For over 20 years I have introduced complete beginners to the game and guided them on their golf journey. People’s reasons for taking up golf has always been of great interest to me, but their experiences of those tough early days of getting to grips with the game are what I find truly fascinating.
Golf is a multi-faceted sport, and it can bring out all sorts of emotions from frustration to elation. Last year I decided to create an easy pathway for women to get into golf, so I created a 3-week course that covers the basics of the game and provides women with the tools and confidence to know how to continue to practice, meet other like-minded women and an understanding of how to improve and progress.
My 3-week course format introduced over 100 women to the game, 60 of whom are now part of my weekly practice clubs. Having the privilege to be part of their introduction to the game, I wanted more insight into their experience as a beginner, so I posed the above question to them.
A few women responded with golf specific language such as bogeys, birdies, types of playing formats, but following a discussion, we concluded that these things were not necessarily helpful to know at the learning stage when picking up a club for the first time. However, below are collaborated insights and points that came up time and time again.
1. Golf is Hard
A common opinion from a range of women with different abilities and sporting backgrounds. It was always said with real surprise from women who had previously played other racket sports such as tennis and squash. The surface area to hit is small, and the ball is even smaller. There is also so much more to playing golf than just hitting the ball with one type of club. There is a lot to learn and to work on, but it is in golf’s difficulty that rewards lie. It’s good to challenge yourself because when you make small improvements and experience the joy of hitting the ball properly, satisfaction comes from knowing it is a difficult skill and one that takes practice and dedication.
2. You Need A Sense Of Humour
You will miss the ball a lot! You will hit it all over the place and think that everyone is judging what a terrible human being you must be because you can’t hit a small white ball where you want it to go. So, it’s best to be able to laugh at yourself. As stated previously, golf is hard and it doesn’t matter what level you reach, be it winning the Women’s Open or playing Longest Drive on Toptracer, you will always hit head-scratching shots that make you think, ‘What was that?’ But life marches on after your terrible shot and the world keeps spinning, so you should take comfort in the fact that it won’t be long before you hit another terrible shot.
Unless you have sold all your worldly possessions and practise 12 hours a day to ‘make it,’ you are not good enough to get upset about bad shots. So do your best to see the humour in the misses and try, try again.
3. Golf Is For Everyone
Who knew? Not many of my ladies that took up golf recently, that’s for sure. Golf can feel very inaccessible and ‘Private, No Entry’ signs on the gates of the majority of golf clubs do little to shed this image. Golf, however, is on the up in terms of female participation, it was one of the first outdoor sports allowed post Covid which saw participation rise from 14% to 28%. The perception of expense can also put many people off, but most golf clubs, driving ranges and teaching professionals will provide equipment for free or at a low and affordable rental price because it is in everyone’s interest to get more people playing golf.
There are still justified misconceptions about the type of person that plays golf, but it really is for every age, shape and size. Anyone can find some joy from playing golf, be that at their local driving range once a month or regularly playing on a course with friends.
4. You Will Need Lessons
Imagine trying to drive a car or perform a dance routine without having been shown the steps. That is what trying to play golf is like without proper instruction. I don’t mean your significant other, or friend telling you to “Keep your head down” or “Eye on the ball.” I mean instruction from a qualified PGA Professional that has a passion for coaching beginners.
Golf can be very overwhelming in the early days. If golf was an elephant that you were tasked to eat, a pro will help you to do it one bite at a time! You will leave your 30 minute or 1-hour session not only hitting the ball better, but understanding what you must work on to improve. That’s not to say you can’t just go and enjoy a clueless whack, of course you can, but if you value your time and want to see progress more quickly, then a lesson is the way to go.
5. It’s A Journey Not A Destination
You never win golf, and you never complete golf, those are two truths about the game. Even if you win the competition of the day, you will still come off the course and think about how much better your shots or score could have been if only… Golf is a game of mistakes and progress can at times feel very slow or even like you are going backwards!
My ladies regularly describe golf to me as an emotional roller-coaster and they can’t believe they put themselves through it, yet they keep coming back for more. That’s because the addiction to golf lies in the all-encompassing physical and mental challenge of the game. Accepting early on that golf will challenge you in ways that no other sport has done before will keep your mind free to take on the day’s challenge.
6. How Much Fun It Is
How can something simultaneously be the most annoying and the most fun, but golf is just that. The laughter from my group sessions each week is a testament to how golf is such fun. There is so much to golf and so many formats to play that it never gets boring and you never hit the same shot twice. Golf will always surprise and humble you in equal measure. Learning golf with friends is a truly special experience that will ensure many years of good times and laughter.
7. You Wish You Had Started Sooner
New Golfer: “How old were you when you started?”
Me: “I was 5”
New Golfer: “Oh, if only I had started at that age!”
This is a very common exchange that I have with adult learners. The feeling of regret and what could have been, filling their minds and clouding their current ability to learn. There is no turning the clock back though. I have just started piano lessons and understand that feeling of ‘if only’.
The reason this line of thinking is so attractive is because it skips to the good part of the endeavour and misses all the hours of work that always must be done regardless of age to get good at something. So, embrace the stage that you are at, take on the challenge in the here and now because that is all we have, as the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
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Emma has worked in the golf industry for more than 20 years. After a successful amateur career, she decided to pursue her true golfing passion of coaching and became a qualified PGA Professional in 2009. In 2015, alongside her husband Gary, who is also a PGA Professional, they set up and now run Winchester Golf Academy, a bespoke 24 bay practice facility offering not only all the latest technology but a highly regarded bistro. Emma is happy coaching all golfing abilities but particularly enjoys getting people into the game and developing programs to help women and juniors start and improve. Her 2022 Get into Golf program saw more than 60 women take up the game.
Emma is a member of TaylorMade’s Women’s Advisory Board, which works to shape the product offering and marketing strategy with the goal of making it the number one brand in golf for women. When not changing lives one swing tweak at a time Emma can be found enjoying life raising her three daughters and when time allows in the gym.
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