Michelle L. Smith

Freelance Writer, Novelist, Humorist

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Golf sisters, unite and step up to the tee at the club - any club

So you've been bitten by the golf bug, and now you're thinking about joining a club. But you're reluctant to do so for one or more of the following reasons:

-You're of the opinion that golf clubs cater to cigar-toting men who flirt with cart girls.
-Your last 18-hole score was larger than the yardage of your average drive.
-You're not the "country club type."
-Membership costs too much.

If any of these reasons apply, joining a club might, in fact, be the best thing you can do.

First off, there's a sisterhood among women that understands the ramifications of venturing into a world that admittedly still caters pretty much to men. However, I've been a member at both private and public golf venues and have found that club membership provides a wonderful opportunity to join a women's league and meet a lot of nice folks.

If you're interested in a co-ed experience, you're probably better off playing a daily-fee course where, more than likely, you'll end up paired with men. But if you want to golf with women who appreciate the game and enjoy friendly competition, any of the following club memberships should work. Some may have minimum skill level (index) requirements, but most won't. In fact, if you're courteous, play in a timely fashion, and can keep an accurate score, you can expect to fit in anywhere.

The USGA lists three types of licensed clubs - the first, connected with a golf course (public or private) where rounds are played regularly by the members; the second, where the members have a prior connection such as through business, a sorority, or social club; the third, where members are recruited publicly, such as through the internet.

But for women looking for a club to join, I'd break down that list a bit further.

Private clubs can be expensive, but in these economic times, incentives to drive membership abound. These clubs need steady income to keep operations running, so many are discounting stiff initiation fees to bring in new members willing to pay those monthly dues. Private clubs expect a certain level of decorum from members, and rules usually include strict cell phone policies and dress codes. At some clubs you may find yourself in the company of well-heeled women sporting diamond Rolexes and couture golf apparel. At others, comfortable resort attire is the norm.

Benefits of joining a private club may include:

-Well-maintained golf course.
-Top-notch service.
-Excellent practice facilities.
-Access to teaching professionals.
-Organized member tournaments.
-Upscale networking venue.
-Access to other recreational amenities and member social events.

Semi-private clubs offer membership at courses that are also open to public play. An initiation fee may be required, but the service level is likely better than that at a public course. Priority tee times are usually provided, and many amenities found at private clubs are available at semi-private clubs. However, you play the same course open to nonmembers who may not feel as obligated as someone who pays monthly dues to fill divots and repair ball marks.

If a private or semi-private club is not an option, joining a women's league or club hosted by a public course may be the choice for you. Women from a particular region come together for a weekly game and play for a reduced green fee that may include a golf cart. A handbook of rules, games and tournaments is usually provided. And a board of elected members runs the club - just the place for you executive, controlling types. Dining and pro shop discounts are often extended by the course.

Those looking for a low-cost alternative to joining a golf club might find an Internet club makes sense. The Northern California Golf Association (NCGA), for example, offers an eClub membership that entitles you to all NCGA member benefits, including discounted green fees, members-only outings, complimentary clinics, and an official handicap index.

And for commitment phobes, Meetup.org facilitates social golf among women and men golfers of all abilities and backgrounds, generally without having to pay dues, attend meetings or carry an official index. By going online, you can research Meetup clubs in your area.

Whether a golf club membership makes economical sense depends on green fees at local public courses and how often you play. But whether it makes sense for you may also depend on to what degree you've got the bug. If you'd like a regular game with like-minded sisters on the links, heed the call to the tee.

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