Not long ago a professional asked me what I thought was the greatest hazard in golf. It was not the woods, I told him, or the traps or the greens. It was lady golfers. He had to agree.
I am not one of those 19th century authoritarians, you understand, who insist that women stay in the kitchen, or even in the house. I am all in favor of their getting out and having a ball. I grant they live longer than men, cook better and are better equipped to fly a rocket to the moon.
But let them stay the hell off the golf course.
Their giggles carry from the first green to the 9th, and players coming back are in danger from shots made by ladies going out. Aware of their long life expectancy, they play slowly, hunt for a ball for 20 minutes and permutate their scores the way they figure out who has to pay for what after lunch at Schrafft's.
I have played a few times with women in mixed foursomes—which, strictly speaking, isn't golf, any more than mixed doubles is tennis, or women's wrestling is wrestling. (Women's wrestling is fixed, you know. I'm surprised Congress hasn't torn the lid off.) So you don't much care in the mixed game whether you win or lose. All you want to do is make a jackass out of your male opponent and get his partner to flare up at him, which can sometimes be amusing.
But playing against a woman in competition—that is a grim undertaking, all mixed up with chivalry, guilt, the libido, the Oedipus and goodness knows what else.
Let me cite the first and only experience I had playing against a lady golfer, showing the kind of neurasthenic pressure this induces. I was seated at the club bar, a leathery, altogether homey room with a kind of roughhewn atmosphere. I had a short whisky in one hand, a menu in the other, and I was working myself into the proper mood for a round of golf. I anticipated playing a fast 18, not slowed by a plodding opponent; and I was determined to knife through any lady foursomes or twosomes or whatever klatsch happened to be ahead of me.
The room was deserted except for the bartender, Harry. He was sterilizing the glasses by blowing hot air on them and drying them with his apron. I was just wondering what kind of sandwich to order when a rather attractive dark-haired, brown-eyed young lady with rosy cheeks came in. She was outfitted to the nines for golf—a brown tweed skirt, action blouse, yellow cardigan sweater, white wool socks, brown-and-white shoes. She was about 5 feet 3 and weighed, I guess, 130.
Not paying much attention to her, I concentrated on the menu as she exchanged a few pleasantries with Harry and downed a rye. When she finished it, she kind of sidled over to where I was and asked me if I would buy her a drink, hon.
"Sure," I said, and ordered for both of us.