I always look forward to the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The whirlwind of December is winding down, and I actually enjoy the end-of-the-year wrap-ups, lists, and countdowns. There’s comfort in the routine of reminiscing on the past 12 months and coming up with a long list of resolutions that I’ll adhere to until about March or so.
Earlier this week, as I reflected on 2021, I realized it’s been more than a year since I played a non-pregnant round of golf. I found out I was expecting my fourth kid in early February, and given my October due date, I was determined to keep playing through the summer.
I’m lucky to have had uncomplicated pregnancies, so in spring and early summer, not much changed for me on the golf course. Walking 18 was great exercise when temperatures were cool. In May, I played 54 holes in two days at The Fried Egg’s Steam Shovel event at Lawsonia Links. As one of a few women there and definitely the only pregnant one, my nerves were high beforehand. The welcome and lack of judgment I received will be something I’ll remember for a very long time.
Midsummer is when things slowed down. Instead of waiting on the governing bodies to roll back equipment, I took matters into my own hands. My body rolled itself back. My speed and balance were gone; my stock 7-iron became an all-out 4-iron; my misses off the tee were laughably wayward.
Yes, pregnancy is beautiful and amazing, but gradually losing your athleticism and mobility is a harsh reality check. While I’m only 35, my nurses and doctor kept referring to my pregnancy as “geriatric.” By the end of the summer, I saw why. I struggled to pick the ball up out of the hole during one of my last rounds.
Lowering my expectations was a tough pill to swallow. Even though I rarely practice, I’ve been known to take my (sometimes) weekly rounds a bit too seriously. But here’s something that helped: focusing on 100 yards and in. This isn’t earth-shattering advice, and I’m not the first to suggest it, but putting more energy into my short game took some pressure off me physically. Plus, it gave me a boost of confidence that I could scramble my way to decent scores in spite of hitting every other drive sideways.
I also moved up to the front tees, which gave me a different perspective on a course I’d played hundreds of times. In some ways, this was fun; in other ways, not so much. Although the course was shorter for me, I still found some tee shots and approaches nearly impossible to navigate. It’s discouraging to dread playing from tees that were supposedly built with your gender in mind.
Sara Mess, who has worked for Renaissance Golf Design, described this specific frustration when she was on The Fried Egg Podcast a few months ago: “The forward tees just end up in such dumb places on most courses… on the inside of the dogleg, or you have this tiny little tee that’s angled in the wrong direction. So many times they just seem like an afterthought, and it’s such a missed opportunity. If someone hits it more like 180 yards, they end up with an extremely narrow place to land the ball because you’re going through a dogleg or you’ve got some sort of hazard in a really awkward place.”
I found out this summer that Sara was, unfortunately, right on the money.
As the end of days (more commonly known as the third trimester) approached, I started strapping my carry bag into a golf cart. I kept playing 18-hole rounds, albeit less frequently than usual. From past pregnancies, I knew the benefits of movement and staying active would pay off in postpartum recovery.
But sometimes I just wanted to stop. If you think clothing options for women golfers are sparse, try finding maternity golf clothes. “Few and far between” would be an understatement. My only option was a dress I had just happened to buy a couple sizes big. The group I regularly played with claimed they wouldn’t recognize me after the baby because I wouldn’t be wearing “the dress.”
Summer dragged on. In August, the heat and humidity prevented me from playing for a few weeks. I used the Labor Day scramble as a tune-up for the club championship. It was a bit of a struggle, but I did enjoy the horrified looks I got from a few octogenarians when I joked about the possibility of going into labor on Labor Day. Double takes were becoming a normal sight in my daily life. More than a few members I barely knew cautiously asked me when I was due.
I figured I should at least try to defend my club championship wins from the past two years. (This is no valiant achievement, really. There’s normally a single-digit turnout and no one from my generation in the field.) But this year’s championship was pushed back—twice!—and it ended up falling right around my due date. There was no way I could play nine holes by then, much less back-to-back days of 18. A group-text conspiracy thread was created to investigate who had decided to take me out of the running by moving the tournament. I find these petty, Ladies-Day-group dramas endlessly entertaining. Most of them come to nothing, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an asterisk graffitied on the plaque hanging in the hallway.
As it turned out, the Labor Day scramble was the end of my 2021 golf season. It was more enjoyable and rewarding than I could have imagined. As I waddled around with my clubs in tow, I did detect a few sneers, but those were outnumbered by encouraging comments on how great it was that I was still out there. A little bad mixed in with a lot of good—which is, come to think of it, my general experience of golf over the past 30 years.
While I look forward to never wearing “the dress” again, I won’t forget what I learned in 2021. Next year, I will fully appreciate the ability to walk without my feet rebelling against me. And I’ll continue playing from a variety of tees and prioritizing my 100-yards-and-in game. I may even take out my half set of old blades on occasion because now, more than ever, I understand that fun golf isn’t all about low-scoring golf.
If you’re making your own golf resolutions for the New Year, feel free to borrow mine. I’ve done the research for you, after all. You don’t even have to play nine months of pregnant golf.