I’ll always remember 2018 as the year I became a father. It’s also the year I learned a whole new appreciation for golf. My daughter Winnie was born in January and this past year has been the best one of my life. When fatherhood found me, I discovered a whole new way of looking at the world. Becoming a dad has not only made me a better man, but it’s making me a better golf patron.
Being a dad is incredible, yet the duties of fatherhood tend to make long days on the golf course an increasingly rare occurrence. For those fathers of young children who are golf-obsessed like I am, you’ll know what I mean. Having kids creates endless hours of enjoyment, but also many hurdles to playing golf regularly.
Every golfing dad finds that the co-existence of a passion for golf and the love for one’s family can be frustrating at times. Hours of free time become scarce, being on the course for long stretches makes you feel guilty, and despite your desire to be out playing with friends most times you just can’t. As a golfing parent, the lack of playing time can make you cranky, cause you to cancel the country club membership, or even lead you to sell your clubs on eBay for diaper money. It’s tough to get out and play as a dad, but I’m here to tell you that this shift in perspective can actually work out to the betterment of your golfing soul.
When I found out that we were going to have a child, I was in the middle of the best competitive golf season of my adult life. My handicap got down to scratch for the first time since high school and I won five tournaments that year. I knew it was my last chance to perform at such a level until after my unborn kids get out of college so I gave it all I had and it paid off. After the ultrasounds started piling up and the nursery got painted I knew it was time to adopt a new strategy for how I would enjoy the game in the years ahead.
When my daughter was born I took to reading and writing about the game as much as possible. I found a great deal of inspiration and made it my new mission to discover the spirit of the game rather than constantly testing my skills in it. Through that process of self-discovery, I have found a winning formula for fathers who golf.
My first year as a father has yielded five revelations for finding more joy in the game of golf. They are as follows:
1) Play less tournament golf
I love competing in golf, but when Winnie arrived it closed the window on me spending hours practicing for tournaments. I was playing in at least 10-15 two day golf tournaments each season and since she was born I’ve cut that to about 3-5 events at most. Tournaments are expensive, time-consuming and unless you are playing well can be a real grind. I gave up almost all tournaments except a few at my home club and to be honest I’m happier as a golfer. I’d rather spend time and money on a unique golf experience than sweating over four-foot putts with a pro shop gift certificate on the line.
2) Forget about score
Once I put most tournament golf behind me I began to realize that score was much less important than I had always made it out to be. Golf isn’t really about what score you make. The game is much more about where you are playing and who you are with. Once I was able to let go of the scorecard, I was open to enjoying varying ways of playing golf. Most times when I play these days I only use seven clubs in my bag. Not only is the bag lighter on my shoulder, but I have less thinking to do and I play faster. I even started playing with vintage clubs including persimmon drivers and some hickory irons. I stopped playing for score and started playing for fun again and I that has made a huge difference for me enjoying the game as a golfing dad.
3) Make every trip a golf trip
I’m fortunate to be able to travel from time to time for golf trips, but those are also growing rarer. Since becoming a father I’ve looked for creative ways to make every trip I take one that involves golf. When golf time at home decreases you have to find ways to play on the road. Whether I’m traveling for business, to see family and friends, or even just to get away, I always bring my clubs. Every city has something unique to offer a golfer and I always plan carefully so that I can get a few holes in while away from home. Some basic internet research will usually reveal that no matter where you are there is an interesting golf course worthy of experiencing. Even the act of seeking them out is part of the fun.
4) Find the course within your course
When the time for golf gets cut by time for the family it can become difficult to play even nine holes much less eighteen. Fortunately, at my home course, the routing is such that I can play a wide array of loops that allow me to play in even the shortest of timeframes. My course has loops of 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 16 holes all available to me and ending up near the clubhouse. Many courses, particularly those built before 1950, have similar routing features. It is a blast to go out and play two holes on my lunch break or to walk five holes early on a Saturday morning before meeting the girls for breakfast at the club. I have even found ways to play cross-country through one corner of our course and creating new holes entirely. It takes a little imagination to find some routing options that can be played in less than an hour, but sharpening those creative tools will save you time and put you on the course more often.
5) Walk the dog
Multitasking is a great skill set for dads. I’ve learned to make the absolute best use of my time so that I can still enjoy the many facets of my golf infatuation. I listen to golf podcasts while washing baby bottles, I work on my putting while watching Winnie play on the floor, and most importantly I play golf while I walk the dog. I’m lucky to have a wonderful club that allows me to take my labradoodle Leon with me when I go out to play. I was unsure about trying this at first, but once I saw that Leon was great at tagging along I became hooked on having him with me. Playing golf with a dog is one of the great joys a golfer can experience. Dogs are man’s best friend and I have discovered they are also the perfect playing partner. Take the pup with you and consider yourself marking off an item from your ever-growing list of dad chores.
Being a golf dad isn’t easy, but if you are willing to suspend the habits that you have previously ingrained in your golf lifestyle you can find an even better appreciation for the game while still being a great dad. I encourage you to treat your shrinking windows for golf as an opportunity to explore the variety of the game. My methods may not be perfect for everyone, but if you are a busy dad looking to get back on the course these tips can serve as a great starting point for your own model. There is no easy way to quit a full blow golf addiction cold turkey so you will need to open your mind to trying something new as a means for getting on the course.
Becoming a father is the best thing to ever happen to me. It just so happens that being a dad is also making me love golf more than ever before. Maybe next year, I’ll show Winnie how to putt.
Until next time, swing, walk, and repeat…