Despite the last gasps of warm weather lulling me into believing summer is not over, I am delighted by splashes of deep red, gold, and bright orange that confirm that it is. It’s been a summer of altered routines, unfamiliar experiences, and prickly moments.
During the long winter, I succumbed to a nagging ponder about the role and station of golf in my summer regime and joined a club. Encouraged and emboldened by friends and my husband, I hoped for an easy and enjoyable transition into the picturesque and exclusive golf circle. Upon joining, I was welcomed by the Ladies Day Committee head who encouraged me to sign up for the weekly women’s events. While I felt anxious about participating, I was assured that the goal of the afternoon was to have fun and socialize over dinner afterwards.
To help initiate the inexperienced there were clinics held ahead of the afternoon 18-hole rounds. Each week there were presentations on golf etiquette and rules. I learned that the colour of the short wooden stakes at the edge of the fairways determine whether an errant ball should be retrieved or replaced. While I was always keen to find my ball, the steep gullies and poison ivy made rappelling over the edge of the manicured grass treacherous. I was advised that if the ball is to be replaced, there are two club lengths to be measured, multiple definitions of an “unplayable lie” and then a process to accurately count the imaginary shots necessary to get the little white orb back into play.
During the Tuesday afternoon rounds I was tutored by the experienced members on where to stand, how to pick up and replace the ball on the green (between the thumb and index finger), and that a “gimme” when putting may be granted if the ball is 16 inches or less from the cup.
I signed up each week – intending to make new friends and find my posse of like-minded golfers. I’m hard wired to be playful, seek connection and treat sporting activities as a gentle mix of challenge and socialization. My joy and satisfaction in sports comes from comradery, banter, and the physical task.
For much of my adult life I experienced an edge of competitiveness in the roles and activities that filled my days. I was challenged by gender bias in the workplace, challenged by motherhood judgements in a neighbourhood of stay-at-home moms, and I challenged myself to have a voice and practice self care. As a teenager I was a sprinter. I knew the bile at the back of the throat, the racing heart and the invisible barrier between each competitor as we knelt in the starting blocks.
I want none of the sharp elbows of rivalry pressing into me at this stage of my life.
The season progressed — my game yielding scarce moments of promise. I realized that many women golfed several days a week. They displayed a drive and passion for the game that so far had eluded me. I envied their singleness of purpose.
By August, I struggled with stress and disappointment, knowing that deciding to play 18 holes of golf meant I was unchoosing my family, my work, my volunteer commitments, my writing, and time with non-golfing friends. And I missed my paddleboard. I mentioned to my wise and pragmatic daughter that I was struggling – feeling surprised by the serious and disciplined energy and intention of the women. The time commitment to become competent was overwhelming to me. After a golf round I was arriving home exhausted and heavy spirited.
What did you expect – people pay a lot of money to belong to that Club – of course they’re going to take it seriously. Her perspective was true and fair.
I’ve just finished a book about Dharma. There are many definitions of the word – I prefer to think of it as my true nature and the path to being my authentic self. It takes into account my peculiarities, disposition, and talents. The author asked me to reflect on past choices, moments of joy and deep connection, and times of discontent and stress. What was I doing, not doing, wishing I was doing?
And so, as the season wound down and the golf clubs were retired to the basement, it was time for an emotional and logistical audit. It meant thinking deeply and honestly about my motivations, needs and ego – the stickiness of opting out of social norms and privileges, the prickliness of declaring interests and intentions, the rawness of the fear beneath the truth. I had made a decision that steered me far from my Dharma. My wanting and ego told me that I could integrate comfortably into the culture and character of a prestigious golf club. My experience suggested that I was better suited to a weekly casual nine holes at my favourite public course.
I am relieved and emboldened by my decision to resign my membership. I will continue my pursuit of the pin in the whack and chat league. I am regaining my time and variety of commitments. I am choosing to honour my needs and who I am. This is my life’s work.