'My Boobs Got in the Way of My Golf Swing'

Genelle Aldred writes about the joys of getting into a new hobby, even allowing it to become a bit of an obsession and the hurdles that could have stopped her in her tracks.

I’ve never had a hobby before. I’ve always been someone who enjoys working a little too much and until recently playing Candy Crush on my phone has been my idea of letting off steam. I did try knitting, but, it took me nine months to complete one scarf and by the time I was finished it was summer and too hot; not quite the adrenaline rush I was looking for.

So I took up golf. However, I’m pretty sure people saying: ‘that’s weird and random’ and ‘have you become a Tory?’ are not average reactions to others who, like me, play golf pretty well every second of my spare time.

Apparently I’m a natural talent at golf, which is a good job because taking it up aged 39 isn’t all that easy and there have been barriers to entry. You might look at me and think it’s because I’m a Black woman. Nope! It’s my boobs, and no one is talking enough about boobs and golf – I have searched on YouTube!

Let me tell you, building a swing around my body hasn’t been easy. The poor pro at my club when I asked him, so what do I do about these then?  Swings were built by men, for men. Of course with no major chest obstruction arms can be swung, straight across the body with lots of speed and wild abandon. And many professional sports women are endowed with athletic prowess and the bodies to match, so they can swing with a little more ease than those of us with the genetics that say firm hold sports bras only.

But, the pro-Craig Normansell finally came to me with a fix, which has been working well. I don’t want to give away his coaching secrets, but I am now in possession of a fairly solid swing. But with golf I’ve learned, you solve one problem, and another pops up true whack-a-mole style. As a newbie on the course, getting good is taking way longer than my patience, and I am now working on another part of my game – a bit like life really.

I will confess, golf doesn’t quite seem like a thrill-packed sport, but stick with me. I used to think my friends who played were ‘always’ at the golf course, or talking about it, or practising. But now know. Once you start, it’s addictive, and yes my friends now think the above about me. But, here’s why it’s reeled me in; I’m pretty competitive, and adulting doesn’t give you many opportunities to openly compete, as a woman all that stuff is mainly all underground and passive aggressive. But in golf, I played my first competition a couple of weeks ago, where you play to win, and I haven’t had that much adrenaline running through my body since reading the news on TV.

I didn’t even come first or second, or third. HOWEVER, it gave me quite the thrill and in this post-covid, rising cost of living world good, non-harmful thrills are hard to come by. You also live in the hope that you can better your score, and that gets you out there again and again! There are many duff shots, but when you strike the ball, and it goes flying through the air, or you sink a difficult putt, you feel like Tiger Woods (minus the crowds and the cash) but an endorphin rush just the same.

Golf is seen as a man’s game, specifically old men, businessmen and professional athletes. I promise you, this is changing and post lockdown more women have taken up the game and the golf community is actively welcoming more women and ethnic minorities. Of course, this changes the dynamics of a club, but honestly everyone seems into it. But getting into it is probably still because you know someone who already plays, consider me your person!

My journey into this obsession was about seven years in the making! When my mentors tried to get me to play, I went along to their club dinners, and it was all lovely.  I then did a gateway to golf course – at a different club that will remain nameless. It was a very different programme to the one I did recently at Finchley. For a start, the pro who was meant to be teaching us regaled his former glory days – over and over. We’d be shivering in the cold for 20 mins before we even picked up a club! After eight weeks I learned, nearly zero, I wanted to join the academy at my mentors’ club but I just hadn’t learned much except about one man’s lost hopes and dreams, so didn’t make the cut to join. I was also reading the news at ITV Central then and getting up in the middle of the night to get to work for 4:30 am on weekdays. The timing was less than ideal.

Fast forward to a post-covid world, living in a new area where I didn’t really know anyone and some serious covid lbs from the intense relationship with Deliveroo that I got into during lockdown. I needed a hobby, and the timing was perfect. Julia Regis had kept speaking to me about golf over the years and encouraged me again – she has also helped so many Black women get into the game.

Eventually after deciding now is the time, I arrived at the gateway lesson in my newly bought Slazenger windbreaker, the zip begging for mercy, it did in fact break later! What to wear was a big dilemma because not much was fitting from my last time around and I didn’t want to buy things if I wasn’t going to be good! Anyway, I went there looking vaguely golfy and had my first meeting with Craig, his assistant Chris and three other newbie golfers! We went through chipping, pitching, putting, bunkers, driving and I must have missed one week. Craig was direct and honest, but encouraging, the right mix for someone as resistant to being told what to do as me, but when we got on the course, things got very interesting. My first drive off the tee – at our final lesson – went really far and as someone who secretly loves the applause and praise I got from Craig and Chris I knew I would take it further.

Today, I write as a pre-Queenager, embarking on a hobby that will see me into my retirement. I hope to travel around the world with it as there are golf resorts everywhere. As our former Lady Captain said me to the other day: ‘ you have many golfing victories ahead of you.’ I hope so. I am grateful to have found something that I can have as that little pressure valve release in a world that is so serious. A game to master. A new social crowd to enjoy a little wine on the terrace with. A bit of nature to escape to when I don’t get that client booking, or celebrate when I do. A little bit of trash-talking banter when competing. Not to mention the 6kgs I’ve lost whilst walking for HOURS playing. The new friendships. A booby swing! Lots of laughs and a few tears. All I can say is I wish I did it sooner. Most of golf is innuendo, it’s all balls, holes, woods and the rest. So PLEASE take it with the cleanest of minds when I say, you should really start swinging too.

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