ORLANDO, Fla. - As we all sit down to ponder our New Year's resolutions, let me be so bold as to suggest a few resolutions for guys playing with their wives or girlfriends.
Why? Because I'd like to see peace in the world, at least the world of the golf course, in 2003.
So here are some suggestions that I hope you take to heart.
Resolution No. 1: Never, please, never tell her to keep her head down. Just do not do this. Yes, I know, you tell her this at least three times a round.
The problem is, guys, not only is this annoying in the extreme but it is also wrong. Get that? WRONG. Anyone who has ever taken a lesson knows that tucking your head down probably means you will hunch down on the ball and then hit behind it. Most women need, instead, to stand a bit taller and extend their arms.
But for some reason, every fellow in this universe always advises: "Keep your head down.you know, get a crotch hook." Always remember that the cardinal rule of playing peacefully with any loved one is to not give any unsolicited advice.
Resolution No. 2: Do not stop her long putts, throw in her balls from out of bounds or a hazard, or gently move it out of a sand trap..UNLESS SHE ASKS YOU TO DO SO.
For some reason, many men have decided that doing these things somehow makes a woman feel better and maybe even speeds up play. WRONG AGAIN. It aggravates her and probably has nothing to do with the pace.
Imagine if you did this to one of your fellow male players. You will be a much happier couple if you allow her to play her game. Yes, you should advise her when it is appropriate to pick up - if she does not already know this - but, otherwise, zip your lip.
And, oh yes, watch those gimmes: Women do not think a four-foot putt is a gimme and when you start giving them to her, she is insulted.
Resolution No. 3: Be sure that your companion knows the basic rules of golf. Or maybe I should say, be sure you do. It may actually surprise you to know that most women know the rules better than men. This is because women are such sticklers to play with.
I cannot tell you how many men I have seen kick their ball a few inches to improve their lie or give each other putts that are three feet or more. Or they make two tries at it and pick it up. One wise golf instructor I know (a male, no less) always says: "You know what a 'gimme' is? It is an agreement between two players who cannot putt."
Guys, play by the rules. She will respect you for it.
Resolution No. 4: Some men I know think it is boring to play with their wives or girlfriends because of the disparity in handicaps. So let me advise you to make a game of it. Match play is the easiest way to do this.
My husband gives me the appropriate number of strokes (well, almost.he will not give me two strokes on a par-3 hole) and we duke it out. The stakes are always interesting .who cooks dinner, who is going to mop the ceramic floor in the condo and sometimes (ta da!) sexual favors. Whatever it takes to make the round interesting. Often, I win.
There are several benefits to doing this: She learns what match play is all about, how strokes are calculated and how to keep score, if she did not already know. He learns how to keep from giving unwanted advice, because he does not want her to win.
This is also an incentive for her to establish a handicap as soon as possible. Even if it is 40+, at least she has one and that gives her a number to work down from.
Resolution No. 5: You should encourage her to join a golf league. For many beginning golfers this is the huge leap. It is probably the scariest thing she can think of, but also the most beneficial.
Playing in a league means she really will learn the rules, will really learn how to understand her handicap and understand how it is to play under pressure. Guys, there is no greater pressure on the golf course than women playing against other women. The guys on the PGA tour can hardly create the tension that women put on each other. I know one gal who cried all the way home from her first league match.
BUT, it will introduce her to women who love the game passionately, who will support her as she improves and sympathize with her during a lousy round and women who will play golf with her when you don't want to. Ultimately, these women will have far more to do with how her game improves than you ever will. Resolution No. 6: Try to play with your lady at least once a week. As my husband approached retirement, he urged me to take up golf because he said he wanted to play golf in his later years and if I wanted to see him I would have to learn to play, too.
I had always been too busy in my career to consider golf but I took these words to heart and when my daughters entered college, I began taking lessons. Now he is retired and we live in Michigan and Florida - two wonderful golf areas - and we both play several times a week. But we try to always make a "date" to play together at least once a week. Sunday afternoons are a great time.
It is always nice for him to see (hopefully) how my game has improved. And I am glad to see how he is finally straightening out his drives. Our time together is fun, yet we are both enjoying a game we love.
Resolution No. 7: Every one in awhile, tune into the LGPA on television instead of the PGA or the Senior Tour. Watch these wonderful women play and you and she will both come to an appreciation of how Annika can hit the ball.
Resolution No. 8: Do play with other couples. This has been one of the unexpected bonuses of my husband and I both playing golf: the wonderful people we meet whenever we sign up for a tee-time as a twosome and are paired with another couple. Also, we always play in the 18-hole and nine-hole couples' events at our golf course. We have met dozens of new friends this way and it keeps our games fresh.
Resolution No. 9: Plan a golf vacation together. This would be a trip that actually revolves around playing golf. To do that, we would hope that you would consult Travelgolf.com for excellent information on golf resorts all over the world.
For example, my husband and I recent attended a convention on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. We decided to add on a week to play golf. To accomplish this we traded in a timeshare and ended up with a week on Kauai. We played golf every other day, experiencing four of the finest courses in this hemisphere while we still had plenty of time to explore.
Hooking up with another couple is a great way to do this. The folks who live next door to us in Florida joined us for that week.
Resolution No. 10: If your lady is a rank beginner, then genuinely try to help her be successful. You can do this not by giving her meaningless advice on her technique, but rather by taking her out on the course and teaching her course etiquette, how to score properly, the difference between stroke play and match play and, especially, the basic rules for handling hazards and out-of bounds. Also, teach her how to keep pace and when to pick up. Let's face it: a 10 is max.
Then when she gets out on the course with other players, particularly other women, she will not feel like a fool. Do not take this responsibility lightly: I have a friend, whose husband actually worked at a golf course, and when she joined the league she knew nothing about playing the game. He set her up to fail. What a shame.
A point of interest: My sister-in-law Vicki tells me that these same resolutions apply to sons playing with their mothers as well as to husbands. Food for thought.
January 3, 2003