For the love of more than the game.
By Nathan Crace
Most kids pick up the game of golf from their dads because, generally speaking, the paternal limb of the family tree carries the dominant golf gene – dominant in frequency, not necessarily in ability. My personal story bucks the trend: my dad didn’t play golf. In fact, no one in my immediate family – neither my mom or two older sisters – play golf. I have a couple of golfer uncles, but I never set foot on a course with them until after I had been playing for a few years. In fact, in my book Lipouts: The Best I Could Do From the First Two Years, I discuss how Jack Nicklaus actually taught me to play golf. Yes, the real Jack Nicklaus. No, not in person.
I fell in love with the game watching it on television. The courses were beautiful. No two courses were alike. And the easiest part of all…the ball wasn’t even moving when you had to hit it! How hard could it be? But there was no course in my small Indiana hometown. The closest one was ten minutes away by car, and established state law in Indiana frowned on the operation of automobiles on public roads by nine year-olds. So I was stuck in my backyard with a few Chi Chi Rodriguez irons and used balls procured from a local yard sale. I also found a copy of the book Golf My Way by Jack Nicklaus at a yard sale one day and, after considerable begging and strong-armed negotiating with my mother, the book was mine! Looking back, it probably cost her less than a dollar, but that book changed the trajectory of my life in a way I could never have imagined.
Flash forward 25+ years and I now have three children of my own and all have, at some point, picked up a club and played the game. I convinced (she would say coerced or forced) my daughter to play in a high school tournament last year because it was at Hattiesburg CC, a course I re-designed in 1999 when she wasn’t quite three years old. For her first full round of golf, she didn’t do too badly and actually beat the young man she was playing by eight shots! But she doesn’t think golf is her thing. She’s into basketball and fast pitch softball. I respect that – especially since she has two younger brothers I can force, er, uh, convince to play. So I figure I have some time before they “realize” that golf is what they prefer.
There’s something about spending a few hours on the golf course with your kids that’s a different type of quality time – and maybe a little better. Sure I’m biased, but golf is not only a sport where they must learn to be independent thinkers, but it’s also one that can truly be played for a lifetime. Some courses offer special courses where kids and their parents can go out and play three to five holes in an afternoon, usually for much less than the typical greens fees. Check with your local course about programs for juniors. The key is to be involved with them. In this day and age of instant everything, taking an hour or two to spend with your kids on the golf course can pay off for a lifetime.
Nathan Crace is a member of the Golf Writers’ Association of America and a Mississippi resident. You can read his writings online in his archives at www.lipouts.com and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lipouts. His book, LIPOUTS…the Best I Could Do From the First Two Years is available in paperback. He appears in this publication by special arrangement.