By the time our fourth golf lesson rolled around, Sam, my 16-year-old son, and I were old pros. We knew what to wear, where to go, and we easily found our golf instructor, Marci, waiting for us in her usual spot when we pulled up to the clubhouse. I admit that I was relieved to see her , because half of me expected that we’d find her hiding in a sand trap, having scared her off completely. Maybe we’re more charming than we think.

Our lesson began with Marci having us go over the stance and grip we’d worked on in the past few lessons. I was more than happy to do this, but based on the plaintive looks Sam was shooting me when Marci wasn’t looking, he didn’t enjoy this refresher quite as much. Rather, like most confident teen boys, he was ready to just jump in and start hitting balls and having fun. He figured that he already knew enough to start playing, so why wait? Of course, as a 50-year-old woman, I didn’t share a similar belief in my abilities. I was still worried that I’d hit myself in the eye with a nine iron.

But that “I know enough to play” approach of Sam’s is how I suspect most men, and probably some women, learn to golf: by just doing it. By just grabbing a club, whacking away and figuring it out as they go along. After all, almost every guy has friends, co-workers, or family who play golf, so they were most likely invited to join them on the golf course at some point. And to that I say, “lucky them”, because they got started a lot earlier than I did. I made it until age 50 without ever being invited to play golf with friends because none of them played golf, either.

That said, even in my brief experience with the game, it’s obvious that simply playing golf without real lessons isn’t a good idea. In fact, it’s probably why so many players struggle in the long run. They teach themselves, or have friends teach them, and in doing so they pick up bad techniques and habits that they later have to hire someone to help them unlearn if they want to improve. Golf, like most things in life, is better when you learn it the right way from the beginning.

After practicing our swings for a bit, we headed to the putting green to work on our, well, putts. That’s what you do on a putting green. Both of us immediately felt comfortable once we had the putters in our hands because it felt familiar. It felt like mini-golf. That comfort ended soon enough, though, when we both tried making a few real putts that didn’t involve a windmill or a free ice cream cone if you made it through a dinosaur’s legs, and we realized that it’s harder when you’re playing on a real course. After a few tries, we were both getting a little frustrated, not to mention tired and hot. Which made it the perfect time to compete against each other.

Marci lined up a few balls at different distances and had Sam and me take turns to see who could get them into the cup faster. This made him perk up quickly because, again, he’s a teenage boy and golf competition is way more fun than finding golf zen through perfecting your swing.

While we completed our challenge, Marci went over a few more of the rules of golf etiquette, like where to stand when someone is putting, how to pick up your ball and put down a marker, who shoots first, etc. Unfortunately, she didn’t cover how you shouldn’t yell, “In your FACE” in the car after you beat your mom in a putting competition, which is exactly what my lovely son did.

Up next, lesson five, where I take two steps forward and one step back.