It had not really struck me until yesterday that many people have prejudices about women on the golf course that are a lot like the kind of prejudice that used to surround women drivers of automobiles.
I remember many times experiencing people--upon seeing a driver doing something inappropriate, wrong, or downright stupid--assume that if the driver was inept, it must surely be a woman. The label "woman driver" was a prejudicial slur, indicating--often with a wink or knowing nod--what was assumed to be understood as truth: that women were lousy drivers, not at all up to the task of steering an automobile around our nation's streets and highways.
But the "Woman driver" kind of prejudice has had a home on our nation's golf courses and it's still there . Or at least at our nation's country clubs, where rules that were set in place decades ago are still applied, even though they do not reflect the reality of how and why women play golf. For many years in the majority of country clubs, for example, there were only certain hours during the day when women were allowed on the course (even though they may have been full fledged members). The assumption was that they played more slowly, more erratically, and would interrupt or inconvenience the men who wished to play.
There are still a number of rules, some of them pertaining to what is considered appropriate dress (skirts or shorts have to be no shorter than a particular length...that sort of thing. And then there are the "ladies' tees" which prevail on all courses, as far as I know. Ladies tees make the length of the drive from the tee to the green shorter for women, assuming that they don't have the skill to get the ball there as quickly as their male counterparts. But that's silly...why aren't they just called "shorter tees" or some such, usable by beginners or shorter hitters of either sex?
These questions and more were discussed yesterday at a special program hosted by the St. Andrews Country Club in Westchester County, New York. St. Andrews is celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year. I understand it is the oldest gold club in the United States. And it is a beauty. The greens are gorgeous, the buildings stately and well preserved, the service and upkeep top notch.
The day was put together by Donna Orender, a fellow member of the New York Women's Forum, and she arranged for several of us members to be guests for the day at this "Celebration of Women in Golf," part of St. Andrews' weeklong commemoration of its 125th anniversary. They pulled out all the stops, intending to introduce new golfers to the game and to continue to grow and expand the game of golf.
Our group of four had not one but two pros, both women who volunteered their time for the day to instruct us on the game. Both of them are pros at top clubs in the United States. And they were terrific. I've taken golf lessons before (always from men, now that I think of it) and never have a had the experience I did yesterday. Their instruction was easy to follow, no-nonsense, and helpful.
We had a blast. It was fun. And I found a whole new way to talk about golf, in fact a whole new way to feel about golf. Forget some of the unnecessary rules. If you are playing just for fun, why not use a tee--if you feel like it--on the fairway? Throw your ball out of the bunker if you feel like it. And with those kinds of restraints taken away, the day was the best day of golf I've had. ever. And to top it all off I won the prize for the longest putt of the day, and the prize is a terrific new putter. Now, watch my smoke the next time I play.