I’ve always thought of golf as that sport slightly overweight middle-aged men played because they can’t do much else, but my sister Sara and her family opened my eyes to the hidden qualities this sport has to offer.
I was nervous. Golf would surely be the sport at which I’d make a ripe fool of myself. As this blog of trial and error has so far shown, I wasn’t born blessed with a talent for ball sports and haven’t yet been able to fake a talent for it either. Besides my small stature, I’ve never been too graceful and more than my lack of skill, I was nervous because playing golf would demand applying its endless and extensive list of golf etiquette. The very thought made me wince.
My lackadaisical approach to unnecessary etiquette was highlighted in Dubai when a friend of ours invited us to a tournament that was on at his work. He is a golf instructor. I enjoyed basking in the sun more than watching the players and inadvertently crossed the course moments before a player was about to tee off. Although the friend never admitted my error, he never did renew the invite for a free lesson.
This occasion though I’d be playing nine holes with my sister, her husband and three children who have been playing golf for a few years and initially got into it as a way to spend quality time together. Lessons ensued and they all became pretty good… to the point that they invited me and my husband to give it a whirl on our latest trip to see them for the weekend.
As instructed, I donned a pair of trousers and a collared top. Caddies stuffed with clubs that I had no idea the names for, let alone in what instance they’d be used, were assigned to me and my husband. The boys formed a little team and went first. Then the girls, constituting me, Sara and my niece, also a Melissa, followed soon after.
Sara taught me how to place a tee, set the golf ball and how to swing before dispensing the following advice: “Don’t worry if you don’t get it right, it’s your first time. But remember you can’t swear or throw your clubs around. They prefer you to say Oh what a pity or something equally ridiculous.” She knows me too well.
Each time I shuffled up to tee off, I cued Sara for approval on whether my practice swings were any good. Often those moments where I sought approval were met with: “stick your bum out more, like you’re going to the loo”. Clearly golf etiquette is not about what you say, rather making sure others can’t hear you.
When I cleared a few balls more than a metre of so it was quite a rush and as spring sun lit up the course, I was beginning to understand why golf is so popular. It was serene and green. We were enjoying time outside, together, making memories. It was wonderful. Sara explained that even when she plays with other women, many of them are over 60 and given it being such a great way to catch up and spend decent time together, I couldn’t understand why more women aren’t into the golf.
We let a couple of professional-looking guys through to play before us on the next hole and I was glad for it as it meant I didn’t have to highlight my novice status to them so explicitly. Cackles of internal laughter overcame us as neither cleared the tee more than a few metres. It was embarrassing for them. Just as cringe-worthy though was the moment they walked by to thank us as my sister, in a mildly hushed tone and directed at me, said: “Even you could do better than that.” With beetroot faces they disappeared up the course.
So the big question then…would I play again? Well, despite the sport’s inane etiquette, which I’m by no means fully attuned to, I found the afternoon relaxing. However since my lack of skill was so demonstrable and so I was intermittently frustrated with my performance, I’m tempted to book some lessons before the next golf invite is driven my way.