First, let me say that I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m blessed with a lovely family, I’m relatively healthy, and have a pretty cool job. I also play a lot of golf. Well, usually.
With the arrival of a second baby last year, my laps are predictably declining. But “below” is still relative. I still played more than 20 times in 2021 – which is still comfortably over the eight-round threshold that the National Golf Foundation says makes me a “core golfer”. As I said, I’m lucky. If you want to feel bad about someone, feel sorry for the poor “core golfers” who only play eight rounds a year. I could reach that number on work trips alone.
Nevertheless, I would like to play more again and have already realized that as a father you can do a lot to guarantee the time on the golf course. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy spending time at home. And there are times when golf isn’t worth leaving home, not even to travel for my pretty cool job mentioned above.
But there are also times when I long to do tee times. So I’ll try to implement these ideas more to my advantage in the future, and hopefully they will help you too. (Of course, these are my personal experiences as a new father, but they should apply if you’re a new mom as well.)
First things first – and this should be pretty obvious – try to make golf work-related. I realize it’s easier for me as a golf writer, but you can stretch it. Hell, it’s worth even including your boss in your regular rotation of game partners. Drop the “B” word on your significant other and you can drop pretty much anything you do. (Just don’t drop the baby.) And if my boss reads this, no, that’s why I’m not playing golf with you. I swear. Promise.
Another idea that is a bit tedious is to incorporate an annual golf excursion into your schedule. There is no easier way to maintain your “core golfer” status than guaranteeing a solid golf block. I did those eight rounds in just five days this summer – and the only reason we didn’t play the ninth time was the weather. Hey, it’s a golf trip. Treat it like one. I know people who have even gone so far as to make this annual golf trip part of a marriage. These people are smart. A little sick, but smart.
Next, you want to play very early. No, really, very early. Of course there is a limit at Sunrise, but you want to cross that limit. Trust me. Hear: “Are you back already?” is music to my ears and worth the early warning. Oh, and when you wake up you get bonus points for doing it as quietly as possible (I leave what I wore the night before downstairs to get changed there). Hear: “I didn’t even hear you this morning!” is even better. It goes without saying that your motto when specifying the estimated return times is always: Under promise and delivery.
Since the time element is so critical as a parent, be prepared to become a Range Rat. You know, like Ben Hogan. Well, not really like Hogan because he never had kids so he could hit golf balls all day until his hands were bleeding and then wash away the pain with all the vodka martinis he wanted. Anyway, that’s kind of a cheat because going on the range isn’t the same as playing on a course, but I’ve learned to love my quick escapes. They’re better than nothing, take a fraction of the time, and get just as many turns. Oh, and the solitude is lovely.
Which leads me to one important sacrifice that you should be ready: Golf as your only social activity. I honestly can’t tell you the last time I did something with friends that wasn’t about golf (or a kids birthday party) and I don’t miss those other things at all. NEWSFLASH: You are dad (or mom), old and no longer cool! You don’t have to go to happy hours and stuff. On the other hand, if your spouse doesn’t play golf, consider promoting their social life because the more they go out, the less guilt you will feel when you hit the golf course. And because you now have very little free time, use it wisely. In other words, use it all while golfing.
Of course, you can go beyond this free time if you include your children. Unfortunately, I’m not quite ready yet, my oldest daughter is only 3 years old, but the seeds have already been sown. In fact, we recently played our first round of mini golf together and she really liked it. Not that it matters. She’ll play golf whether she likes it or not. Joking. Somehow.
As important as it is for children to be active, it is also important for fathers. At least that’s one of my excuses. So always emphasize that you play golf to get exercise. Don’t you want me to be healthy ?! And hey, it’s not a lie – especially if you avoid taking a car. Studies show that golfers carrying their own bags can burn around 300 calories an hour. And it’s a lot safer than playing something like basketball at this age. A few years ago we played pickup hoops after work and a colleague broke her Achilles tendon within the first hour. The ONE time we played! True story.
In a similar context, I officially retired from basketball. And pretty much any other physically demanding activity. I just can’t afford an injury that will keep me on my feet for so long. I don’t play enough golf anyway.