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She said: Playing golf with men

Katharine DysonBy Katharine Dyson,
Special Contributor

This is the first of a two-part She Said/He Said series examining the way men and women co-exist - or fail to - on the links, from a women's point of view. For the view from the other side of the fairway, read Kiel Christianson's view of playing with women.

Why is it that the most confident of women can get all tied up in knots when they find themselves playing with men? If you want to score, on and off the golf course, you have to think, "Hey, I'm a Porsche 911, not a Rent-a-Wreck."

It's all about attitude. Just ask me.

We were up on the first tee. The three men playing in my foursome, who I had just met with a polite handshakes were waiting quietly, watching. And bang. It happened again. First tee jitters. My heart started beating a little faster as I began a lineup of mental games to conquer the feeling of utter panic. Would I embarrass myself? Top the ball, shank it into the rough, dribble it 10 yards off the mound? The pressure of it all.

But I am not alone. Last year, even Annika, after sending her drive soaring straight down the middle playing as the only woman in the PGA Colonial Golf Tournament, dropped her shoulders feigning a crowd-pleasing little weak-kneed wobble as she walked off the tee. Heaving a great sigh that she was safely off, those of us watching realized that hey, she too was after all, human.

No matter how many times I have stepped up to tee off, I have yet to hit that first drive with total confidence. This is especially true when I am playing with guys, especially those I don't know. (Friends are different). But I'm gaining on the confidence thing. I know it's a head problem. My head. Almost all the guys I have played with have been fun, encouraging and not at all condescending. I've never ever heard a groan from behind if I hit my ball into the trees.

My pretty friend Molly Gallant, from Westport, Conn., has no head problem at all. Playing to a 9 to 11 handicap she says, "I prefer playing with men. Men are happy to see us play well. Surprised may be when we hit a long drive, but let's face it, we just don't have the same physical capacity they have.

"But women often get so competitive. Jealously can creep in if you play better than they do and some really nitpick. Even in a social game they'll call you on everything. Men are more relaxed. My best golf has always been played with men."

When you really think about it, whether you're playing with men or women, a lot of the confidence game deals with how well you know the game, how well you hit the ball and how well you keep up. Wendy Simmons, the pro at Indian Mound Golf Course in Center Ossipee, New Hamp., says, "I've played with men who don't want to play with women and I've played with men who are intimated when they play with a woman who can out-hit them. What I really care about is that the people I play with, men or women, keep the game moving, know how to hit the ball and don't take 55 stokes to reach the first green."

"I think it is really more about the person than gender," says travel and golf writer, Cori Kenicer, President of Southwest Golf Media Association based in Scottsdale, Arizona. "I love to watch my favorite golf partner, Joe, hit those 280-yard drives that soar into the distance. We always have a relaxed, fun round."

"Developing a level of confidence is what's important for someone to feel neutral about who you play with," says Sandra L. Jaskol, director of instruction, The Ridge at Back Brook, a new Tom Fazio-designed course in Ringoes, New Jersey. "Men will buy a golf club and women will take a lesson. Women bond with women and until they're more confident. As they get more sure of themselves they will branch out and play in competitions and with men. Competency breeds confidence."

She's right. I take almost sadistic relish in remembering a game in Wales not long ago. I was one of just two women playing in a group of four foursomes over a five-day tournament. Everyone I played with up to that last day had been great. But I was aware of this one guy who had manipulated his way through the week quite successfully in order not to get paired with a, ahem, female. So here we are on a typically blustery day at Aberdovey Golf Club where the women's tee is just about a club's length from the men's tee and I am playing with this particular guy (you can only avoid the inevitable so long). He rips one off the tee. He's happy. I step up and bam, hit the drive of my life. It lands maybe an inch ahead of his. He walks over, looks at me, looks at my club and asks incredulously, "What did you use?" I hand him my new Yonex V-Mass 270 FL driver, he looks at it and says, "Good drive." Of course the fact I shanked the >next shot into the gorse didn't really matter. I felt great (and he was looking the other way). Confidence building.

Sure there are times when my golfing pals, Bill, Frank and Doug have forgotten I still have to tee off and have driven right by my tee towards their ball and I have to yell out, "Ahem, men. Heads up." But I never take this seriously. Men can be so forgetful. My friend Dick Middleton, the heavy hitting owner of Texoma Golf, Dallas, Texas, says, "If they (women) can only hit the ball 50 yards and then stumble around, that's one thing, but if they know the etiquette, keep up and can hit the ball, I have no problem."

Well, I feel the same way about men. True, I have witnessed more temper tantrums from the men's side than the women's. I have seen guys throw clubs, set fire to their golf shoes, dig their putters into the green after a missed putt, forget to count their penalties, have suddenly lost the ability to count. I've heard a medley of colorful language expletives my mother wouldn't like at all but have stiffled my impulse to tell them to go bite on a stick. Do I like playing with them? Nope.

