My feelings towards golf have been coloured by memories of trailing my father around a sodden golf course while being instructed in the dark art of how to propel, or not, a small ball the size of an egg into a hole the size of tea cup somewhere in the middle distance. Thirty odd years later, I can still hear the anti aircraft fire of his disapproval tutting in my ear as I practiced unintentional air golf and missed the ball, time and time again. So, not your natural golfer then, and thatÕs before being even more put off by the questionable clothing Š women my size should definitely not wear tweed unless they want to look like the sort of gals who breed Staffordshire Bull Terriers in their spare time, and IÕd rather be dead than wear diamond pattered, Val Doonican sweaters.
Nevertheless, I must have teeing off on the wrong fairway because, apparently, golf is the new yoga. WhatÕs more Š golf is the ideal sport for the novice. You donÕt have to be particularly fit, toned or athletic to take it up. Twice as many women than men are taking up the game and celebrities such as torch song diva Celine Dion, Hollywood actress Catherine Zeta Jones and supermodel Cindy Crawford are all keen golfers. And you can forget looking like a cross dressing Eat European shot-putter, golfers no longer have to dress down to drive up the course. Fashionistas can jump on the golf buggy, with designer clothes by Burberry, Prada and even La Perla. Burberry I can understand Š I mean in golf youÕre nothing if you donÕt own a pair of tartan trews, preferably in navy blue and bottle green, but do you really mean to tell me they are wearing lacy La Perla golfing thongs underneath? WouldnÕt they interfere with your swing?
Well it depends what you mean by swinging. One of my friends, a gŠstring thin thirty-something woman, who has been dragging her golf clubs around from continent to continent since taking up the sport five years ago, also maintains that it is a great way to meet men. DonÕt bother joining a singles club Š join a golf club she urges. All the men are already vetted and invariably both professional and solvent. Yes, and over fifty, I would have thought. What else to Celine et al have in common? They are all, or have been, married to old guys: Celine to her craggy, Svengali manager Rene, Catherine to fifty-something Michael Douglas and Cindy, once upon a time, to Richard Gere, 23 years her senior.
Aha - but rich old guys. Says my friend. Apparently a common chat up line on the driving range is: ŅWould you like to finish off my bucket.Ó Which is a polite way of asking if youÕd like to play with his balls. And think of all that up close and personal instruction - being enfolded by a man standing behind you with his arms around your club. Lovely Š even if he does look like a model off a knitting pattern.
Further encouraged by another friendÕs assertion that her business has improved fourfold since she took up golf and began playing with prospective business partners, and it all starts to look a bit more alluring. The fairway is the outdoors equivalent of the executive washroom Š where men traditionally escape from women to bond and do business in an oestrogen free environment. ThatÕs surely a good enough reason to learn the golferÕs handshake and follow them out there. Think of it Š she said Š youÕre out on the golf course for at least two hours without any interruptions Š no mobile phones, no waiters, no distractions, and youÕve already established that you have something in common Š even if itÕs just a love of golf and Gore-tex underwear. And nothing wipes a patronising smile of a manÕs face like a good golf swing.
However, there is still the problem of hitting the damn ball. The minute a man gets on the golf course heÕs whacking away like Russell Crowe in a bar room brawl. Women have a finer touch and are much more tentative, at least in the beginning. However, since 50% of the game is putting, involving the sort of hand eye coordination at which women excel and 70% of the game involves short chipping shots, its easy to see that women can play well even without a thumping drive.
At places such as Turnbury Golf Course in Scotland, beginners can learn the game back to front on a specially constructed training course. Ideal for fully paid up bad-at-sports, ball-missing veterans, like myself, you start with putting, move on to chipping, and only when you are already confident do you learn the full swing. After two days or instruction, just like Cinderella, I did get to the ball. Now all I need is the Golfing Prince to match.