Discovering a new pursuit later in life brings unexpected joy.
The second summer after my husband Peter* had taken up golf, I painted our cottage. All by myself. On four consecutive Saturdays, while he strolled around a golf course for five hours with a couple of pals, I scraped, sanded, primed, and painted two coats of French Blue on our wooden clapboard cottage.
Standing on my extra-tall, rickety wooden stepladder, I could reach everything on the single-story house except the three highest peaks – which he eventually painted. CBC Radio One kept me company.
Starting with “The House,” I’d slave away until “Quirks & Quarks” was over.
One day it occurred to me, Good God! Why on earth am I doing all this backbreaking work on my own, while he has fun on the links? I need to take up golf too!
After I asked for golf clubs for Christmas, Peter bought me a starter set. I tried them out in the golf store, in spite of barely knowing which end of the club to hold. It was fun selecting a burgundy golf
bag, though I hadn’t a clue what I would put in all those cute little pockets.
After finding two girlfriends to join me, I signed up for the Stratton Mountain Golf School in Vermont the following spring. The application asked, “What are the Best and Worst parts of your golf game?” Having
never before touched a club, I left both blank. For the Best part, my friend Sue wrote, “Driving the golf cart.” Haha.
The program was five days long. Every morning the three of us met our pro Sandra, who took us to a practice area to work on a skill: Driving, Fairway woods, Pitching, Chipping, or Putting. That
afternoon she would take us out on the course to actually play, which was both exciting and terrifying, and teach us golf etiquette.
There are tons of rules in golf and if you break them, you will be shunned, teased, or reprimanded. To list a few, you must never:
· Wear a shirt without a collar, denim, short shorts, or trousers with cargo pockets
· Speak when someone else in your group is about to hit ANY shot
· Touch your ball, unless it is on the green and you need to mark its position (Discreetly kicking it into a
better position is also frowned on)
· Hit another ball with your ball (Golf is not billiards).
I had never been a confident athlete, as I have little natural coordination. In school gym class, I was often the last person to be chosen for a sports team. Here I was in my early fifties learning a sport with a stationary ball. On Day 1, I was flabbergasted to find that I actually made contact with this tiny ball, perched on a golf tee, with ease! It went a relatively long distance, in a relatively straight line.
Golfers are frustrated if their drive curves left (a Hook) or right (a Slice). Mine went straight! Sandra introduced me to a Draw (intentional slight left curve) and a Fade (intentional slight right curve) on my very first day. That night, I was so excited to have finally found my sport that I barely slept.
That summer Peter and I headed to Western Canada on holiday, so my first round of 18-holes was played at Jasper Park Lodge, where the spectacular views and hilly terrain added another layer of
challenge. Why I bothered to keep score is a mystery.
Driving into British Columbia the next day, we settled into Hope during the mid-afternoon. There was a pretty 9-hole course near our motel so off we went to play. Playing golf after a long day’s drive
through the Rockies was fantastic! Much healthier and more fun than going to a bar. Hey, golf is a really cool pastime, I decided.
Once back in Ontario, we played regular golf near our lakeside cottage. I made a point of not taking it as seriously as Peter did. Why turn grumpy if your ball ends up in a water hazard or bunker? It’s just a game. Having started to play golf under a pro’s instruction meant I had no bad habits to get rid of. Those concentrated lessons over five consecutive days gave me the basic principles to really have fun.
Roughly 13 years later, my marriage disintegrated so I no longer used that particular cottage. I joined the Ladies' Golf Club of Toronto because I simply had to play somewhere! Delightful people and
beautiful surroundings worked their magic and golf became my saviour during my divorce recovery. I keep score and maintain a handicap but never enter tournaments – not being remotely competitive.
Unlike tennis (where your opponent’s level of competence should be close to yours to maximize fun), when playing golf your opponent is The Course. As long as you don’t misbehave or spend too much time
hunting for a lost ball, the people you play with are completely accommodating. And golf is a mental game. Any worries or issues plaguing your psyche cannot be contemplated while you focus on your next shot. Just lose yourself in the now.
During my singlehood, I played golf in New Zealand, Muskoka, Quebec, Florida, and Bermuda. The transferability of this sport really works for me. Just rent clubs and buy some balls if you came
The fact that my new husband displays zero interest in playing also works for me. (The rules and conventions would drive him nuts.) As retired people, we each need time apart every so often. And
playing 18-holes gives me 4 ½ hours for my new favourite pastime – while he paints a picture.
* Name has been changed.