The resident goose keeps a close eye on Sunny's tee shot during a round a J.R. Golf Club near St. Albert.

Round, round, get around: A new spin on women’s golf

On a grey evening in April, the snow was falling onto the fairways at The Ranch while the clubhouse buzzed with the sounds of 100 or so women drinking wine and talking golf.

The Golfaround golf league for women, now in its 21st year, is the brainchild of  Calgary mother-daughter duo Dianne and Kristy Hutton. It started, Kristy told the assembled newcomers, with a “dirty dozen” golfing friends in Calgary for whom her newly retired mom was organizing tee times. Then someone suggested Di start organizing some lessons for women, and things just took off from there. The Edmonton chapter was started in 2004.

This year, more than 700 women golfers — 200 in Edmonton, 500 in Calgary — have joined the Golfaround ranks. I became one of them. And, just a few months in, it’s changing my whole view of the game.

I figure my golf skills peaked when I was about 27 and since then I haven’t gotten any better or worse. But I was very definitely losing interest.

Oh sure, it was always a fun vacation activity — we’ve hit the links from Mexico to California to Arizona, and from B.C. through to P.E.I. But when it came to golfing here in Edmonton, I was a whiz at finding reasons not to go. It was expensive. It took too long. I really needed to get the laundry done / weed the garden / read a book.

A recent study found the average golfer walks about 900 miles a year. Another study found golfers drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol a year. That means, on average, golfers get about 41 miles to the gallon.” — from a Golfaround newsletter

Last year, a couple of friends from work joined Golfaround, and I was intrigued by their tales. They hadn’t struck me as being gung-ho golfers but both were inordinately enthused about this league. So when my circumstances — by which I mean a sudden lack of employment — put a whole lot of extra time on my hands, I thanked the golf gods, packed up my excuses and signed up.

As Kristy told us during our orientation night at The Ranch, Golfaround aims to be a “fun” league that gives its members many of the same benefits that club-based leagues provide — regular tee times, tournaments, travel and social functions.

Me with Golfarounders (and former colleagues at the Journal) Barb and Lyn, following our first game of the year at Victoria Golf Course.
Me with Golfarounders (and former colleagues at the Journal) Barb and Lyn, following our first game of the year at Victoria Golf Course.

Every Golfaround member must also sign up for a lesson package, which range from “what is a tee-box” lessons for beginners to spring tune-up sessions for seasoned golfers. As Kristy said, the league’s goal is to have fun on the course — “but it’s a lot funner when you can actually hit the ball.”

It’s true.

My Golfaround-organized lessons (two thumbs up for instructors James and Corbin at Jagare Ridge) are already changing how I think about the game and hit the ball.

Plus I’ve discovered that an evening, nine-hole round is absolutely lovely at this time of year. It’s even better when done in the company of women who are easy-going, interesting, funny, supportive and more likely than not to hit the lounge for a drink afterwards.

Oh, sweetheart. After six glasses, we start counting in bottles.” — Golfaround member Laurette during a recent round of post-game socializing 

Golfaround also stresses the importance of knowing proper golf course etiquette, playing “ready golf” and picking up your ball at double par to keep the pace up.

Keeping score, on the other hand, is entirely optional; for some members, the most important statistic is how many times the beer cart makes an appearance. Both Kristy and Dianne are quick to say they are not good golfers — a recent newsletter congratulated Dianne who “has always wanted to break 100 and finally after 20 years she got 49 (on nine holes) so there is still hope” — and their attitude is contagious.

On June 2, I saw the deer-in-the-headlights panic on the face of a young member about to play her first ever game at J.R. Golf Club. One week later, she was hitting with confidence at Legends.

That doesn’t happen without a great deal support from friendly folk who won’t judge when you duff it and who will cheer like mad when you succeed.

Lyn lines up her putt at Twin Willows golf course on a breezy evening in May.
Lyn lines up her putt at Twin Willows golf course on a breezy evening in May.

Putting the ‘around’ in Golfaround

Since joining the league, I’ve been chatting with other members about Golfaround and what they like about it. Pretty much everyone says the same thing: We get to play so many different courses.

During any given week in Edmonton between early May and Labour Day, there will be six blocks of tee times — one daytime round and five evening nine-hole rounds on as many as six different courses — that are set aside for the various Golfaround leagues (Day, Evening Beginner and Evening). Members sign up in advance for games assigned to their league, but can also request to play with the other leagues as well. More the merrier, right?

Are you going to blog about Golfaround? If you write about me, just say ‘Tracy, not her real name.’ “ — Golfaround member Tracy (her real name) during the April orientation.

Golfaround member Sunny says she golfs up to five times a week — once with the Victoria ladies league to which she belongs, and the rest with Golfaround. With an optimistic personality that befits her name, Sunny also says — with a giggle — that she believes all this golf will one day lead her into the LPGA.

Lyn and I at the April Golfaround orientation and in June after a round at Legends.
Lyn and I at the April Golfaround orientation and in June after a round at Legends.

In the Edmonton area, there are 29 golf courses that have opened their doors to the Golfaround league, many of which I had never played at or even heard of before.

This year, Dan and I have tackled a summertime project that we’re calling “Drive Time,” which combined golf and road trips in search of Alberta’s hidden gems and we’ll write about what we find. In the same spirit, I’ll write about some of the nine-hole tracks that we’ll be hitting with our Golfaround league.


Related from around the web
Dianne Hutton penned a series of posts on the Golfaround website which chronicle the program’s journey from its inception, its growth and its many, many golf trips. They’re a fun read, and no one tells a story like Dianne. Enjoy.

• The Golfaround Chronicles: 1997 – 1999
• The Golfaround Chronicles: 2000 – 2001
The Golfaround Chronicles: 2000 – 2003
The Golfaround Chronicles: 2004 – 2005
The Golfaround Chronicles: 2006 – 2007
The Golfaround Chronicles: 2008 – 2009
The Golfaround Chronicles: 2010 – 2011
The Golfaround Chronicles: 2012 – 2013
The Golfaround Chronicles: 2014 – 2015

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