It Starts at Home: Why Golf is the Glue that Bonds Generations Together
When I was younger, I was eternally curious about my father’s obsession with golf. He’d be gone most of Saturday, much to my mother’s chagrin, and would return in the evening, exhausted and well, not much fun to hang out with. But I surmised even at a young age, that golfing was how he relaxed after a long week of work. Fast forward a couple of years, when he gifted me with a set of clubs for my seven-year-old hands. I had already grown out of my ‘Gator Golf’ game and was ready for the real McCoy; golfing with dad. He brought me out to the driving range where we met up with my paternal grandfather and thus began my own love affair with the sport.
And so this brings me to the notion that golf transcends the mental arena, the physical prowess and rigid practicing. It bridges the gap between father and son, grandfather and grandson. It knows no boundaries, it connects, it bonds and it has an almost visceral quality that is sometimes fails to be conjured into mere words. What I’m trying to say is, my father and I have had our differences throughout our lives, but golf always fell upon neutral grounds, it stood between us, waving like the proverbial white flag unfurled at the pin.
But this begged an important question. How could I ensure that my own offspring would not only embrace this same passion I have, but perhaps continue our traditions into the next generation and beyond?
Here’s a couple of tips I’ve used with my own young son (and will use with my someday with my infant daughter!)
Age Appropriate: Just like with my “Gator Golf” game, see how much interest there is. I personally loved to play and swung at whiffle balls every chance I got. My introduction to the game was relegated to our backyard greens, including a challenging water feature (my mother’s koi pond) and a sand trap (or rather my sandbox). Regardless, my first lessons were at home, no pressure, just me swinging around a club and trying to avoid my brother’s head in the process, (of course my parents might disagree here). But this is also a good rule in regards to what parent’s should encourage at such a young age; namely, fun! As an avid golf enthusiast, nothing rubs me the wrong way more than seeing a father and his petulant three-year-old, ‘coaching’ him until they are both nearly in tears. True, there are some true golf prodigies out there, for who can forget the video clip of an adorable Tiger at the tender age of two on the Mike Douglas show. But don’t forget, Tiger had more talent as a toddler that unfortunately, most of us grownups will ever achieve. That doesn’t mean you can bring junior to the driving range, but don’t forget to bring a long a TON of patience, too. Most toddlers are more interested in perhaps throwing or playing with the ball rather than taking instruction from you.
Lessons: Yes, I know as Tiger’s father, Earl was probably instrumental in encouraging Tiger’s talents at the youngest of age, but I highly recommend other than going out to hit at the range, keep instructional lessons to the pros. My son and I have both agreed that sometimes our learning methods and techniques differ and I want to keep the peace between us, not further any gaps. If your son/daughter is showing interest and has a desire to improve their game, then a few lessons by a pro would be a great idea. After all, if your own swing could use a little more instruction, you certainly don’t want to be teaching bad form to your child. You want them to learn it correctly, the first time.
Youth Leagues: This can be a really great introduction to the sport, observing proper etiquette and learning rules and regulations in a fun and positive way. You can always be involved here, after all they always need an adult around to make sure things aren’t getting too out-of-hand. Afterwards, some programs have a little ‘award’ ceremony, kids shake hands with the league director, get up and address the ‘crowd’, thank them, the greens keepers and everyone they played with. Just another reason why I love the game so much, it far exceeds mere competition, it’s teamwork, it’s individual and you can play it until the day you can no longer make it out to the greens (though I’m hoping they could still wheel me out there, if need be).
Well, there you have it. A few tips in keeping those golfing traditions alive and well. Stoking the golfing flames, fanning those generational embers and sparking a lifelong interest in golf. Remember, above all, encourage the positive; if your child is feeling frustrated or pressured to perform, or worse yet, forced to play, they will never forgive you and probably hate the game because of it. And that is the last thing I would ever want. My relationship with my son won’t be without its bumps and issues, but regardless of our own battles, I’d still love to meet him on a Saturday morning, bright and early, just he and I, the quiet stillness of brand new day, just father and son.