I was in a rut. I found myself doing the same things over and over again. Or worse, I felt as if I were doing pretty much nothing productive at all. So what did I do? I took up golf.
Maybe some of you who, like me, are over 50 want to play tennis, become a Girl Scout leader, or join a sewing circle, all fine ideas but not anything I know about. I do know about golf. I used to think golf was the work of the devil, a boring white male devil to be specific. My husband was obsessed with it and he never understood why my eyes glazed over when he’d regale me about his birdie or his eagle or any other ornithological reference. But one day I heard my husband on the phone with a golf teacher canceling a lesson he couldn’t make that day. I heard a voice say, “I’ll take it.” I don’t know who was more shocked when we both realized that the voice was coming from me. And so began my relationship with golf equipment, golf clothes and, most significantly, golf people.
What is it that drove me to leap at that opportunity to take a golf lesson on that fateful day? The answer is, I had the time. In fact, I had too much time. The kids are grown, the husband is still working, and my book club only meets once a month. I volunteer for this and that, but nothing of late got me out of the house and off my butt regularly enough. Periodically, a snip of loneliness set in; not anything tragic but more the existential kind that still needed tending to. I’m at an age where new experiences seldom just appear as they seemed to in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I knew that if I wanted my world not to shrink, I’d have to get creative. Golf was supposed to be just an experiment. I certainly never expected it to have any lasting effect.
I didn’t hate golf serendipitously. I had reasons I was convinced were valid. Let’s talk about the actual game. Who in their right mind would think that hitting a tiny round ball balancing on a 3” stick into a 4.3” hole that is hundreds of yards away would be considered fun? But it turns out that there is….and I have no other word for it…. joy in hearing that ball go clunk into that hole. However, just when I say “I finally got it!” the next time I play it’s as if I were playing the game blindfolded. Much to my surprise, I found that I welcomed the unpredictability because, let’s face it, as I get older less and less seems unpredictable unless you consider things like a sudden heart attack. So rather than fear it, I decided to embrace the unknown every time I venture on to a golf course.
When it comes to the game there are the competing emotions of exhilaration and discouragement. But when it comes to golf clothes, I have tried everything. I’ve spent my daughter’s dowry on golf clothes trying to find something that didn’t make me look like a preppy long haul truck driver. It’s not that I don’t see other women on the golf course looking kind of spiffy but when I try to emulate them it seems that my body type works better for bowling than golf. The only look that’s worse for me than wearing golf pants with a shirt tucked in is when I’m naked. I’ve lately being trying out the whole little golf skort thing. If I can rethink the varicose veins on my calves as decorative art, then the skort may become the attire of choice.
By now, most of you non-golf playing people are thinking that I have just confirmed everything you ever thought about the game and I have only succeeded in reinforcing your contempt. But that is not the whole story…..
I dipped into the game of golf with one toe. And then I discovered, that in addition to the 7500 steps I walk playing nine holes, there were really and truly wonderful things about it. My husband has been playing with a group of men on Saturday mornings for years. During my ‘golf is the devil’ years, I stayed away from the course and anyone associated with it. Just wasn’t my thing, I told myself. Then one day we had dinner with a couple of those men and their wives and it turned out that the people were kind of cool. They were smart and funny and interesting. And even more curious, two of the women had played golf over the years but had put it in their past. After that day where I rather mindlessly took that golf lesson, I enlisted those women to play with me. And now, mild acquaintances have become post 50 intimate, valued close friends. We even travel with some of them and often make golf a centerpiece of our experiences. After a certain age, it’s infinitely more rewarding to bond over an activity that takes place during daytime hours in a beautiful outdoor setting than in a restaurant where the acoustics are meant for ears that haven’t turned 50 yet and where we can only hear every third word. Bars and concerts just don’t have the appeal they once had. Golf is the Coachella for people over 50.
And strangely enough, there have been several times when I’ve run into women whom I may have known superficially or just met that moment and when they ask me what I’m up to, I say, “I know you won’t believe this but I’ve taken up golf and I actually like it,” I get back a resounding, “so do I!” And suddenly I have a whole new handful of friends that I would never have connected with if it weren’t for golf. My long standing non-golfing buddies will always be my treasured posse but the pure, unadulterated reason that makes me love the game is all the new friends I’ve made. My world has gotten bigger.
Another important fact research has shown is that learning new skills is critical to aging well. We shouldn’t underestimate the feeling of accomplishment that comes with getting better at a task. While I’m not a good golfer, I have gotten better and the getting better part is, well sometimes it’s actually thrilling. Golf is a gateway drug for other new activities that I can fearlessly begin as a novice that I might also get better at. There are only so many ways I can continue to cook a chicken breast.
I do still stress over what I’m going to wear each time I play golf with a new person (or just each time I play golf really) and I am a bundle of nerves on the first tee, but I’ve come to realize that for all of these women I’ve met at this point in our lives, golf for them is also a way to expand the friend base while getting in those steps and having the perfect excuse for an after game glass of wine. If someone tells me that it’s the same for the sewing circle I might even consider learning to sew my own skorts.