Edina's Ladies of Braemar
C.J. Swanlund was a 20-year-old collegiate golfer, playing the best rounds of her young life. The Edina woman was driving the ball in excess of 230 yards, hitting from tees that men usually used because she wanted the challenge of a greater distance.
Then, during one of her stellar, noncompetitive rounds, she was discriminated for her gender. The male course ranger said Swanlund had to move to the closer tees because her foursome’s play was slower than the course’s pace.
That wasn’t the case, says Swanlund, but rather an example of the old acronym sometimes used for the game of golf: Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.
“I’ve heard stories from my female golfing friends that say it happens everywhere,” says Swanlund, now 23. “Discrimination in golf is still ever-prevalent. It’s unfortunate, but it’s coming around, and Braemar is, I would say, one of the most female-friendly facilities that I’ve ever golfed at.”
Braemar Golf Courses in Edina boasts that it has more female golfers in league play than any other course in Minnesota. With 600 ladies on the links in 13 leagues, high participation is only one of many attributes that make the City of Edina-owned course an equal opportunity golfing experience.
Braemar has four rated sets of tees for women of all skill levels, not only the big hitters like Swanlund. Braemar has two shorter executive 9-hole courses and a women’s locker room and lounge. All of those attributes factored into Golf for Women Magazine honoring Braemar as one of the top 100 courses for women.
Edina resident Bonnie McGrath, 50, began playing golf seven years ago after partaking in one of the women’s golf camps at Braemar.
“I consider it a jewel in Edina,” McGrath says of the courses tucked into neighborhoods. “It’s very conveniently located. … It was great to find a course that wanted new golfers and welcomed them. That’s what attracted me to it.”
McGrath joined a par-3 league that summer and now runs it with several friends.
“They are especially good toward women golfers,” she says. “With [the camp] specifically geared to women, it could have been for women at all levels, but it also to catered to women that are new in their golf careers. That was a great way for me to learn.”
Another learning opportunity for women at Braemar is the Tee It Up Fore! Fun mentorship program. It pairs new golfers with experienced ones to pass on proper course management and etiquette. They discuss things such as how to repair ball marks on greens and when to remove the flag before putts.
“It’s rewarding to be able to share my experiences,” says Swanlund, a mentor who has been golfing since she was 5. “When it’s for a learning purpose, it’s fun. These people want to learn etiquette. It’s kind of a forgotten part of the game. A lot of people spend a lot of money on lessons and trying to get the skills down, and once they do that, they think they are done. But etiquette and course management are a huge part of the game, and they can be lost.”
Braemar assistant professional Debi Knudson has worked at the course for a decade, and has been teaching lessons for three years. Her positive impression of Braemar includes its willingness to start a mentorship program, rules clinics for all women’s leagues and the women’s golf camp.
Knudson says a common request from women taking lessons is, “Can you come on the course with us?” With busy golf season, the camp makes that happen. “It has been very well received with the ladies,” she says of the camp, now in its third year.
For Knudson, playing golf is the perfect combination of fun, friendly competition and wellness. “Practice is meditation for me,” says Knudson, 56. “You are with a lot of fun people, and you are out in very beautiful, serene surroundings.”
McGrath echoes Knudson on aesthetics, but has also set goals to improve her game and recruit players to the game. “I liked the game because it was very challenging, but it also provides you a chance to be very social while you are playing,” says McGrath, who also plays tennis. “You are out getting exercise, walking while you are playing a game.”
McGrath shot a personal-best of 96 last summer, and wants other older women to feel the thrill of hitting a white (or pink) ball where you want it.
“I want to join an 18-hole league now that I’m more comfortable with the game,” she said. “Really, my goal is to get more women to play golf. I think it’s a great sport to learn even later in life.”
Braemar Golf Courses offer classes, tutorials and special events for everyone from the weekend hacker to the committed golfer with a low handicap. Here’s a sample of the events for May and June.
Women’s golf camp
WHO: Golfers with some experience can work on driving, chipping, putting and more on the course with the help of PGA and LPGA professionals
WHEN: Wednesday and Thursday mornings in June and July
COST: Five, three-hour sessions for $250
INFORMATION: edinacommunityed.org/adult or call 952.848.3952
Tee It Up Fore! Fun
WHO: Beginning golfers who are looking to transition from the driving range to the course
WHAT: Mentorship program to learn golf etiquette and course management
INFORMATION: Registration materials available during classes
Women’s golf month
WHAT: Special events and activities
INFORMATION: Online calendar at braemergolf.com or call 952.903.5750
WHO: Beginning, intermediate and advanced golfers can receive lessons from course pros
WHEN: To schedule, call the pro shop at 952.903.5750
COST: $50 for a half-hour lesson or $250 for a package of six lessons
INFORMATION: To learn about other classes, call 952.903.5750
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