You Can Play With Us
Women who love golf make sure others do, too
Some women are intimidated by the game of golf. Then they meet Ann Jacobson.
This enthusiastic golfer loves the game, and she’s part of a mission to make sure other ladies do, too.
“Golf should be fun,” says Jacobson, one of the original members at The Cliffs at Mountain Park. She makes it a point to seek out new female players at the club, encouraging them to stick with it ‘til they get in the swing. “Nobody should feel pressured or embarrassed about how they play. Every shot is good in some way.”
Her inclusive, energetic drive to grow the ranks of ladies golf at Mountain Park has earned Jacobson the moniker of “head cheerleader” in the community.
Game for Something New
Beth MacDonald had never picked up a golf club in her life prior to moving to The Cliffs at Mountain Park—unlike her husband, who is an avid golfer.
“I started playing less than a year ago, when I was 59 years old,” MacDonald says. “To really assimilate into this golf-oriented community, I felt like I needed to be part of the golf scene. I was dragged into it kicking and screaming, but people kept saying ‘Give it a try; you’ll get hooked.’”
And indeed, she did.
MacDonald is not alone in getting hooked on golf after coming to The Cliffs. When Gay Shackelford and her husband built a home at Mountain Park in 2012, she didn’t play yet, either.
“When the golf course opened [in 2013], a lot of us came out to play who were new to the game,” Shackelford says. “I remember I was terrified. There’s this feeling when you first go out on the course that everyone else knows how to play—and you don’t.”
But then Jacobson showed up, assuring the novice she needn’t wait to become a skilled golfer before joining in with the other women.
“There was a comfort level standing on that first tee—with a group of people watching—and knowing if I missed the ball or duffed it, that was OK,” Shackelford recalls. Before long, she was out playing golf almost every day.
A Culture of Inclusivity
Inclusivity is the name of the game. Along with Liz Yacovone—an accomplished golfer who moved from The Cliffs Valley to Mountain Park a little over a year ago—Jacobson, MacDonald, and Shackelford are doing their darnedest to get more ladies out on the greens.
“It’s not overt or organized,” Shackelford says. “It’s that we’ve developed this culture at Mountain Park where new golfers feel secure.”
Indeed, they’re growing a sisterhood simply by reaching out and putting novices at ease.
“I remember a woman came to play with us one day and she was so nervous,” says Jacobson. “So we took great care to keep encouraging her, and made sure she stayed afterwards for lunch with us. And she’s come back every week since then.”
MacDonald believes non-judgmental support is key, and everyone plays it forward. “Ann will say ‘I don’t care if you don’t know how to swing a golf club, I would love for you to play with me.’ And Gay is so committed to the game … and so generous with her compliments. She’s always out there practicing, and when she sees me she says, ‘Every time I see you, you’re doing better and better.’”
The winner of several club championships at The Cliffs—including Mountain Park in 2020—Yacovone understands it can be intimidating hitting a round with a more experienced golfer.
“When I played with the club champion at The Cliffs Valley for the first time, I hit my ball and it hit the woman’s golf cart! I thought, ‘Oh, no, I can never play with her again,’ but she laughed it off,” Yacovone recalls, and that experience reminds her to likewise keep things light hearted when playing with newcomers.
“Liz is so supportive and encouraging,” Shackelford says. “I don’t know anyone who’s played with Liz that didn’t have a good time.”
Going with the Pros
Many novices find golf to be more athletic than expected—not to mention a daunting sport to learn—so Yacovone always suggests beginners take advantage of the first-rate staff at The Cliffs.
“[The golf pros] at Mountain Park do an amazing job. They’ve got clinics for all levels, starting in a group setting for basic skills. They’re always out there being so supportive,” Yacovone says.
A left-hander, MacDonald found the Mountain Park golf pro invaluable for golf lessons and weekly skill-building clinics. “I even had to learn how to put my golf bag on the cart,” she confides. “I might have felt stupid in another setting where there wasn’t the friendly, welcoming culture that The Cliffs offers.”
The Cliffs also offers a variety of amenities and services to help golfers level up their game. Mountain Park boasts large practice facilities, including a two-tiered driving range, a short-game area to practice chipping and putting, and a caddie program to ensure golfers always pick the right iron.
The option to play at all seven golf courses across The Cliffs—each one uniquely beautiful—drives women to play more often.
“Having access to these seven courses is like being a kid in a candy store,” says Shackelford. “Each course is different, they’re all challenging, and there are nice people at all of them.”
Golfers are encouraged to hit the Wellness Center, too.
“One day I was taking a lesson with Sean Kennedy, [PGA Professional and Director of Golf Instruction at The Cliffs],” Yacovone notes, “and I said ‘Sean, I really want to hit my driver farther.’ He looked at me and replied, ‘Well, have you been to the gym lately?’”
The staff at the Wellness Center coordinates golf-specific strength training and fitness classes. Golfers who need to improve certain facets of their game, such as flexibility or stability, can request customized exercise plans.
Jacobson and her foursome derive satisfaction out of being able to learn and refine a challenging sport in retirement. But at the end of the day, they all say, the camaraderie matters as much as the game.
An emphasis on fostering friendships is why the ladies’ 9-hole group tees off on Tuesday mornings—so everyone can stay for lunch after their round. This combination of golf and gathering is now some 20 members strong. It’s why Mountain Park’s golf pros host a lovely luncheon as part of Ladies’ Opening Day in the spring. And it’s the reason behind the fun and frequent interplay between the ladies group in Mountain Park and The Cliffs Valley Ladies Golf Association.
Creating camaraderie via opportunities for women from across The Cliffs to golf, mix and mingle is important to Yacovone, who along with several fellow enthusiasts helped spirit The Cliffs Ladies Playaround a few years back. Jacobson founded Ladies Day at Mountain Park on a 9-hole format to accommodate newer golfers who prefer shorter play (this weekly event is now coordinated by the club).
Jacobson helped launch a Friday travel group that rotates among all seven of The Cliffs courses, “because we’re so good we need to take our skills on the road,” she notes with an infectious laugh. The club does its part by hosting golf-related social events like the monthly Nine & Dine, where two couples play in the evening and then have dinner.
Women’s golf at The Cliffs is definitely on the upswing.
“The culture here is so welcoming to all levels of lady golfers,” says Yacovone. “When I’m out on the course, I can hear laughter over on the other fairway, I can hear clapping and woo-hooing … and that’s infectious and it draws you in. It’s a joy to see so many women out there on the golf course having so much fun.”
This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.