NAPLES, Fla. - Should you give your wife or girlfriend a trip to golf school as a birthday or anniversary gift?
That's a very delicate question.
Because we gals are sensitive, right? We are easily insulted, right? Because we are touchy, right?
This is a matter of extreme diplomacy. Before moving ahead, consider these questions: Is your beloved serious about her golf game? Does she have her eye on the club championship? Or, is she determined to break 100? Or, is her current goal just to get her handicap under 40? Has she begun buying new golf equipment instead of new shoes?
If so, she will absolutely love it (and you!) if you send her to golf school.
On the other hand, if this gift occurs to you because you think she needs to improve her game, you are headed for some deep rough.
Also, you need to take a look at yourself: Are you the kind of fellow who resents your wife going off on a vacation on her own? Or, do you resent her taking off work to go off by herself? No fair giving her a gift and then being ornery about her enjoying it.
OK, so you have evaluated your motives and decided this is what you want to do. What schools should you consider? Obviously, there are fine golf schools everywhere, but I strongly suggest an all-ladies program because the comfort level is so much higher for women and because teaching women is different. Just ask Harvey Penick, that veteran teacher who always considered teaching women his specialty.
If you are short on time or money, then consider a ladies school in your area. These usually run two or three days and include a couple of overnights. Some offer commuter programs but to really make a vacation of it, she needs to get away and that means staying overnight. Try to find a resort with a spa and throw in a treatment or two.
But if she can spare the time and you have the dough, then look further. There are several top golf schools that focus on women, and these programs are likely to produce the most progress in her game.
One of the best is Peggy Kirk Bell's Golfari program at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. Peggy, who is a charter member of the LPGA, has been running her ladies schools since 1959 and she and her staff run a tight, but fun, program.
The schools run from Monday noon to Friday noon. There are usually more than 100 women participating, from all over the U.S. Although this is a large group, students are divided up into groups of 12 for classes by skill level (1:4 teacher-student ratio) and into foursomes for play (nine holes a day).
Some describe being at a Golfari like being at camp. Most everyone has a roommate. There is lots of camaraderie. The high level of repeaters demonstrates that women really like this program. There is a good mixture of instruction and on-course play with instructors. And, yes, Peggy Kirk Bell will be teaching every day, even though she is in her 80s. Indeed, another aspect of this program that women particularly like is that Peggy Kirk Bell's entire family is involved. Her daughters Bonnie McGowan and Peggy Ann Miller teach in the program, her son-in-law Pat McGowan is the director of instruction and daughter-in-law Holly Bell is in charge of public relations. (Son-in-law Kelly Miller is the chief operating officer of Pine Needles and Mid-Pines resort, also owned by the Bell family.)
A big plus for you, the gift-giver, is that Pine Needles is just a few miles down the road from Pinehurst . So, you could tackle the famous No. 2 course while she is at school, or, you could join her for the weekend before or after for a few rounds. This neck of North Carolina offers many of the finest golf courses in the country.
Ladies Golfaris are offered at Pine Needles in February, May and September. Prices range from $1,095 to $1,745 per session depending on the date and level of accommodation. The price covers just about everything but drinks in the bar.
If you are located in the western U.S., then the School of Golf for Women at Singing Hills Country Club at Sycuan (near San Diego) is an excellent choice. This program is also well established, with more than 20 years of experience.
Shirley Spork, a co-founder of the LPGA, originated the program. This school concentrates on all aspects of the game through three- and five-day classes, including a commuter program. It accepts a minimum of 10 women and a maximum of 35 for each session.
Owned and operated by Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Singing Hills includes more than 425 acres of picturesque mountain terrain and offers guests two 18-hole championship courses, a challenging par-3 course and 11 tournament tennis courts.
If your lady has any energy left in the evening after hitting balls all day, she can head over to the Sycuan Casino that features gaming, a number of restaurants and live entertainment.
All-inclusive prices for three-day schools are $1,540 single, $1,420 double and $1,100 for a commuter. Five-day schools cost $2,450 for a single, $2,240 for a double and $2,000 for a commuter. Sessions are scheduled February through October.
Golf for Women magazine runs a series of women's schools, in cooperation with its parent, Golf Digest. These are offered at six different resorts around the country: The Equinox in Vermont, May 19-22; The Homestead in Virginia, July 16-19; Kemper Lakes, near Chicago, June 10-11; Country Club at Mirasol, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Feb. 17-20; Sunriver Resort in Oregon, June 9-12; Westin Mission Hills, near San Diego, March 17-20.
These women's schools are a bit more welcoming to non-participants. That means the guys can come along, share the room and some meal events and play on your own during the day or enjoy the other amenities of the resort. If you happen to be the non-golfer in your family, this might be a good choice for you.
Prices begin at $1,495 for a double, although some of the locations offer commuter rates.
Other schools you might want to consider are the "For Women Only" Golf School at the Martin Green Golf Academy in Panama City Beach, Fla., the Craft-Zavichas Golf School in Pueblo, CO (which offers all-women sessions in California, Colorado and Nevada) and the Dana Rader Golf School in Charlotte, N.C.
In any case, do consider giving the gift of golf school if you want to help, really help, your lady golfer be the best that she can be.
In the meantime, tuck a copy of Penick's "For All Who Love the Game: Lessons and Teachings for Women" in her stocking.
Pine Needles Ladies-Only Golfaris
Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club
P.O. Box 88
Southern Pines, NC 28388
(800) 747-7272 (ask for Bobbi or Rhonda)
The School of Golf for Women
Singing Hills Resort at Sycuan
3007 Dehesa Road
El Cajon, CA 92019
Golf for Women Schools
www.golfdigestschool.com "For Women Only" Golf School
Martin Green Golf Academy
120 Coyote Pass
Panama City Beach, FL 32407
Craft-Zavichas Golf School
600 Dittmer Ave.
Pueblo, CO 81005
Dana Rader Golf School
10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy.
Charlotte, NC 28275
"For All Who Love the Game: Lessons and Teachings for Women"
by Harvey Penick with Bud Shrake
Simon & Schuster, 1995
(also available on audiocassette)
December 3, 2002