Should I (try to) learn to play golf?
June 16, 2008 9:13 PM   Subscribe

Should I (try to) learn to play golf?

I'm starting to find that not being able to join in the ritual of the business meeting on the golf course is hindering my ability to advance in my career. I'm often invited for golf outings which I have to turn down- apart from mini-golf, i've never picked up a club in my life. At age 40, would it be reasonable to think I could acquire a golf game that didnt embarrass me or my colleagues on the course?
posted by taubman to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Of course you can learn and not embarrass yourself.

If you are repeatedly invited to play to network and further your career I would definitely learn to play and go.
posted by LoriFLA at 9:20 PM on June 16, 2008

Nope, I think the cut-off point is 35. You just missed it.
But seriously, go for it! My dad just started golfing and he's older than you.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 9:24 PM on June 16, 2008

I was just talking with an orthopedist about this today. He pointed out that apart from Tiger, most pro golfers aren't in particularly good physical shape - some of them have potbellies. It's all about learning the unnatural way that you have to approach the ball and your swing, and then learning to reproduce that exactly, every time. In other words (we decided), unlike football, which is an orthopedic game, golf is much more a neurological game.

I think the point I'm trying to make is yes, you can learn to golf.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:28 PM on June 16, 2008

And to answer the last part of your question, I'd say 3 or 4 private lessons and a few 18-holes sets and you'll be fine, really. There are so many people who try to learn golf by themselves, and it takes them forever. It's not like snowboard or ice skating; as ikkyu2 said, golf is often unnatural, but once you get some basic tricks, you can a long way.
posted by ddaavviidd at 9:32 PM on June 16, 2008

Yes. What ddaavviidd said. A few lessons and you will do fine.
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:57 PM on June 16, 2008

If you've learned to play mini-golf, you can learn to play regular golf. Just expand your perspective and your eye/hand coordination into a larger venue.
posted by amyms at 9:57 PM on June 16, 2008

Yes, but remember there are two kinds of golf you can play.

Golf the Sport - In this, golfers are serious, focused on their score, buying expensive equipment, and get upset when they don't make par.

Golf the Hobby - In this, golfers have fun with friends and coworkers, drinking a bit, perhaps smoking a cigar, taking mulligans, making drops for any reason, and not really keeping score.

I recommend Golf the Hobby.

Get a few lessons with a pro, it will make all the difference. Then play a round on a par-3 course with some buddies to get the feel. If you move straight to an 18 hole course, you will be demoralized when the par-5 takes you 15 shots...

Good luck!
posted by Argyle at 9:58 PM on June 16, 2008

Yes. Go for it. A few lessons will get you much further than the conflicting advice you will get from friends. You can certainly learn it.

I am an admittedly horrible golfer. But, I play with very good golfers without embarrassment. I just let them know I am not good. I don't get competitive. Even though it takes me more strokes to finish a hole than my colleagues, I have learned to at least hit my ball in the same general area as everyone else.

Good luck and have fun.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:59 PM on June 16, 2008

Golf is fun...and it's even more fun when you stop trying to be good at it! Go and play!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:25 PM on June 16, 2008

I've been playing golf since I was a wee lass, though much much less frequently once I moved away from my parents and couldn't go practice at the local club for free. I basically play once or twice a year in the name of father-daughter bonding. Golf is the sort of thing you can get good at with practice, but you can also sorta coast as a mediocre player your whole life once someone teaches you the basics. It does help to learn not only how to swing but which club to choose given the situation. Once you know those things and get a few practice rounds in, you can be as hardcore (or not) as you want to be about improving your game.

It's both a mental and physical game--this may sound kooky, but the period of my life when I was seriously into yoga was also the period where I magically was hitting my drives much longer than I used to. And realizing that the more frustrated/pissed off I get, the worse I play helps keep the desire to toss my clubs in a tantrum in check.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:37 PM on June 16, 2008

You should definitely do it.

Even at age 40 you still have time to get really good if you work at it.
posted by Kevbo947 at 11:47 PM on June 16, 2008

My dad never picked up a club until he was 50. By the time he was 55, he had about a 15 handicap by playing twice a week. That's pretty good, scores generally in the 90-95 range. When he retired at age 60 and was able to play every other day, he improved his game to a 10 handicap, or scores in the low to mid eighties.

Mom began joining him when they were mid-fifties, so it became a great family thing for them. When they retired, they even looked for a golfing community in Florida. It became their retirement obsession, even though neither ever played until later in life. You would have never imagined when they were 35-40 that golf would become their passion. They made a lot of new friends, got some exercise by walking the course, and never got bored from not working.

So, it's never too late to start. Like most things, you can get as good as you're willing to devote the time and energy. It takes practice, practice, practice. I've been playing since I was a teen (mid-fifties now), and still love the game as much as ever. It is ageless.
posted by netbros at 1:52 AM on June 17, 2008

Absolutely, you should learn to play. I picked it up for about the same reason as you, and have never regretted it. One thing I would suggest...get lessons. They don't have to be too expensive. Check with the pro at one of your local public courses. He/she can give you a good understanding of the basics and get your mechanics on the right path.

