Golf Equipment Manufacturers Miss the Boat!

After watching my daughter nearly bent over trying to hit a golf ball with her first set of clubs, we hopped into the car and drove to Golf Galaxy to buy a new set of clubs. I spent the driving time thinking about how I was going to handle her dismay that she wouldn't be able to have a pink bag like her Mama (you should have seen her delight three weeks ago when I opened the box containing my two-tone pink ultra-light Sun Mountain bag with white trim). In fact, she wasn't even going to be able to get a purple, yellow, lime green or light blue bag.

There are essentially two choices for kids clubs: USGA Kids and Walter Hagen clubs. USGA Kids appears to cater to the growing number of junior girls playing golf by offering each set size in two colors, one directed toward boys, the other toward girls. It's a feeble attempt in my mind since the "two" colors in her size are "orange" for boys and "tangerine" for girls. And even if I could sell her on "tangerine," she'd probably see that the size smaller is "lavendar" for girls and then INSIST that the "tangerine" clubs were too big and that she NEEDED the "lavendar" ones. You see my point here.

Fortunately, the orange/tangerine problem was avoided since Golf Galaxy only carries Walter Hagen clubs for kids and each size comes in only one color. So after some disappointment - instantly fixed when she got to "test" the clubs by hitting into the simulator screen for 15 minutes - we came home with the "red" Walter Hagan set you see below (pink headcover was added by yours truly).
She has a hybrid (made me smile, too!), a seven-iron, and a sand wedge that she didn't have before so there is still excitement over having new clubs. But as a mother who hopes and prays that her daughter stays interested in the game of golf, I really want to scream at these manufacturers who are missing the boat!

Of course, they must believe that you are going to buy the clubs regardless of the color, and they are right. But imagine if you could choose from six different colors when you order kids' clubs online! Or even if each size came in a decidely girly color in addition to the standard red, blue or orange. If one company did anything like that, we'd keep buying clubs from that company every time a set was outgrown. And if I could have bought a pink, purple, or yellow bag/set for my daughter yesterday, I'd be lighting up the phones (and my blog!) to let my friends with golfing daughters know who made it and where they could find it.

When I graduated from college nearly two decades ago, there weren't enough girls teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference (I'm talking the ACC, not the Big Ten or Big East!) to have a Women's ACC Tournament. But there are lots of girls playing golf these days. And there are probably even more parents who want their daughters to play golf. It's time for these manufacturers to get with the program. If you give a girl some "girly" options, you make her happy. If she's happy, she keeps playing. She'll show it off, talk about it, and maybe even come back for another color before it's outgrown or worn out. If you make golf "girly," they will come. And stay.


Boys, Girls, and the Game of Golf

As you know, I hosted a three-day "Ultimate Golf Conference" (the word "conference" is included only to suggest on paper that the event was work-related) over the weekend with friends and colleagues from around the country. Male friends. Lest anyone imply from the title of this blog that I have always been a "girly golfer," I will provide a little background information.

Like many female golfers whose collegiate years are WELL behind them, I grew up playing with the boys both at my course and on my high school team. I occasionally encountered one or two other girl golfers at junior tournaments around Ohio (the AJGA didn't exist back then). College was pretty exciting from the standpoint of playing with alot of awesome women golfers, but there wasn't much about the sport back then that was "girly."

After college I went back home and became the first playing female member at the course where I grew up - Muirfield Village - and for many years all of the golf I played outside of our annual county tournament was business golf with men. I always played from the men's tees, so it was great fun. I knew little else, but had absolutely no complaints. We may not have had a Ladies Club Championship, but I could play in all of the member-guest events, had no tee time restrictions at all, and even joined the Saturday pot game every once in awhile.

Then, at our county tournament two years ago, I spent some time with a really cool group of women who were all great players but certainly didn't take themselves too seriously. They belonged to another club in town, Brookside, and they asked me to come and join them one Friday afternoon for "Girl Party." Though unsure exactly what "Girl Party" was, I accepted the invitation and played in one of two groups with seven women nearly all of whom had single digit handicaps. We played from the silver tees - which I found to be great fun since I wasn't hitting utility woods into every par four! We played good golf. We laughed and chatted ceaselessly. We grabbed beers and "pretty drinks" at the turn and stashed extras in plastic bags with ice to carry with us. Walking up the 18th fairway, it dawned on me....when the guy golfers I know talk about "going golfing with the guys," THIS is what they mean. How cool. How completely fun. And how funny that it took 30 years of playing golf before I discovered "Girl Parties."