Nice thing is, I don't have to. I have a choice. More than 90 percent of the men I have played with are fun, encouraging, high-fiving it when I make a long putt or a birdie; building my ego with shouts of "Great drive!" Confidence builders.

And I guess when as many women are playing the game as men, we can demand acceptance and etiquette on and off the course. Ask that the ladies shorts and shirts not be tucked into a corner of the pro shop. It all gets down to marketing and demand. Makes sense. If you have 90 men playing to every 10 women.... well, I get it.

We just need more women out there: women with attitude, women who think "Porsche." Women who remember, that if they win, they buy the drinks.

Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • On Course Cell Phone Use

    Paul Lenocker wrote on: Mar 16, 2005

    Have you been on the first tee, or any tee, or over any shot for that matter and heard a cell phone begin to ring in any of the plethera of obnioxious ring tones now available??? Does this bother any of you as much as it does me? If so let's all start to create waves at our favorite course. Say something to the personel at the Pro Shop and help put a stop to this annoyance. Cell Phones have a place and a very useful purpose in our society, BUT IT IS NOT ON THE GOLF COURSE!!!!


  • Mixed gender golf - No couples please!

    tgbrown wrote on: Nov 10, 2004

    I'm a fifty-something male who generally enjoys playing golf with women, whether they are clients or friends. But I really, really, really hate playing with couples.
    In my experience, couples bring a lot more baggage to the course than they carry their golf clubs in. I have often wound up playing with couples who simply create a poisonous atmoshere (tough to do on a beautiful place like a golf course).
    Whether it is an undercurrent of a fight not finished, or exasperation over advice that is not taken, or stress and discomfort because one member of the couple is slowing play -- whatever it is, it makes me uncomfortable and that, in turn, makes me cranky, because golf is supposed to be pleasant and relaxing, not a movable war zone...
    On very rare occasions I have played with fun couples. Most often it has not been fun. One game on a beautiful Scottish links course was marred by a wife (scratch handicapper from California)who was having a bad day in the wind and just viciously screamed and swore all day at her husband (a long-suffering 12) because he had apparently somehow caused her to hit shots that ended up in bunkers, gorse and the North Sea. I have never seen or heard non-couple golfers treat each other that way. It's supposed to be fun, remember?
    Long-term golf buddies have intense relationships as well, but they generally seem to be a source of positive energy, and are on a different emotional plane. I also have a couple of female golfing pals whom I play with 2 or 3 times a year when work takes me to their city, and playing with them is tremendously enjoyable. (The same is probably true of female-female golfing buddies, but I have no personal database on this.)
    Anyway, there are lots of opportunities for couples to be together, and there are lots of folks to play pleasant golf with, so my suggestion is this:
    Otherwise -- for the benefit of all -- we should all please play with friends who are not our significant others.
    Thanks, and I look forward to meeting you all -- male or female -- on the course!


      • RE: Mixed gender golf - No couples please!

        LuLu wrote on: Mar 26, 2016

        I am so glad to be now single! My ex and I did not golf together (he wasn't a golfer) but we got along otherwise.
        I know exactly what this fellow is talking about--at dinners, other sports, so I can imagine with golf (when all emotions are unbared) how it could be.
        Golf is fine therapy if you keep it to yourself.:)


      • RE: Mixed gender golf - No couples please!

        Jan Shaw wrote on: Jun 5, 2015

        Oh, sure!!! just to appease you we will tell the golf course not to put anyone else with us. I'm sure they will go along with that even when they are full just to make you happy.


      • RE: Mixed gender golf - No couples please!

        Paul Lenocker wrote on: Mar 16, 2005

        I agree with you to a point. It is no fun golfing with a bickering two-some!
        But what I really HATE is playing a round of golf with a couple of "We're so much better than you Country Club Wanna-Be Member male golfers".
        My wife and I have been paired with so many "WHY ARE WE stuck playing with a Couple" complaining two-somes traveling around the country that makes me wonder why are they 'NOT AT THE COUNTRY CLUB'?
        It is really refershing to hear guys cheering her on when she hits one 230 down the middle or chipping within two feet from 70 yards out. It is even more fun to watch them try to "CRUSH" one down the fairway in a 'MANLY' fashion trying to out drive her only to SHANK one O.B. or into an adjasent fairway.
        I agree 110% Golf should be a fun and enjoyable round for everyone but let us not forget, even one temper tantrum spoils the round for everyone regardless of the gender of the golfer throwing it.


          • RE: RE: Mixed gender golf - No couples please!

            Paul Lenocker wrote on: Mar 16, 2005

            I am sorry for posting two responses to
            'Mixed gender golf - No couples please! November 10, 2004, 10:41 am
            by tgbrown'
            But I neglected to post mention my most hatred part of golfing, Couples or not...CELL PHONES!!!!!!! KEEP THE DAMN THINGS TURNED OFF WHILE ON THE COURSE!!!! IF YOUR CALL IS THAT IMPORTANT, YOUR GOLF GAME IS'NT!!! SO WHY ARE YOU ON THE COURSE?????


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