In popular culture, golf is often depicted as a sport for wealthy retired men who spend the day hiding from their wives and discussing business in swanky clubs. They smoke cigars, drive from hole to hole, and hang out in the sauna afterward. But is this depiction accurate or just based off of 15th century golf, which was initially popular amongst the ruling class? While lower classes were not banned from playing, the high cost of equipment and entry into elite clubs were hard obstacles to overcome. Female players also had more regulations and restrictions imposed upon them by their male counterpoints. Now that equipment and play times are more readily available to the masses, has golf shed its reputation of exclusivity and leisure for one of community and health? Perhaps there is more to the game than meets the eye.
“Golf is truly a game for everyone. On the outside, it appears to be a very laid back and casual sport, and it certainly can be, but that’s the beauty of this game. It can be played for your own reasons.” says professional golf coach, Trevor Moore. Trevor began playing golf at the age of 12 and immediately fell in love with the mental side of the game. He became a coach in 1994 when he registered with the PGA of Canada’s apprentice program. His clients range from 25 to 55 years of age, with a gender split of 65 per cent male and 35 per cent female.
“It’s a slower sport but it is a very demanding sport, one of precision and strategy. How you manage the time between shots is every bit as important as physically executing the shots themselves,” Trevor explains. “The game teaches you how to be patient with yourself and mentally prepared because there is no team to support you when you are down. So, you have to take what the course gives you and react one shot at a time.”
While there might not be a team to support you when you are down, there is a very strong social aspect to the game, and this seems to be one of the most alluring parts.
“My favourite part is the competition. I like going out with a group of guys and having a friendly match that includes some one-upmanship and ribbing. Really, it is all about the camaraderie,” says Nolan Matthias, co-founder of Mortgage360 and author of Golf Balls Don’t Float — 72 Life and Business Lessons from the Golf Course. Nolan began playing golf at the age of four at the Glencoe Golf and Country Club. By 17, he was playing competitively at an international level.
“The club ended up being like an extension of our family. In the summer I was dropped off at 7 AM and picked up at dusk. I often played up to 180 rounds per year. I learned how to be an adult long before I ever became one because of this. The club taught me how to introduce myself, create relationships, and spend time with people I didn’t really know,” Nolan explains.
“I also like the camaraderie of playing with friends and meeting new people,” says Rob Moore, who was introduced to the game by his brothers when he was 13 years old. Since retiring, Rob plays 70 to 80 games of golf a year at his local course, the Crown Isle Golf Club. As a relatively new resident of Vancouver Island, Rob finds the club has helped him to meet people more quickly. However, Rob doesn’t just play for camaraderie. He also likes the challenge and the variety of the game as well as the physical component.
“Each shot is unique – the lie, the weather, the location of the ball and the hole on the green are never exactly the same. If a course permits it, I will always walk rather than use a cart because it’s very good exercise,” he says.
Walking allows a player to really reap all the rewards of the game. The Norwegian Golf Federation’s recent research project revealed that a male golfer burns around 2,500 calories during an18-hole round, while female players burn approximately 1,500.
“As we age, staying physically and socially active is very important,” say Dianne and Kristy Hutton, co-owners and operators of Golfaround (www.golfaround.ca). “Spending four to five hours outside in the fresh air is great for our health and because golf courses are, for the most part, beautiful and abundant with nature, they can be very therapeutic.”
This mother and daughter duo founded Golfaround 23 years ago. As the female golf market began to expand, they wanted to offer women a league of they could call their own. So, Dianne and Kristy developed a comfortable environment that focuses on fun rather than the typical competitive, rule-orientated game. Golfaround offers a beginner program that includes a beginner league so new golfers can learn with other women of the same skill level.
“We feel that by reducing the intimidation factor, we also reduce stress levels and promote a sense of relaxation.”
The lineup of golfers also changes from week to week to ensure the league does not become cliquey or unfriendly. Dianne and Kristy also do their best to offer lessons at a variety of different price points so it is affordable for everyone, and also try to get discounted green fees.
Melissa Davis, who has been playing golf for five years, joined a women’s league a year after she picked up the game.
“The league has made playing regularly much easier and more enjoyable than when I wasn’t a member. I don’t have to find my own partners or arrange my own tee times. There are lessons available, and we play at over 12 golf courses in and around Edmonton,” says Melissa who, prior to playing, wasn’t sure if she would even enjoy the game.
“I hadn’t expected to enjoy golf as much as I do but after only a short time of playing, I was hooked. I love everything about it. I love the fun and camaraderie and the highs and the lows. I love being outside in the fresh air, and playing a variety of courses, especially the hilly ones, and the challenge of trying to improve in all the various aspects of the game. Since my focus is on the game, it’s easy to get exercise without evening realizing it. Swinging a golf club helps maintain my flexibility as well as my core and arm strength. Even pulling my golf bag for most rounds is a workout.” Melissa plays two to three times a week from May through October.
To quote Trevor, golf is a sport which mirrors life, because much like life, players need to constantly reassess their situation, manage their emotions, accept the things outside their control and move forward from there.
“Being a part of a small community can give your life so much purpose. Golf is a great place to meet new people, socialize, be active, and enjoy the outdoors, all of which offer an emotional upside,” he adds. There is science to back up Trevor’s words. A Swedish study by the Karolinska Institute found that golfers have a 40 per cent lower death rate, which corresponds to a five-year increase in life expectancy. Talk about time well spent!