By Maru León Griffin
If you told me 20 years ago that I’d one day co-own a golf course in Vermont and would learn to love this game I rejected as a girl growing up in Venezuela — well, I would have laughed or maybe cried!
How did this happen?
It all started at the country club my family belonged to in Caracas, Venezuela, where I grew up. There was a par-3 course and a beautiful and challenging 18-hole championship course and a wonderful pool.
The summer I was 13, I was only interested in the pool, bikinis and boys. But at my parents’ insistence, my siblings and I took golf lessons, went to golf camp and clinics all summer long. None of us excelled at the game except my father who, in true “Mad Men”-style, turned my mother into a golf widow. Back in that era, golf was a man’s game.
At 18, my education brought me to New York. It was 1980 and golf was the furthest thing from my mind. I loved everything about the city and built a career for myself in magazine publishing as a graphic designer. I had great friends, owned a cute little apartment, went to museums, clubs, shows, restaurants … and then I met David.
He owned a business that specialized in landscaping and golf course renovation. And, I didn’t know this until many years later, he had a dream of one day owning and renovating the golf course of his childhood in Bennington, Vt.
In 2006, his dream came true, he bought Mount Anthony. Like Zsa Zsa Gabor in “Green Acres,” I said goodbye to city life and moved to Vermont. At that time, I had not picked up a golf club since I was a teenager in Venezuela.
What I discovered by rediscovering the game is all the reasons why women should get out there and golf, even if they think they’d prefer city life, pools and boys!
Reason No. 1: Enjoy the outdoors
When we started restoring the clubhouse and course, I fell in love with the landscape. It was magical discovering fox dens and song birds, learning the names of grasses, flowering shrubs and trees. Turns out golf is a great way to slow down and really see and touch the beauty that surrounds us up close.
Reason No. 2: Build relationships
I was comfortable in any neighborhood in New York City, but for a while I was a fish out of water in Bennington, that is, until I started golfing. I have met amazing women at my club: professional, active, community-minded, interesting and good talkers.
It turns out you’re never really that out of breath on the course and the length of the game allows plenty of time to get to know each other well. It happens naturally, easily while walking the course.
Golf has helped me build the personal and business bonds I needed to settle into my new home. If I ever move again, the first thing I’ll do is join a golf club.
Reason No. 3: Get good and get ahead
When I first moved here, I joined the ladies 18-hole league and quickly became intimidated and self-conscious. I was slow. I did not know all the rules of the game.
These are the reasons why most women quit or never start playing the game well. I now know that “can’t do” attitude puts me and other women at a business disadvantage. I decided I needed to be a better golfer so I took lessons and signed up for clinics.
I started a fun Nine-Hole Ladies League for beginners and intermediate golfers that meets every Wednesday at 9 a.m. for a 20-minute golf clinic from the Pro and then a quick nine holes. We all have become more competitive and I have a lot more fun.
Without fear of embarrassing myself, I can now participate in business golf outings, fundraising events, tournaments. Men have used the game to their advantage forever, and now I can too. Golf is good for your business goals, whatever business you’re in.
Reason No. 4: Go beyond Bermuda shorts!
Ladies, golf fashion is fun! Choosing what to wear is one of my favorite aspects of the game. Designers are creating golf lines that transition from the course to work or a night out. No longer are women limited to boxy polo shirts and unflattering skorts.
We can choose bright palettes, beautiful graphics, slim shapes and high performance fabrics. And all those great golf fashions look amazing on a well-toned golf body!
Reason No. 5: Change your score and change your shape
While you’re getting good at golf, golf will do good things for you: There are 10,000 steps in the average round of 18 holes. You can burn up to 2,000 calories while walking and playing a round.
That’s like taking a 5-mile hike or 3.5-mile run plus the benefits of the mental workout.
Play golf to get in a better mood and in better shape!
Reason No. 6: Make the game come to us
The guys have molded golf culture for so many years, but now it’s our turn! Want to learn the game but have a baby? Bring the baby in a stroller for a walk with you! We see members do it all the time!
Women are notorious multitaskers — that’s why we excel at Nine and Wine where we have a different winery do a tasting at 4 p.m. on a Friday accompanied by a Vermont cheese board, and then at 5:30, we have shotgun start to a fun scramble format of nine holes. After golf, more wine, conversation and some dinners with your new golf friends. I want women to play and if that means making up a few new rules, bring it on!
Tee it up and encourage your daughters. There are lots of golf scholarships in colleges waiting for girls. Not enough of us going into this sport at the college level. Golf is more adaptable and inclusive than ever before and the more women play, the more it will become our game, too.
So, girls, what do you say?
Maru León Griffin has worked as an art director and creative director for top magazines and ad agencies and ran a successful graphic design studio before moving to Bennington, Vt., with her family to revitalize Mt. Anthony Country Club.