Jessie Raymond: It’s very easy to get teed off at golf

For years, I’d been looking for a hobby with a steep learning curve that would make me feel like a failure over and over again.
Then last year, I discovered golf.
Don’t get me wrong: Golf isn’t just a discouraging pastime. It also makes me feel out of place.
I get the sense I’m not sophisticated enough to be allowed on the golf course. I’m unfamiliar with proper golf etiquette, and I’m too embarrassed to ask.
I know a few conventions, such as “Replace your divots” and “Don’t fling your club into the woods just because you swung and completely missed the ball. Again.”
But I always wonder if I’m supposed to be doing something different, like curtseying before teeing off. I feel like everyone but me knows how to behave.
I also don’t have the right gear. I’ve got some cheap clubs and a little wheeled cart. But I don’t have golf shoes yet. And given that they’re generally ugly and cost twice as much as sneakers, I haven’t been in a rush to get a pair.
I’m told they’ll improve my lateral stability, but to what end? Is that going to keep me from smashing the ground six inches behind my ball and almost throwing out my back? Right now, the only thing less critical to my swing than lateral stability is the color of my golf tees (although I do have good luck with the red ones).
I don’t have a golf glove yet, either. I can’t imagine why golfers only wear a single glove, though I assume it’s a secret homage to Michael Jackson. So, in my own tribute to the King of Pop, lately I’ve been hitting the links wearing a pair of gold-sequined high waters.
I’m just trying to fit in.
There’s no question I’d probably feel more at ease if I were a better golfer. I just don’t get a lot of practice. And my clubs are substandard. For instance, my driver hits the ball far and straight on the practice range, but when I get out on the course, it malfunctions.
On the fairway, I top the ball over and over, crisscrossing the course like a drunken squirrel. The only long-yardage shots I make are usually when I’m just a few feet from the green. Then I send the ball sailing far over the hole and into a bunker on the other side — unless there’s a pond handy.
I’ve watched golf on TV, and I’m well aware that this is not how the pros play. But we do have something in common: Once in a great while I get a bogey, and so do the pros. The difference is that when I get a bogey, I dance around the green and wave my putter in the air. When the pros get a bogey, they hang their heads and kiss $100,000 of their potential prize money goodbye. But it’s a connection.
Still, given how awkward and inept I feel on the course, I sometimes have to remind myself why I keep golfing.
There are a few reasons. One is that I like long walks, and that’s essentially all golf is. Sure, it’s punctuated by recurring stressful moments (technically called “playing”) where I swing at the ball like I’m trying to bust a piñata. But that’s a fair tradeoff for the beautiful views and fresh air.
It’s also time that my husband Mark and I get to hang out together, though he spends a good chunk of time just waiting for a turn while I hopscotch around the fairway.
Eventually, we both end up on the green, where he two-putts, and I send the ball back and forth past the hole until I give up. (Mark, eager to play another hole before nightfall, assures me that anything more than six putts is a “gimme,” even if I’m still 20 feet from the hole.)
And last, I feel like someday — years from now — I might actually be a decent golfer. While at the moment my USGA skill rating is listed as Downright Abysmal, I am seeing signs of improvement. I hit some good drives once in a while. I don’t top the ball every time I play out of the rough. On a few memorable occasions, to my shock and delight, the ball has landed exactly where I hoped it would.
I’ve even been noticing more people looking at me lately. No doubt they’re impressed with some of the better shots I’ve made.
That may be true. But let’s be honest: The gold-sequined high waters probably have something to do with it, too.

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