equipment have made the game too easy.
And there are still articles like this obtuse attempt at humor, written by old men who are so entrenched in their version of golf that they’re blind to just how much damage they’re doing to a sport that’s already on life support. Though the article linked above does eventually come to the correct conclusion, it takes a few detours by telling you to “look [in] your basement” to find a millennial and that we’re “moody” and communicate via “clever, ironic bursts.” What’s truly clever and ironic is that millennials run many of the companies that employ these golf dinosaurs. The version of golf they have in their head is funded almost entirely by our staggering debt and entrepreneurial spirit. We’re stimulating the economy by working jobs and creating them, and the people who have the biggest problem with us are reaping the most benefits. I want to stress that not everyone older than a millennial is guilty as charged, but unfortunately, the more progressive opinions are drowned out by the louder, less welcoming ones. Both in real life and in golf media.
The more trash the older generations talk, the less likely we are to care about breaking down the stigma of The Old Boys’ Club. TopGolf is a perfect example of the golf world moving on without TOBC’s input. The parameters set back in the day are stale now, and women/beginners/millennials WANT to be a part of this community but we’re resourceful enough to find other ways to spend our time and money if we continue to feel unwelcome.
I have thick enough skin to keep working on the game, regardless of the odds stacked against me. I might rant and rave in writing, but you’ll still see me out there in my Pumas. But not everyone can take as many hits without giving up. And what a shame, to give up on a game like golf for such trivial reasons.
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