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Breaking Down Barriers

Whatever else can be said about golf, there is no doubt that over the years it has come to be seen as something of a rich man’s sport. While the same accusation is leveled at tennis periodically, the fact of the matter is that any two children with a few dollars in their pocket can buy a racket each and a few tennis balls, draw a line across some sidewalk and play a game. Golf equipment has traditionally been more expensive to buy, and it is hard to recreate a proper golf course in your back yard, so there has been limited opportunity for kids from lower-income families to make a start in golf.

Increasingly, in order to make the game of golf more equal, there have been adaptations made to increase its accessibility. Among these adaptations have been simpler courses in less well-off areas with more affordable memberships. It is now possible to buy discount golf clubs which serve perfectly well for beginners, and slowly but surely the class gap in golf is narrowing. Where once it was seen as a rich white man’s sport, the presence of stars such as Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie (whatever their class background) has convinced people that you don’t need to be from old money, or male, to play.

Discount golf is obviously not open to as many possibilities as the wider game. The more money you have the better courses you can afford to play. But the chance for young working-class players with natural talent to make an impact in professional golf is there now, where it wasn’t before.

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It’s Not Just For Guys

It may not be strictly accurate to refer to golf as a “macho” sport – because it is not – but there is no doubt that up until very recently it was seen as largely an exclusively male one. It was not that long ago that the Augusta National Golf Club refused admission to women – although it no longer has a gender bar on joining it does have women on the waiting list to join, and when spaces become available it is expected that they will join. This has not helped the reputation of golf as a sport of equal opportunities, but the truth of the matter is that ladies’ golf is becoming increasingly popular.

The popularity of golf among ladies has increased with a number of marketable personalities emerging on the scene of women’s professional golf. Most notably Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie have raised the interest in ladies’ golf and have become top sports stars in their own right. Although typically women play shorter holes than men (the tee area is generally moved forward by a set distance for women’s matches), the fact that golf is not entirely a “power game” has meant that women can compete with men in the same tournaments.

While ladies’ golf remains in the shadow of the men’s game commercially and in terms of publicity, there can be no denying that it has made great advances in recent years, and this has led to an increase in its popularity among amateur female players too. This is set to change the makeup of club memberships as time goes on – with other results which remain to be seen.

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It’s A Golf Course, Not A Catwalk

There is a certain standard which is expected from a golfer and their clothing on course. It is defined by most people as “appalling”, and often takes the form of the most disgusting pastel-shade t-shirts along with unacceptable stay-pressed slacks and a sun visor to complete the set. Indeed the professional golfer Ian Poulter has gained a reputation for out-doing himself every time he takes to the course in a marginally more hideous get-up than the last time. The question has to be asked. Must golf clothing make you look like you get dressed in the dark?

The answer to this question is “no”, but golfers have for many years had a reputation for dressing like idiots and it would be unfair to expect them to suddenly become haute couture models. The best you can ask for from golf clothing is that it be comfortable enough to allow you to get the best out of your swing, while being adaptable enough to deal with changing temperatures outdoors and not so bright that it puts off your fellow players. If you can touch all those bases, then it is acceptable to wear pink trousers.

When looking for golf clothing, you essentially want a shirt or jumper that is tight enough to not dangle and get in the way while being loose enough to not restrict your swing. You want trousers that will not make it uncomfortable to adopt a putting stance and shoes which do not mark the green for other putters. If you tick those boxes then there is no real limitation on what you should wear.

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Show Them You Have Balls

Golf is a sport which looks a lot easier than it is. There is plenty of skepticism about the athletic abilities of professional golfers – and that has not been without reason in some cases – but the truth is that if you are going to spend four days of 50 weeks every year walking several miles and contorting your body into an unnatural position over a hundred times each day (when practise is taken into account) then you’d better be pretty limber. You can make the sport a little easier, though, by picking the right equipment. A good set of golf balls will make it a lot easier on you.

Golf balls are reasonably simple things. They are dimpled plastic on the outside, wrapped around a rubber center, and that is pretty much it. But the difference between the balls you use and the ones that are used in championship tournaments would surprise you. There are now, on the market, sets of golf balls for beginners, which do what they can to correct the kind of spin and slice that is common in a novice golfer’s shots. They may be a worthwhile investment.

Getting off a good shot makes you more disposed towards continuing a golf game. There are few amateurs (or professionals, come to that) who have not stormed off course in a huff after the first few shots of the day went into water, sand, long grass and trees. Picking the right golf balls can make this a less frequent occurrence.

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