From casual observation, I’d say maybe only 20% of the golfers we get partnered with at public courses are women. Sure, playing with the boys can be plenty of fun but having a spouse who enjoys golf and understands your passion for the game is hard to beat.
My wife took up the game slowly. Golf wasn’t her thing but she loves roadtrip vacations so we started taking annual trips out to a week long golf school. It began really slowly. One summer, it was a 7 iron for the whole course. The next, it’s a 7 wood. Eventually, she figured out how to hit driver and developed a consistency with all her irons. She still doesn’t practice much, but she seems to enjoy the game as much as I do when we’re out on the course and I’m grateful for it.
Looking back, here are some tips for how to get your spouse more interested in this game…
The first thing is to make golf an inviting and safe game to play. Golf can be the most discouraging, embarrassing, and frustrating game even for seasoned golfer and think back to when we all started- there was also a huge intimidation factor. Others make it look so easy and there are all these crazy rules and etiquettes.
- Invite her to join you at the range- you can usually rent an iron or driver so she doesn’t get overwhelmed with all the options
- Have her try putting- putting is the great equalizer- being big or strong doesn’t give you an advantage and most non-golfer have a more natural instinct and no fear when it comes to putting.
- She might be self-conscious so give her some basics and let her be. Go work on your own swing and try to answer questions as she try different ways to hit it.
When we finally started booking rounds of our own, we started by playing with a couple good friends of mine. She still felt “you guys are too good” at first, but at least we are able to create a safe environment to shelter her (see breaking rules below) and keep the pace moving along quickly.
She’ll probably feel nervous on a tee box with all the silent, judgemental eyeballs focused on her. Try to let her tee off first before another group catches up. Or have her hit her favourite most reliable club just to build some confidence. I’d sometimes play from the forward tee to help with pacing and I find a familiar course totally changes from a different tee box.
2. Gear Up
You might be tempted to let her hit with your clubs but they are likely too stiff, too long, and too hard to control (um, we’re still talking about golf clubs, fellas!). Ladies clubs have more flex and are lighter and shorter so most recommendations are to get the wife a beginner set or go to Kijiji and look for something used in case she gives up on it.
With the technology in newer clubs and the frequency of equipment releases, you will likely find last year’s model for a good price and make the game much easier for her to pick up. My wife started out with a terrible $100 half-set that she quickly grew out of. Looking back, I think a demo set would’ve made her start a bit easier- more distance, easier to hit, larger sweet spot, and better sound. I would create a personal half-set for her by taking clubs out so it’s not so overwhelming and if she ends up not liking it, you’ll have a better chance to sell last year’s model on Kijiji rather than storing bad sticks in your basement or garage.
Also, make sure you involve her in the selection process- she might not understand “low launch, high loft” or “deeper CoG, higher MOI” but she will definitely care about how her clubs looks and feel in her hands.
3. Get Lessons
I’ve seen some on range and on-course blow ups from couples playing golf. I can handle my instructor telling me “you’re still dropping way under plane. feel like you’re hitting a pull. No, that’s not it. You’re still going way under. A pull, I want to see what feels like a pull shot.” Try echoing similar words to your wife and see what happens.
My best advice is to take group lessons together. You can work on your game and let a qualified professional tell her how to swing. I generally am nearby to listen on what the instructor is saying so I can answer questions later but I never really teach.
Outside of lessons, when she does asks questions, you should just give her a tip or a drill and walk away. Don’t force the issue, don’t make sure her head stays down or her arm stays straight. Just suggest one drill for her and walk away. Fixes rarely work immediately so she may revert back to the old way quickly but there’s always next time as long as she is not discouraged from coming back.
One thing that’s really helped us is to take a video of her (especially when she’s not looking). You can show her what the instructor means or what the purpose of the drill is supposed to do. I know it was a big revelation to my wife when she saw how choppy and un-rhythmic her backswing was. She said “oh wow, that’s ugly.” and then immediately worked on smoothing it out on her the next time we went on the range.
4. Bend the Rules! (and Make it Fun!)
Golf has lots of crazy rules that we don’t always agree on and understand. But golf is also supposed to be fun and not daunting. While learning, there’s no reason to make it more difficult than necessary.
- Putting Contest. We play all the holes on the practice green as par 2s. The winner of the last hole gets to pick how difficult the next putt is to the next hole of their choosing. Winner is declared the Putting Pro and it’s a title you want to retain or win back the next time out.
- Chipping Contest. Take stabs at trying to chip it in your background or into some bucket at the range. We used to have an indoor golfdome in town where you buy one hour of time with unlimited balls for practice.
- Try an executive par 3 course and work on the short game.
Okay, I’m going to put my armour on when you rules-junkies come after me but to lower the barrier to this game, you could:
- Teach her ready golf, out of sequence when safe to do so, and to keep up and be ready to play your next shot. All the magazine go on and on about an elaborate pre-shot routine- but that can come later. As a beginner, it might be better to just walk up and fire.
- Tee it up on the fairway. We find that generally, the forward tees don’t offer enough of an advantage. Sometimes if she’s so far out, we might very quickly tee it up on the fairway to make life easier. Other times if we’re falling behind, we may pick up her ball and play from where I am instead. (On a bad day, I might actually drop one near her drive instead of hunting for an OB ball).
- Draw a line in the sand. Forget about the hazards rule at the start for beginners. Just draw a line in the sand so there’s a physical visual target to make the shot easier.
- Foot wedge- absolutely allowed.
- Driving the golf cart- have her drop you off at your ball and let her drive. It’s a fun golf-related thing to do- plus it gives you time to keep stats and write down the scores.
- Put the scorecard away. Scoring is important when she gets better but at this point, spending time together might be more important.
- 9 and Dine. Make golf a date/social affair. Unwind at the clubhouse and recapping that one good shot or putt.
5. Be Positive!
Finally, the most important item is to stay positive, be around to be supportive and always be encouraging. That also means to be pleasant to be around with during golf. We’ve all golfed with the steaming angry golfer before so think about how that affects your mood before you become one of those guys!
What it all means..
I don’t think my wife will ever be as into golf as I am. I know she’s not checking the Masters leaderboard every 20 minutes like I am.
On the other hand, it’s great to see her share the same love of the game- that she comes out to get her game on and not just to tag along. We can share moments, recall great shots or talk about some of the great, funny people we’ve been partnered up with over dinner. We can watch the Sunday round on TV.
We were there to catch an LPGA event and got to watch teen phenom Lydia Ko win live when they rolled into town!
My wife was continually reminds me “you’re overswinging” and “you’re starting with your hands instead of your shoulders.” We are able to share her first par and later, her first birdie together. We get as excited going to the mountains or flying down to Phoenix to golf as any other type of vacation.
Most importantly, it simply just means more golf and there’s nothing wrong with that!