HINGHAM — “Fore on the range!” the instructor yelled.
I cringed and watched my golf ball whizz past an unsuspecting woman on the driving range. No one was hurt, and it was good for a laugh. I continued on with another ball, trying to finesse it out of the bunker by hitting the sand, not the ball.
Easier said than done, but at the South Shore Country Club’s Ladies’ Night Out, it’s all about learning the game in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. The program runs from the first week of May through the summer every Wednesday night. For $30, each participant gets a group lesson and a ticket for a cocktail afterward at the course’s restaurant, Raffael’s.
Each week about 30 women of all ages and abilities from throughout the area descend on the public course in Hingham and learn the basics of the game — driving, chipping and pitching, and putting, as well as the proper grip and the best club to use for different shots. Typically the drop-in lessons center around the driving range and practice greens, but once a month, instructors take groups out on the course to play a few holes. After the hour-long lesson, everyone convenes at Raffael’s where they cash in their drink ticket and have a light dinner provided by the restaurant.
Joe Keefe, the head PGA pro at the club, said Ladies’ Night Out has been around for six years and is an extremely popular program.
“I see a lot of the same faces coming back each week,” he said. “Ladies love to get better at stuff. If there weren’t ladies around, we’d be broke. They like to know what they’re doing.”
I took up golf some years ago, but, like many women, I had to stop playing after my oldest child was born six years ago. Finding the time to get out and play is difficult with young children, but now the instructors are helping me get my swing back. Every Wednesday at 6 p.m., I’m happily kissing my kids and husband goodbye and heading out to the course, thrilled to be relieved of bedtime duty.
I’ve found that hitting balls on the driving range is an effective stress relief, even if I’m not hitting them well. I’ve learned the more relaxed I am, the better I play — a lesson I should take off the course as well.
With its rules and etiquette for proper conduct on the course, golf can be an intimidating game to learn. More than half of the women who sign up for the program are beginners, said Keefe. He and the other instructors aim to make them feel at ease while they’re learning.
“It’s a good opportunity to practice in a laid-back environment,” said Nick Passios, one of the instructors.
Passios and instructor Chris Riley regularly throw in extra motivation when they teach on the chipping greens by setting up ball baskets on the green. If someone hits the ball in the air and it lands into one of the baskets, they get an extra drink ticket. “It’s a little incentive,” he said.
The buzz at the 19th hole proves the program isn’t just about the golf — women are cashing in their drink tickets, tucking into a salad and roasted vegetable pasta, and catching up with old friends and making new ones.
Judy Travis of Hingham said she’s been coming to the ladies’ nights for three years. She’s been playing golf since she was a child, and played often with her husband before he died. Now she plays occasionally with her grandchildren.
“It gets me out,” she said about the weekly program. “I like the pros here.”
“It’s a friendly group,” added Beth Jordan, also of Hingham. “They make you feel at ease.”
The program is open to women from any community, not just Hingham, and players regularly come from neighboring towns such as Hanover, Norwell, and Weymouth. And it’s drop-in, so there’s no long-term commitment — though many of the women who show up like knowing that Wednesday night is their time to get out and play golf.
“It’s a wonderful way for women to meet and connect in a social environment while learning something athletic at the same time,” said Darleen Lannon, a realtor in Hingham. “It’s a great way to build community among women in the area.”
After a few lessons, some of the other women in the group and I are talking about getting out on the course to work on what we’ve learned. If you see me out there, just keep your head on a swivel. Fore on the right!