As a professional woman in desperate need of a fertile networking ground, I will admit that there was a “if-you-can’t-beat-’em…” aspect to my decision to take up golf. The golf course was, to me, merely a satellite location for the testosterone-dominated business world in which I work, where all sorts of high-level wheels and deals were casually accomplished before the third tee.
I wanted in on the action and it did not take a rocket scientist to notice that virtually every business-related conference, retreat, or seminar took place within suspicious proximity of a golf course. Not to mention the fact that the men in my office defended the midweek wearing of a pink polo shirt and khaki pants by sniffing self-importantly, “Hey, I’m playing New Pine Hills with a client today.” I suspect if I showed up at the office in a two-piece fleece sweatsuit, flip-flops, and my hair in a ponytail, and explained I was taking a client to the Supine Thrills nail and facial spa, it would not have quite the same time-honored ring to it.
So I signed up for golf lessons.
It’s got everything I look for in a sport, sartorially speaking. I can pretty much sum it up in two words: no Spandex. As far as I am concerned, that is a threshold requirement for any sport; that, and the absence of the need for protective gear of any kind. It also does not involve perky white skirts with coy little lace-trimmed panties, rented shoes, tank tops, micro-shorts, sports bras, or rubber waders. In fact, it is, from the fashion standpoint alone, the perfect sport. Who doesn’t look smashing in sunglasses, a visor, a natural-fiber blouse, and wide-legged bermudas? Throw in a McGann hat and, athletically speaking, it just doesn’t get any better.
I can’t help but note that the men have also made discernible progress on this front. Pastel shirts and gaudy pants have all but disappeared. Well, except for the late Jack Lemmon’s outfits at Pebble Beach. I’m guessing that the PGA finally and wisely outlawed white belts and plaid of any kind. Once color television became commonplace, the future of the sport depended on it.
It is amazing that a sport so male-dominated is not disgustingly macho. I have now played several rounds and have yet to see anyone butt heads, slap butts, spike the ball, do anything resembling the Funky Chicken. The mere image of Arnold Palmer adjusting himself and spitting is unthinkable. It’s also hard to picture golf fans with faces painted in team colors swinging a hatchet overhead.
This decorum is even reflected in golfers’ names. Famous golfers have perfectly civilized monikers like Jack or Lee. There is not a Bubba or Mad-Dog in the lot. The appearance of Tiger on the scene may compromise my whole theory and portend a modern movement toward ferocity. Nonetheless, any sport willing to embrace someone named Fuzzy gets my vote.
As it turns out, the only thing on steroids in this sport is the handbag. As if my real, self-interested, capitalistic reason were not unseemly enough, I have been accused of taking up golf in order to have license to carry a five-foot purse. I admit I started salivating when I was given a golf bag as a gift and imagined the myriad uses for the numerous, odd-shaped, cleverly placed zippered sections.
Shortly thereafter, I was so excited to see on the cover of a women’s golf magazine the teaser, “What’s In the Pros’ Bags?” I could hardly wait to confirm that my and the pros’ bags were crammed with the same essentials: lip liner, Whopper wrappers, hair scrunchies, car keys, and, of course, my business cards.
Imagine my disappointment in learning that Alice Ritzman carries in her bag a “Data nine-degree driver with PRGR graphite shaft, firm flex” and Kris Tschetter carries a “Ping Eye 2 (red dot) beryllium copper 53- and 60-degree sand wedges with G. Loomis graphite shafts.” I feel so betrayed.
The courses are invariably naturally arid deserts that have been transformed by unconscionable amounts of water into lovely verdant landscapes. But the game itself interferes somewhat with my desire to commune with nature and celebrate our cosmic one-ness.
I do find raking the bunker to have a certain Zen-like therapeutic effect. The actual game is, of course, impossible. As it turns out, golf clubs, unlike golf bags, are not the least bit user-friendly. The mere notion that one could, while standing upright, strike a tiny sphere on the ground with a long, skinny pole is laughable. To assume it can be done with accuracy and power is downright demented. No offense to those virtuous golfers who walk the course carrying their bags, but I’m guessing that the sport is not high on the endorphin index, either. Yes, if it weren’t for the actual playing of the game, this definitely would be the perfect sport.
Despite my own lack of proficiency, gender is not much of a disadvantage in golf. A slow, careful swing and good equipment can approximate the same result that large biceps and sheer power provide. No, oddly enough, the male advantage in golf is not physical. It’s mathematical. They’ve developed these goofy betting games that definitely favor the left-sided brain. I think I can master “skins,” but I need a laptop for “bingo, bango, bongo” — the name of which I always found mildly lewd. And when someone suggests “multiple presses or greenies, birdies and sandies on a Nassau,” I just fling him my wallet and tell him to take whatever he wants.
As with so many things, my true forte turns out to be not in the substance, but in the appurtenant. I am a downright savant in aprés-golf. The clubhouse ritual of a cold beer and a fat-laden snack comes naturally to me. I was recently spotted spreading mud on my pant cuffs and scribbling on a score card, before hoisting my clubs out of my trunk and heading directly from the parking lot to the clubhouse bar, where I set up shop with a pile of my business cards directly in front of me and waited for hapless business opportunities to walk by.
One negative (aside from the unsightly little ankle-level tan line) is the unparalleled world of gag gifts that playing golf invites. I had barely hung up the phone from scheduling my first lesson when my daughter presented me with a collector’s plate of a fantasy fairway featuring a waterfall, butte, ocean and alligator-infested moat. I didn’t get the joke. That’s how most fairways actually look to me. It was followed closely by a club-handed watch, a “I’d Rather Be Golfing” license plate frame, and a “Golfers Do it With Follow-Through” bumper sticker. I wondered where, in this classy sport, the market for such kitsch is . . . until I saw an electric coffee-mug-warming-coaster that doubles as an indoor putting cup and screams “fore” whenever you touch it. Those pink, personalized tees have got to go, though.
So far, my athleto-business plan has been met with astonishingly limited success. Golf has provided me with an activity with which to entertain clients, a venue for meeting colleagues, and a conversational topic common to many of my professional peers. It has also introduced me to contacts and friendships that seemed woefully inaccessible because of my gender. As it turns out, however, the entire benefit of such contacts is instantly eliminated whenever I explain that I would not consider keeping score, and life is just too short to hit out of a bunker.
Written by Roxanne Holmes who has been an attorney in San Francisco for 24 years. Roxanne practiced in a law firm for 13 years and now works for the California Supreme Court.