Don’t be intimidated by golf

June 19, 2014
John Gordon (Golf Canada)

Who was the first person to be intimidated by golf? Hint: It wasn’t you. Little-known fact: He was the second person to take up the game about, oh, 600 years ago in Scotland.

“Och, Geordie, I could never hit that stone as far as you can with your shepherd’s crook. Look, it’s almost in the rabbit hole in one stroke! Why are you walking so fast? I can’t find my stone! Who is that behind us?” Versions of those plaintive bleats have echoed down through history and continue to be heard today, in one fashion or another.

There is no denying that golf can be perceived as intimidating, especially for beginners who may whiff, foozle and shank their way around the course, unaware of the basic rules and etiquette.  Most likely, especially if they are adults, they are very conscious of two things: They are most definitely not having fun and they are holding up the group or groups behind them. And chances are that those groups are making their displeasure known at every opportunity.

Whose fault is that? There is enough blame to spread around when discussing the intimidation factor in golf, believe me.

First, it is an inescapable reality that many beginners who complain about being intimidated on the golf course must shoulder some of the blame. Expecting to do well the first few times they step onto a course is unrealistic. Hallucinogenic, actually. If they want to make golf a regular part of their lives, a few lessons should precede that first round, or at least several visits to the driving range with an experienced golfer. Once that first step has been taken, choose a course that is appropriate for your basic skill level and play the most forward tees.  Try to avoid peak times when the course is busy.

Many courses offer inexpensive beginner lesson packages and clinics. It is money well spent. If your spouse plays, find a couples’ “nine-and-dine” outing and make it a date night.  More and more courses have “family nights” where basic instruction is followed by a few holes on the course. Most of the time, these are scrambles where the onus is on fun, not competition. Don’t even think about score until you can hit the ball more consistently. Focus on fun, the beauty of the course, the company of friends, and the opportunity to enjoy a nice meal and a beverage after.

Second, more experienced golfers have to give their heads a collective shake. All of you were, at one time, beginners and no doubt intimidated. Although it is difficult, think back to how frustrated and, perhaps, embarrassed you felt then and how much you appreciated some understanding from other golfers.  As old hands now, it is your responsibility to welcome new players into the game that has brought you so much pleasure.

Intimidation is not unique to golf and it should not be a reason to give up or never take up the game.

For example, when you join a gym, you do so to get more fit or build muscle. Even though you may be “intimidated” by some bulked-up specimens working out there or by that annoyingly athletic person who runs the treadmill for hours, you stick with it, because you are focused on improving. And, eventually, with persistence, the results are obvious and well worth the effort.

Think of golf in the same way: As a process.

Believe me, it remains a lifelong process but one well worth pursuing.