I joined Brookside six months later.

So for the past 18 months, when not golfing with my beau or my daughter, I'm playing with the girls, or occasionally the girls and their husbands. I see tiger print bags and headcovers, pink bags, hair pulled up in clippies with colored tees stashed in it. I play in Team Matches in the spring, Old Pal tournaments, and Club Championships. Man (no pun intended), it's fun.

But this past weekend, I revisited the days of old where I was the lone female in a group with nine guys. No surprise that it was great fun - a finer group of guys just doesn't exist. But with my newfound knowledge of playing with the girls, I did notice just a few differences. I thought I might share a few with you.

Golfing with the Boys

1. lucky if there is one conversation ongoing and maybe it's only with your caddy

2. acknowledgment of others' good shots

3. great reverence for honors and person farthest away hitting first

4. white and brown or black golf shoes

5. some guys where hats, others don't

6. golf bags are blue, black, or gray - period!

Golfing with the Girls

1. minimum of FOUR conversations ongoing at once (even during your backswing) for all 18 holes

2. celebration of others' good shots and outright cheerleading when they aren't so good

3. fire when ready

4. golf shoes accented with pink, patent leather, or made so that the tops of your feet still tan

5. visors and hats are accessories, darling, and are worn at all times (plus they keep your hair out of your eyes)

6. golf bags may be black, blue, or gray - or pink, animal print, light blue, or patterned

It's a start in terms of observations, and certainly they are generalizations. Don't get me wrong, I grew up playing with the boys and enjoy it tremendously still. And I'm having a ball "going golfing with the girls." As long as I can carry my pink golf bag, stash my fuschia-colored tees in my hair, wear my patent leather (but Nike!) golf shoes, and change the crystal ball marker clipped to my visor daily to match my outfit, I don't give a damn who I'm playing with!


A Weekend with the Boys

My time to post this weekend will be limited, but I hope to come back Sunday night with stories and photos to share. It's a boys golfing weekend and I get to be one of the boys. An out-of-town, work-related group of guys are coming in tomorrow morning for three days of golf. Just sent out the club "rules" regarding no cell phones and no tipping and you should see the flood of emails in response. I can only imagine what they'll say when they see my brand new, bright pink, ultra light golf bag and pastel pink putter grip. In my humble opinion, over-the-top girly is the best way to play with the boys. Somebody once said, "just because you play with the boys, doesn't mean you have to look like them!"


County Tournament Follow Up

As a new blogger, I thought I'd make a quick mention of my first lesson learned in blogging. Don't write a post on an upcoming event if the possibility exists that you may want to erase the event from memory altogether!

In my most recent post, I described having played a "respectable" qualifying round in our county tournament and that I was heading into match play in the Championship flight. I'm learning that you should follow up on these sorts of things, as I've had a few emails today asking whether I'm going to write a post about the match play.

It would be a short post since I lost 4 and 3 in the first round. It was pretty darn ugly, and once again, the familiar refrain ran through my head about hanging up the clubs. I left the course quickly, drove straight to the office and buried myself there for quite awhile.

As I drove home feeling pretty sorry for myself, I called my daughter at her dad's house to say hello. She immediately and eagerly asked me, "Did you win your golf tournament, Mama?" I replied, "No, I didn't. I lost today, but I had a really good time" (using the cheery voice to demonstrate that it isn't about winning or losing, but having a good time -- really??). Dead silence on the other end of the line, and for a moment it felt eerily akin to those phone calls to my dad after college golf tournaments to report how I played..... And then her voice again. "But Mama, I didn't think anyone could beat you."

And in the midst of my pity party, I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. Thank goodness for the child's perspective. My daughter thinks I'm an awesome golfer. That's pretty cool. Rest assured I won't be hanging up the clubs anytime soon.


Tournament play and passionate women golfers

I played in the qualifying round of our women's county tournament today. A bolder woman would have put up a post LAST night letting the world know her qualifying round was today and that she'd be playing every day thereafter in match play until she lost. Of course, the bolder woman would have said "every day thereafter until I WIN my flight."

Those of you who play anything competitive are probably steps ahead of me here, realizing that the only reason I'm posting this is because I played OK today - definitely not well, but (here's the perfect word) "respectably."

