Women Golf Too

I recently played golf at The Links at Spanish Bay, a golf course in Pebble Beach. For non-golfers, Pebble Beach golf courses are the prized land of golf. The courses are beautiful, the club houses are fancy, and the surrounding area is the second or third home to the ultra rich. Golf has a tradition of being a game for white men, and we are seeing that change slowly, Tiger Woods challenged that notion in the early 2000s, and women are gaining some ground in the LPGA. When I play golf, I am aware that I am usually one of few women on the course that day, and at Spanish Bay that day, I was one of two.

All men warming up on the practice greens at Spanish Bay.

In golf, before teeing off, it is customary to introduce yourself to the other players you are playing with by shaking hands and saying your name. At Spanish Bay there were a number of people lined up waiting for their tee times in 10 minute increments and I overheard the group in front of us, that included the only other women, greet each other. 

The three men shook hands and said their names.

“I am sorry you are playing with a female.” The woman said sheepishly, instead of saying her name, and shook the two men’s hands.

I stood there in shock, and turned away a bit so I didn’t stare. The men kind of brushed off what she had said with awkward laughs.

“Did I really just hear that?” I thought to myself. 

The woman, who was probably in her late 50s, was fit, had a bag full of high end golf clubs, and was a paying customer, just like everyone else, apologized for being a woman playing golf. 

I was thinking and feeling all kinds of things. 

Should I say something?

I didn’t.

I was angry. Women do not have to apologize for their existence.

Should I invite her to play with me?

I didn’t. If I had had an open spot in my reservation, I would have, but there were four of us playing. Looking back, this feels like more rules created to be exclusive on the course.

I was sad. Clearly this woman had had prior experiences on the golf course where men had made her feel like she didn’t belong. 

Sports were created to prove masculinity way back in history, but sports are not inherently male. It is a paradox that women in sports face, but that does not mean that we do not belong. Anyone with a body can play.

There are a number of layers to this story that I have been thinking about since. The women must have felt a deep sense of not belonging on a male dominated resort golf course. I don’t think that this feeling would have come naturally unless someone in her past must have acted in a way that didn’t make her feel included. I have never felt excluded on a golf course, but I can say I can relate to her feeling of being hypervigilant of what people think of how I am playing because I am a woman. It does feel like all eyes are on me on the first tee and it is annoying when men are surprised when I hit a good shot, because they expected me to hit a bad one. 

I also realize that she is from a different generation than I am and did not grow up with the opportunities that I had because of Title IX. I feel compassion for this woman who probably had to face more obstacles learning the game of golf than I did. My guess is that she went through a period of time in her life where she was “just happy to be here” on the golf course, but for me, I firmly believe that those days are over and women deserve to be there. I am grateful for the women who paved the way before me to make that outlook possible. 

As I look back on the situation it makes me realize how critically important it is to make sure this generation of girls know that they belong, not just on a golf course, but in all places in our society. I don’t ever want a girl to feel like they have to apologize for being in the presence of men. If they do come across a situation where they feel on the outside, I want my students to have the skills to reflect and understand why they feel like they don’t belong. There is nothing wrong with being female, and it isn’t them who created that feeling. Generations of men in power have led us to believe that. I want my students to know that when we are able to shine light on the inequities or exclusion we feel, then we can move forward and act in an empowered way. 

Me, on the 2nd tee at Spanish Bay.

On the golf course that day, I felt like I had something to prove. When it was my turn, I stood on the tee box and drilled my driver straight down the middle of the fairway on the first hole. It was me unapologetically playing against the patriarchy. I had a lot of fun too.

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