Does taking up golf lessons count as a working vacation?

I interrupted my life of leisure on the beach at Hilton Head, S.C., recently to take my first lesson in swinging a club at a small dimpled ball.

I’ve always been a bit mystified by the sport. It seemed ponderously slow, ridiculously expensive and uncomfortably elitist. But then I became a business editor and began to receive more than my fair share of invites to spend a day on the links.

I routinely declined the offers, cheerfully explaining I don’t play the game, only to be met with an awkward silence, as if my companion had suddenly discovered I was afflicted with some unpleasant disease.


I felt more the odd duck as colleagues would come in my office to enthuse over the recent highlights at the U.S Open at Congressional. Perhaps it was time to drop my prejudices and give golf a try.

Besides, really, how hard could it be?

My instructor could not have been better typecast for the part. Genial, a teaching disciple of the great Sam Snead, Keith Marks Sr. wore a jaunty white cap and knickers. Marks calls his instructional school Vintage Golf and he advocates a classical, old-school approach. He kept my lesson very simple, offered some basic tips on how to address the ball and off we went to the practice range.

My first swing produced a nasty slice that almost claimed a nearby landscaping crew. But my next few whacks flew reasonably straight and true, one a monster shot that sailed gloriously into the blue sky.

What a feeling!

I felt so good, and Marks seemed so pleased, we cut our practice short and headed off to the first fairway.

Thud. On my first attempt, my driver dug an enormous divot. The ball skittered off the tee on my second swing, headed, I think, for another fairway. I sent my third try in the right direction, if you count the fact that the ball never got more than a few inches off the ground as it bounded its way down the fairway toward the green.

“Go ball,” Marks cheered on, and we climbed in our carts for another try.