Handicapped by Handicaps: Understanding Golf Culture 

Golf culture. Can someone please explain this to me?

When winter thaws, and spring begins to transform branches into buds, another metamorphosis happens in the workplace. My male co-workers adopt a new language, their conversations turn from fantasy football into a whole new dialect. Just when I think I’ll be able to hack it and we can all focus on common goals like stocks and mergers and earnings, it happens. It’s golf season. 

I didn’t grow up in this world. My parents went food shopping and visited our elderly family members on the weekends. The kids were schlepped around to wherever the minivan was taking us. There were no hobbies, no passions, and certainly no socializing. 

Now as a mother with my own children in tow, we don’t belong to the local country club like some of our friends and neighbors. Our lack of free time and our struggle to survive even as a dual income family simply doesn’t make it an economical investment. Don’t get me wrong, Gull enjoys golf and is actually pretty good in a Happy Gillmore sorta way. But he’s not willing to spend hours away from his family to keep up his game. 

So in addition to gender, religion, and any of the other aspects that make me an outsider in my everyday life, golf culture is yet another micro-civilization I simply don’t relate to in the workplace. And it’s not just that I don’t spend an occasional afternoon on the course playing with the guys (and the clients), it’s positively pervasive. 

Don’t be fooled. Golf isn’t just a sport, it’s a way of life. It’s a look. Take a peek at the striped polos your co-workers sport on casual Friday- there’s probably a little logo over the heart advertising their course or the one they played with your Boss last week. There are embroidered belts that advertise similar trademarks, and you can always spot a golfer by his lack of socks with his chinos and loafers all summer long. 

It doesn’t matter how talented you are as a salesperson or how quantitative your mind may be. If you’re a scratch golfer, you have instant street cred- or perhaps it should be course cred in this case. Good golfers get the client meetings that people like me have been petitioning for for years, and they get to network over beers and sport. If you belong to a well known club or won a round at a high profile course from a charity auction, clients will be knocking down your door to spend time with you. I have no idea how productive these “meetings” are, but I know I must be missing out on something.

Hit em straight this weekend! That’s the typical send off on a summer Friday afternoon. Any idle talk during summer months seems to focus on how many holes Joe or Jim or John got in after dinner, or before breakfast, or heck – all day. There are terms I have yet to officially google like what’s the difference between a birdie and an eagle, and I know member-guest is a noun but I can only guess that it’s pretty self-explanatory and some sort of event. The conversations about drivers, irons, putters, chippers, and wedges may sound like beauty products and shoes, but when they discuss what’s in their bags, they don’t mean their pocketbooks! 

Every story takes place on either the front nine or the back nine. Every hearty laugh starts with how many beers had been drunk before something amazing or memorable or simply hilarious happened. I often find myself holding down the fort while Tommy or Timmy or Billy leave early for a round of golf with a customer. My boss takes each subordinate to his club and buys them a shirt, while I get a meeting in the frigid corporate office over watered down Starbucks iced coffee. 

I know I am a victim by choice, and I’ve even gone as far to buy clubs and take lessons. I could fake it until I make it. But I pride myself on being real, authentic. I don’t want to have to conform to this culture I have never known, and I am not sure I’d really want to be baptized into this world of mulligans and double bogeys and in-office simulated practice swings. After all these years, golf culture is something I still struggle to understand, and I have a feeling I’ll always be stuck in the rough when it comes to this frustrating part of the business world. 


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