It is, in turn, one of the most frustrating and one of the most exhilarating things I’ve done. I’ve seen nothing else in my life as capable of delivering to me as much pleasure, as much relaxation, and as much frustration all wrapped into one. What am I talking about? Well, golf of course.

For me, my love/hate relationship with golf started 4 years ago. I had successfully avoided getting involved with the whole golf thing because I thought that it was a waste of time- I mean there are a lot of other things that I can think of more valuable to spend my time with than chasing a little white ball around the course. But, sigh, I’ve been bitten by the bug. I finally decided to bite the bullet and that it was a key business skill that I just HAD to have.

For those of you that haven’t started golfing, my best advice for you is to start early with a pro. You can go to most of your local golf courses, find out who the pro is, and take a lesson. Don’t sign up for a big package right away, though. Make sure that you like the pro, and respect them enough to take lessons from them. Sitting out on a driving range with a washed up drunken wanna be tour pro isn’t my idea of fun. But MOST of the pros out there really genuinely want to help you with your game. Trust me- starting out this way will save you a lot of time. And a lot of the headaches of all your golf buddies (or worse your clients) telling you just how to correct your swing.

As far as buying clubs, the sky’s the limit when it comes to a budget for purchasing golf equipment. You can pay a little or a lot for a sack of clubs. After hearing all kinds of advice on what sticks to buy, I simply went out to a Dick’s Sporting Goods, and bought myself a set of starter clubs. For $199, I was in business. A nice bag with lots of pockets (I need lots of pockets for all the balls I lose) and easy to carry with a stand, Driver, 3 wood, 5 wood, a full set of irons, and a putter. For the most part, I’ve stuck with those clubs. I make an addition here and there, but they’ve served me well. In 4 years, I’m now to the place that I can keep up nicely with a foursome in the afternoon, and I crank my 3 wood respectably enough for us to use my drive at least a couple of times per scramble.

I tried a couple of cheap pairs of golf shoes for a while, but I’ve really grown to realize that your choice of shoes can really affect your game. I played in an outing last year that was sponsored by Ecco, and since acquiring my own pair, my game has markedly improved. I look better on the course too.

If you spend some time at your local driving range, you can range your clubs too- different people hit their clubs with different efficiency and power, so if you know how far you hit YOUR clubs, you can safely navigate any course.

Then get out there and do it. The only way for you to get the feel of the game is to get out there and play. Play with all different kinds of players, and don’t be afraid to ask questions- “what club do YOU use from this distance”. Take your time addressing the ball, and don’t worry about the people behind you. The more I relax, the better my game becomes. Take a couple of practice swings, then step up and hit the ball.

I’ve recently discovered a great way to look for courses by city, using GolfGuideWeb. If you scroll down, you can browse golf courses by city pretty efficiently. I usually find the course on golf guide, and if I haven’t played it before, I’ll try to go directly to the course’s website and drill down. The Golf Guide Web DOES, however, have all the key information that you’ll need to figure out if you want to try a course, and it does wonders if you want to find a course in a particular city. An even better site (for its sheer wealth of information) is Last Minute Golfer. It’s not quite as broad in its coverage, but its way deeper.

I’m going to close this with three of my favorite golf courses in Michigan. A couple of them are off the beaten path, but I’m confident that you’ll love em.

27 hole Copper Hills is in Oxford, Michigan. Its three courses are all challenging and beautiful. The Jungle is full of trees, old growth, and nice, scenic, 2 minute drives from hole to hole. The Marsh is full of crazy water hazards, and the Hills is … well… hilly. This is one of the most gorgeous courses around, voted in the top 25 courses in the country by Golf Digest and rated the best designed course in Michigan by the Detroit News in 2003.

A real surprise is Blackheath Golf Club in Rochester Hills. If you get there after 4pm, it’s $25 with a cart, and we can get 20 holes in pretty easily. Their clubhouse isn’t much to look at, and their golf carts are a little rundown, but it’s a fantastic heather/Links course, and well worth playing. Look closely in the woods around this course, and you can often see deer. We saw a doe and two fawns, as well as a buck.

My last Michigan favorite is Greystone. Home to “the best finish in Michigan”, this course is a pleasure to play, and has fantastic scenery. It’s a great place to have an outing as well. Holes 16-18 are truly great to play, and it’s a must try.