“Golf is so popular,” said Winnie-the-Pooh’s creator A.A. Milne, “simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad.” Even those who play a competent round in May know that their competency might evaporate the next time out, not to be heard from until July, or God forbid, next season. Golf is frustrating and exhilarating. It is as easy as tapping a ball with a stick yet no more difficult sports feat exists than the well struck golf shot. Golf exposes one’s true character. You will learn more about those with whom you golf, in one 5-hour round, than you would by spending 5 years in adjacent cubes.
For a Dad, there is no better game to share with your children. In golf, the game will teach; real-world skills and athletic skills and life skills. Best of all, it is a game which you, your Dad, and your children can all play together.
Golf will teach your children how to count, from 2 to 12, depending on your honesty. Let the kids keep the scorecard. It will teach your children how to pay attention to a task. It will help them learn to keep track of things; how many shots they had and how many swings you actually took. They will count properly. You will be scrutinized.
A child’s golf swing is innate. The skills required are right there in the child. Being on a course or practice range will hone both the small and large muscle skills of a young child. Golf is wonderful, too, because the equipment and field of play are appropriate to the child. Even the act of teeing a ball is an exercise in small motor skill improvement. Much as a small child delights at catching a ball in the mitt, a well-struck golf ball gives your child the same sense of pride and accomplishment.
Make no mistake, with no cart, golf is exercise. When your children are old enough to be on their own in a junior golf program, they will be walking 5 holes (about 1 mile for the little ones), on up to 2 miles, a full nine holes, for the tween-agers, all while toting their gear. Try it yourself; shoulder your twenty pound bag and go for a three miles stroll.
Golf is a game which requires strength of character. In few sports are the Rules of the Game enforced by one’s self as stringently as in golf. Few sports are so testing-the act of hitting a motionless ball should be simple-yet it is that lack of movement that makes the missed shot so galling. In most sports, when something goes wrong, you have but a moment of regret before the next moment is upon you. In golf, you must patiently wait until your opponent strikes a shot before you even begin the walk to find your ball.
Golf teaches us to control one’s anger and frustration, and to play fairly, even when no one is watching. Kipling said “If one can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…” For most of us, a golf course is the perfect place to begin teaching those lessons to our children. And perhaps, to ourselves.
Lastly, golf is a family game. I recall playing golf with my father when I was three and four years old. We would practice with plastic balls in the back yard, perhaps we’d take a trip to the practice range, perhaps we’d play a few holes at a par three course. When I had a child of my own, I did exactly the same thing with him. Even better, I was able to send my son Aaron out to practice and play with my father; his grandfather. Best of all, from the time Aaron was old enough to play nine holes, we could play together. Even now, at ages 82, 54, and 20, we can still golf together. If you are lucky, playing golf isn’t always about golf. Of course, that Aaron is now 100 yards longer off the tee than his father, and my father’s drives are not any longer than the 10-year-old version of Aaron, is just another source of pride for both of the elder Stanley men.