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By Nancy Berkley



Here’s a question I am often asked by non-golfers:  “How long will it take me to learn to play golf well enough so that I won’t embarrass myself playing in my corporate golf outing?”

I decided to pose that very question to professional golf instructors.   I told them to assume a woman of average athletic ability and reminded them that the question was very specific.  All that mattered, I stressed, was the time it took to get such a woman participating in and enjoying her firm’s event – without embarrassment.


From the results of my interviews, backed by my own experience teaching women about golf, here’s the surprising answer:  Thirty-six hours.  The time is divided among three general categories of learning, and it’s best to rotate among them. 


Golf Protocol and Etiquette 12 hours:  Plan on 12 hours of instruction concerning golf’s written and unwritten rules (especially as these apply to women golfers) including golf terminology, etiquette, scoring and tournament formats.   My favorite book with protocol basics is Naked on the First Tee.   In addition to reading, you must include time on the course itself.   After a few lessons on the lesson tee, take a playing lesson from an instructor or go out with a good friend, and say “I am not interested in how I hit the ball.  Just teach me the golf culture for now.   Where do I stand on the tee box?  Can I move my ball?  How do I mark my ball on the green?  When can I just pick up my ball?” 


You may rightfully wonder why Golf Protocol comes before the next category: How to Hit the Ball.  But every instructor interviewed emphasized that golf is not played on the practice range or lesson tee.  It’s played on a real golf course, and golfing confidence -- especially for women -- comes from knowing what to expect out there.  I believe that five on-course playing experiences (begin with just a few holes each time) are all that it will take to overcome the natural intimidation most women feel when they begin learning the game.

How to Hit the Ball 12 hours:  Plan on at least 12 hours of professional, supervised instruction on how to putt, how to chip and pitch onto the green, how to hit fairway woods and irons, a little bit about sand bunkers,  and (finally) how to hit off the tee.  Many golf clubs offer a series of well-priced novice golf lessons.  Call your local club – especially municipal facilities and even golf ranges.  Also look to see if your community has a chapter of the Executive Women’s Golf Association (the EWGA).  For maximum efficiency, if price is not the prime consideration, take private lessons from a professional.  If your first few lessons are not going well, consider changing instructors.  There may not be anything wrong with you – you just need a different teaching approach.  And there are many!  

Notice that putting comes first and the full swing tee shot is last.  That’s not the way all teachers approach the game.  But starting with putting makes sense.  Many corporate outings are a scramble format – a team event – and being able to sink a put is equally important as driving well off the tee. 

Most of the How to Hit the Ball lessons will be on a teaching tee or practice range.   But your instructor may suggest a “playing lesson” on the golf course and combine some golf etiquette along with technical golf swing instruction.

USE THE INTERNET FOR LESSONS.  There are many, many lessons on the internet.  There are two great website with excellent video instruction  www.lpgawomensnetwork.com and  www.womensgolf.com.  Also use search features on the web such as "bunker lesson".   There is no "one" way that fits everyone's learning style, brain and physical abilities.  It doesn't matter -- golf is fun and healthy and can be played with handicaps.  Just get started.  

At-home Drills and Reading 12 hours:  Plan on an additional 12 hours practicing golf drills at home and reading about golf.  Many drills involve practicing a particular part of the game -- like putting, but others help you build up new golf muscles.      Every instructor interviewed mentioned the importance of practice drills.  I highly recommend reading Debbie Steinbach’s books:  Venus on the Fairway and Venus on the Fringe.  And start reading Golf For women magazine and their website www.golfforwomen.com. 


“OK!   I can find the 36 hours.  How do I get started?”

If you’ve decided you have 36 hours to invest in your corporate outing, then the next question is: “Where do I go for lessons?”   You have several choices. 


You can travel to a destination golf school often located at a vacation spot and invest the 36 hours in an intensive three-day program or a more relaxed five-day program.  But, remember, if you don’t play and/or take additional lessons when you get home, you may forget what you’ve learned by the time the day of your corporate outing comes around. 


Or, you can find a local golf instructor.   An advantage of a local teacher is that you can space your formal instruction over a month or two and practice and read between lessons.  Since actual golf course experience is so essential, it’s ideal if your local teacher provides access to a nearby golf course.


If you have been passing up corporate and business golf invitations, think again about making the 36-hour commitment.   The return is high and the risk is low.  With good instruction and some homework, you will be able to hold your own in most corporate golf outings.   What’s more, you are almost guaranteed to have fun.   Whether your goal is short term or long term, it’s a great investment in a great game.   One last piece of advice:  Manage your expectations.  With 36 hours behind you, don’t expect to hit every shot well (and sometimes you may even “whiff” or miss the ball entirely).  But, stay cool and remember:  This is just the beginning of your life as a golfer.  



Nancy Berkley is a golf industry expert.  As an experienced golfer and a former teacher, corporate lawyer and executive, she established The Woman’s Only Guide™ to Golf, and teaches women golfers about the written -- and unwritten -- rules of golf along with the “insider tips” that help new women golfers feel more comfortable on the course.