Money talks, and clubs throughout the city are starting to listen: Women want their golf.

SOME MEN PHYSICALLY CRINGE AT THE thought of a woman playing golf. They may say they’re socially evolved, but they don’t want women on their sacred fairways. They say we play too slow, we take too long over our shots, and we talk too much.

But that’s just a smoke screen. The truth is, guys want to be guys with guys. I’ve played behind men who have zig-zagged from tee to green, played up the wrong fairway, or 8-putted on a par-3. Nobody likes mat. Women do play a different game. Men compare their long drives while women compare their short game shots, but in die end it’s all the same- me lowest score wins.

Country club golf has slowly taken a more female-friendly attitude, but there’s a long way to go. Most course designers have shortened the hole but haven’t paid much attention to shot making, which is the core of the women’s game. Red tee boxes have been haphazardly added, making no adjustment to the landing area, so women are often penalized after a good tee shot. Female course designers are a rarity, and only a handful of women are involved in course management.

PATRICIA DIXON HEARS COMPLAINTS LIKE this every day. Six years ago, she opened “Empowered Women’s Golf,” a retail store marketing to the female game. Dixon sells everything a woman needs to start playing golf, all with an attitude that encourages women to take charge. Apparently it’s working: There are now five franchise stores nationwide. “I find the situation surrounding women playing the game has actually gotten a little better, especially for women who have been playing for a while,” she says. “The problem now is that players new to the game, including lots of corporate women, are appalled at what exists in the golf world. Married women who take up golf find they can’t play with their husbands on weekend mornings. So even though some restrictions have changed, the fact that more women are playing is accentuating the negatives.”

Rusty Locke, head pro at The Shores Country Club, has been around women’s golf for 15 years. He was responsible for starting a successful ladies’ golf association at Mesquite Municipal. “I’ve found that the skill level of women overall is so much better now,” he says. “So we have adjusted to that by providing tournaments and play days to make it easier for our female players to find and compete with women at their playing level. We have changed our programs to include customized skill programs for women and women-specific free clinics.”

In the end, it’s money that talks, and golf courses are finding that il pays to make their facilities more female-friendly. Clubhouses have expanded inventories of ladies’ clubs, clothes, and equipment. Some member clubs have loosened their weekend tee-time policies to allow women to play and even have a beer in the 19th hole.

The golf course is the last remaining boys’ club-even the Elks let women join.Now it’s time to break down the barriers. So ladies, put away those silly pink balls, don’t pay any attention to the “Hooter’s Tour,” and play it one ball at a time at courses that welcome you as members and respect you as players. Here’s how to find the course that’s right for you.

Attitude of the club. Do they actively pursue your business? After your initial call, did they invite you to play a round? Did they make a follow-up phone call?

Talk to as many people as possible. Get a membership directory and see how many members are women. Check the roster for women in management-a good indicator that the club is dedicated to involving women. Have a conversation with the head pro. Spend time in the 19th hole chatting with regulars to get a sense of the golf community.

Check the course for women’s payability. Tee boxes should be positioned so that you have a reasonable shot to reach the green in regulation. Avoid courses where the design limits your play, Back, middle, and forward lees should be based on handicap and skill, not gender.

Locker Rooms. Women make up only 24 percent of total golfers, so it’s rare to find equal facilities. Make sure the club has facilities that are appropriate for women. Some clubs provide the bare necessities such as soap and towels. After 18 holes in 103-degree heat, it’s nice to shower in a locker room that provides amenities like shampoo, moisturizer, and hairspray. Most men return from a round to find their shoes shined.

? Look for Facilities with female teaching pros. It shows that the club management wants to cater to women clients.

Check out the pro shop. Does it carry an equitable selection of clubs, clothes, and equipment in general? No woman wants to rent clubs designed for John Daly.

Is theclubkid-friendly?Aclub with child-care is rare, but it’s worm inquiring about.

Read the club policies. Do they limit tee-time access? If you’re married, make sure that a family membership allows you to play with your husband on weekends. Can you use the clubhouse? (It’s hard to believe that present-day courses allow women to join and play, but women have to send male caddies into the clubhouse for refreshments.)

Room to learn. Ask about the presence of leagues, clinics and tournaments, and golf school for women, as well as any opportunities to learn or compete with other women.


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