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Hey Ladies: Golf should be fun. Make it so

By Katharine Dyson, Special Contributor

Allison was passionate about her golf. She practiced at her local club evenings, joined the women's league, took lessons and her favorite idea of a Mother's Day gift? A new driver.

Suzy Whaley
Don't let stroke play scoring morph an otherwise great round of golf morphs into an embarrassing disaster.
Suzy Whaley

Problem was, she was struggling. One day recently, as we played a few holes, after picking up after three attempts to get over a nasty water hazard, she dropped her ball on the other side, chipped up and three-putted.

"What did you get?" I asked her, pencil poised.

"8 ish," she replied. I wrote down an 8.

It's the "ish" factor. Probably meant she got a brutal 9 or 10. But 8 sounded better. Clearly ish can be a very convenient way to keep track of other things as well.

Ask a baby boomer, "How old are you?"

"60 ish."

Translation: Probably pushing 65.

Or how much do you weigh? (Something you never ask anyone, ever.)

"125 ish."

So take heart. There are also other creative ways of keeping score. Take the golfer who cannot under any conceivable circumstances think of taking anything more than a double bogey. Simply can't happen.

"And your score?"

"Uh ... give me a double." Hey, who needs to count those breakfast balls.

Let's face it, stroke play has been around a long time - ever since 1759 when it originated in Scotland. It pits golfer against the course and can be most unforgiving. Just ask Jan Van de Velde, the flashy Frenchman who blew a three-shot lead in the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie on the final hole.

Or ask Deb Richard who several years ago was playing in an LPGA event on the New Seabury Ocean Course on Cape Cod, Mass., and had it won ... until she took an 8 on the 17th hole.

Stroke play is like that. Have a couple of bad holes, a day in a bunker and an otherwise great round of golf morphs into an embarrassing disaster.

We're used to stroke play. We see the pros playing it on TV turning in sub-par rounds. But, hello, we are not pros, nowhere close. Yet we beat ourselves up to come as close as we can to that perfect round. We work hard to break 100, then 90 and 80. Once we have a mind set that we can shoot in the 80s or 90s regularly, we feel defeated, let down, if we don't do it.

Never mind that we just spent an incredible day on a beautiful golf course with good friends. If we don't come in with a score that measures up to our expectations of ourselves, we walk from the 18th green with our heads down, shoulders slumped. No wonder so many women who come into the game soon leave it. It's just too hard, takes too long.

Consider this: Did you ever play a round and not keep score? Try it. Just get out there and hit the ball. Take time to enjoy the day and the course. The times you hit the ball well will feel great, the times you don't won't matter. If you land in a mole hole, throw it out and hit it again.

Or, if competition fires up your soul, instead of traditional stroke play try match play. Here you go hole-by-hole with the winner of each hole getting a point. The player with the most points wins the match. Blow one hole or more. Who cares.

Or try a foursomes/ fourball match as they do at the Ryder Cup Matches. Here, two-man teams take alternate shots until the hole is completed. The lower of the two scores wins the hole. The score is recorded as holes won or lost: A cumulative score is not kept.

And here's an idea: Instead of recording your strokes, play three six-hole matches. Keep track of the number of times you hit the fairway on your drive for the first six holes, awarding a point for each successful drive.

For the next six holes, keep track of number of putts. The one with the least number gets two points for each hole. And for the last six, give a point for each time a player hits the green in regulation.

At the end, the person with the most points wins.

And speaking of six holes, for many players, especially moms with young children, the time constraints of playing 18 holes simply doesn't work. So why not play just six holes?

The idea is not new. In Scotland, Bruntsfield Links, arguably the oldest golf course in the world where golf is still played, had only six holes when it opened. And in London, the Northwick Park was just six holes when it opened. It takes only about an hour to play.

Golf should be fun, a time when you can get some exercise, time with friends and, yes, a challenge or two. Pay attention to Suzy Whaley, a top PGA Professional who landed on the golfing public radar when she won the Connecticut PGA Section Championship making her eligible to play in the 2003 PGA Greater Hartford Open.

"When we tap the women's market better than we have in the past, we will be growing the game from the grassroots level - from parents to children to their children. And we need to do a better job to keep the women we already have," Whaley says. "Golf doesn't have to be an 18 hole sport. If they (women) have just 45 minutes, they should be able to still come out and enjoy it."

Katharine DysonKatharine Dyson, Special Contributor

Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers. Follow Katharine on Twitter at @kathiegolf.

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