The only downside to golf is that it can be very expensive.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:51 AM on June 17, 2008

Yeah, go pick up some used clubs and sign up for some lessons. Once you get more comfortable, you can acquire some decent clubs. And don't feel like you have to use every club in the bag. If there are one or two that you hit well for whatever reason, stick with them. When I used to work at a golf course, the Assistant Superintendent (who was an excellent golfer and just loved, loved being on a golf course all day) told me that when he learned to play as a wee lad, his father gave him a five-iron and a putter, and that's all he used for two years.
Golf can get awfully complicated, because it's a huge industry as well as a popular hobby/ sport. The more you can simplify, the happier you'll be.
Another interesting thing about golf is that even though you're ostensibly playing against your companions, you're really only competing with yourself. That can actually be really hard to overcome. That being said, you'll probably get some good-natured ribbing about the quality of your game as you start out, but people ultimately kinda like playing with someone who's not too good; it makes them feel better.

Just have fun, and for pity's sake keep your head down!
posted by Shohn at 5:26 AM on June 17, 2008

Certainly, some lessons and time on the driving range should be quite fun. Try to get out on an actual course a couple of times before you go out in a networking round, so you can focus on the social aspects a little more. Also, bring a bunch of balls (you can buy them cheap, especially on the internet). That way when you lose a ball out of bounds or in the water you won't spend a lot of time looking for it. Just take your penalty stroke and go from there.

With your lessons, have your instructor go over basic golf etiquette - farthest from the hole hits first, don't walk over the putter's line (between the ball and the hole), etc. These are much easier to learn when you're out there on the course.
posted by shinynewnick at 5:39 AM on June 17, 2008

Golf is a great game for developing business contacts - but I think there is a group of "business golfers" - somewhat distinct from the sports people and the hobbyists: their primary goal is business rather than the sport itself.

If you WANT to learn to play golf then go ahead and do so. However consider where time spent learning to play and playing will come from. What will you not be doing to that you can spend time on the golf course - some other sport? time with friends and family? TV? Sleep?
posted by rongorongo at 6:41 AM on June 17, 2008

Yes, absolutely. But don't do it for the business meetings -- talking business while golfing sucks (even though it's sometimes necessary). Do it for yourself, because you may discover you're one of the obsessed you really enjoy the game, and it's something you can do into your 80s or beyond.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:02 AM on June 17, 2008

Like others have said, if you want to learn in order to be included in the business outings, then there are certain things you need to concentrate on.

First, learn the rules and etiquette. The other golfers will notice (and remember) your deficiencies in this area more than any other. Don't expect to get invited again if you screw up the etiquette all day.

Second, take a few lessons from a pro. He/she should be able to help you with mechanics pretty quickly. After that, it is more about how to handle different situations (bunkers, rough grass, etc.).

Third, spend a lot of time on the driving range. It is an extremely cheap way to practice, and indeed is the best way to practice your swing (the pro should give you tips on how to effectively use your time on the range).

Fourth, learn to chip/putt and practice chipping/putting until your hands fall off. The other golfers may be driving the ball 50 yards farther than you, but when you are consistently the first one on the green/in the cup they will notice...and your score will reflect your hard work.

Fifth, go practice a few rounds on the course where the business group plays. You'll get a feel for the best way to play each hole (according to your ability). And that is important. You don't necessarily need to have a great swing, you just need to know what your strengths/weaknesses are and then play your game to accommodate them.

Sixth, get a second mortgage on your house, because golf is not cheap. Not by any measure. And it is even more expensive when you are golfing with business associates because you will need to concentrate on keeping up certain appearances. When the group decides to have cigars and scotch at the turn, you'll be expected to participate as well. If you think your career is hurting by not participating, I would recommend you place a dollar figure on this so that you can decide whether it is worth getting involved in golfing with the boys.
posted by wabashbdw at 8:41 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

My Dad gave me a set of clubs for my fortieth birthday, and my uncle gave me two five-gallon buckets full of balls. I was living on a farm back then so my driving range was just outside my back door. With a lot of practice, some good instructional books and a video camera to tape my swing I was playing close to scratch golf after about eight years.

But I could have moved along a lot faster with training from a competent pro.

In any case, my two favorite golf books are:
Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan
Golf My Way by Jack Nicklaus

Whatever you do, avoid the swing tips in golf magazines like the plague. They sell a lot of paper to gullible duffers who cling to the fraying hope that they’re just one magical tip (or a new driver) away from a competent game. The only thing that will get you there is a fundamentally sound swing. It’s a smooth and natural thing once you get it. Playing golf without a good swing is like playing chess while only being able to randomly pick up any piece that’s within 3 or 4 squares of the one you really want.
posted by Huplescat at 2:27 PM on June 17, 2008

« Older Any recommendations for a wedding in Mexico?   |   Is taking a year off uni for work a bad idea? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.