What few know is playing "respectably," in light of how I've played over the past year or so is akin to qualifying for the women's US Open. You see, this former collegiate golfer, first (playing) female member at Jack's Muirfield Village, and mother of the next Paula Creamer was THIS close (imagine a forefinger and thumb nearly touching) to hanging up her clubs.

I never thought I'd be there. Not me, the ultra competitve girl who likes to win. I might hit a slump, or get frustrated that, with work and being a mom, I can't play the way I want to anymore. But this was so much worse. Were it not for playing with Kate, and playing with my beau (who loves the game and makes playing 18 holes feel like being flown to NYC in a private jet for a dinner date), the clubs would have been dropped off at Goodwill months ago.

It doesn't matter if you've played in college or if you just picked up clubs for the first time at 40, most of us have been here: that round, following seemingly endless rounds of horrible golf, where it takes everything you have not to cry. As you walk down the fairway and fight back tears, you ask "how can golf be WORTH this?"

I opened this post with the "bold woman." But the interesting thing here is that the "bold woman" doesn't get you out of this terrible place with your game. Only one woman keeps on going, not selling the clubs at a garage sale, not throwing in the towel...it's the passionate woman golfer. The passionate golfer keeps trying because deep down she knows there just HAS to be more good golf inside her. She can taste the thrill of the next long putt made, or the drive that comes curving perfectly right to left off of the clubface. She won't accept that those thrills are "gone."

So rescued from the brink (though hitting only knock-down shots with my irons because they tend to go straight, if not far), I shot a "respectable" score. I could detail the plentiful negatives, but I'm in the middle of the Championship flight. I am playing tomorrow. I guess I am a passionate woman golfer. And as such, I would like to take this opportunity to toast all of the passionate women golfers out there. Especially the ones that lay it on the line and compete in tournament play, whether it be an Old Pal match, a member-guest, a county tournament, the State Am, or a US Amateur/Open qualifier. We leave our lives as mothers, businesswomen, and wives for 4-5 hours, open ourselves to a true test, live with whatever the results are, and return to try again another day. What amazing women! You know who you are. Keep playing passionately, and good luck tomorrow.


Golf with a five-year-old girl

When spring rolled around this year, it held something a bit more special than the typical excitement that golf season was rapidly approaching. You see, I'm the mom of a five-year-old ("I'm gonna be six SOON, Mama") girl who appears to really LOVE the game of golf. Granted, she's held and swung a club since she was two and a half. And, when we go to the driving range or play a few holes I must sound like a Stepford Mom in my cheery, nearly sing-song voice, saying "Golf is so much fun!" But - and please don't blatantly roll your eyes or scoff out loud - she really does LOVE golf.

When she connects and knocks it in the fairway (70% of the time), we high five or do a little dance. When she makes a putt, we slap the same high five, with my occasional reminder that only walking is allowed on the green - no running, skipping, galloping, jumping, or dancing. My (mostly) non-competitive girly girl talks about the fact that she's the BEST five-year-old golfer at the club (we're not sure there are any others by the way).

But much better than long drives or sinking putts is the chance to write her name in one sand trap on EVERY hole - accompanied by the heart and star that follow her every signature whether on paper or in the sand (much to the dismay of her Kindergarten teacher). Sometimes even a handprint or ball print to boot. Then there is that orange butterfly she chases halfway down the fairway. Or the bug she sees and yells for me to "Come look, Mama!" (in the middle of my backswing, of course). But the bug and the butterfly don't even rival the masses of mammoth bass fish at the halfway house, gaping mouths awaiting the next chuck of bread she tosses over the railing. Or the decades old snapping turtle that hangs out on number five. Or even better, the cherry slushie she wrangles out of the big, sweet, gentle man, Rosie, who works at the halfway house. These are the things that can really make a girl love golf.

I constantly have to remind myself that she is five - "six SOON" - and that golf has to be fun -- never boring, never tedious. I diligently watch for signs that she is too tired or bored, because then it's time to scoot and "preserve" the fun in golf. I admirably struggle to contain myself when she really knocks it off the tee (80 yards or so) and I want to dance and strut like an NFL player who has just returned a kick-off for a touchdown.

Because right now golf is about writing your name in the sand trap, chasing the butterfly, examining the bug and the turtle, feeding the fish, and turning your tongue red with a cherry slushie. It's really fun. It's Mama and daughter time, and I hope it never ends.

Did I mention how much farther she hits the ball this year?!