This is for all of the golfers who happen to be dads. Perhaps you are a new dad, with a newborn or a few toddlers in tow. Perhaps your kids are older, maybe in elementary school. Maybe they are already in high school. Many guys in your shoes look to the golf course as a place to escape the chaos and noise of your house. What I am about to propose is entirely different. Take the chaos, namely your 4 -year- old chatterbox, 6- year- old tutu wearing princess, or defiant 14-year-old you’d like to send to an island…to the driving range. At the same time, you give your wife a few hours of silent bliss.
The end result? For starters you are outside golfing. True, you’re not enjoying a company-sponsored outing, complete with a beer and day off from work with your buddies. But, you’re in the world of golf. In addition, your wife makes a check in the plus column of golf, and therefore won’t mind if you try to throw in some extra rounds with the guys. However, the final outcome is something much greater. As you build the foundation of the game of golf with your son or daughter, you’ll also lay the foundation for a relationship with him or her- to be revisited each time you tee up together in the years to come.
A lifetime sport. As we all know, golf is a lifetime sport. The earlier we start, the better. And, what better way to instill the fundamentals of golf (and life) in your child than by taking the time to teach them yourself. Yes, you. You don’t need to send them to a fancy golf camp or golf lessons. Buy them a bag, some clubs, and take them to the driving range. It doesn’t matter if your shots aren’t always perfect. To them, you’re the expert. This comes in handy when teaching teen golfers who feel they know more than you do in every subject known to man. You can’t bluff a golf swing. In addition, golf is a fabulous way to sneak in “real talks” about life while you’re out in the middle of the course. Your kids have no choice but to listen to your words of wisdom while waiting to tee off on #6. There’s no place for them to go. So, bring on the life lessons!
I realize this isn’t a novel concept. Golfing dads throughout history have tried to teach their kids the game. Perhaps as a reader, you’re already doing this. And perhaps if you are, you’re wondering… is it really worth it? Will my daughter or son appreciate this when they’re older, or even play the game?
If you’re wondering this, I have good news for you. As a 40-year-old daughter whose dad gave her starter clubs at age six… I need to tell you that it’s worth it. You see, by spending time with your child or children now… you are almost guaranteeing that they will want to spend time with you later. What you may not realize as your 7-year-old whines, “Dad, I’m hot. I don’t want to golf. I hate this game…” is that each moment spent putting, chipping, in the sand, or on the range matters more than you think. These moments matter because your son or daughter is listening to everything you say. They’re watching you. They sense, in some super-human form brought on by DNA and the golf gods that something great is happening.
Deep within the frustration that comes to any new golfer- especially an 8-year-old girl who can’t seem to understand the phrase “keep your head down” – there is a bond building between teacher and student. I was that 8-year-old girl. I was also that 10-year-old girl who putted like she was driving. And, sadly, I was the 12-year-old girl who finally mastered the five iron only to hear her father’s friend declare, “Your son is a very good golfer.” Yes, throughout all the stages of my life and game, my dad was by my side, always patiently teaching me what I needed to know. He was there to correct my errors and applaud my accomplishments.
Return on investment. Now, I’m not telling you that by taking your son or daughter golfing that they’ll end up on The Tour. No, you’re probably not going to see their name on the Leader Board, and you probably should still contribute to their college fund because golf scholarships are few and far between. I can tell you, from personal experience, what you will gain by taking the time to teach your child to golf.
- Quality Time. We all complain that there’s not enough time to do everything we need to do. There are lawns to mow, rooms to be painted, work emails to be returned. I’ve got news for you, fellas. Those things will always be there. The simple act of driving your child to a golf course, spending an hour or so there, and driving them home gives you precious time that can’t be interrupted by outside forces or things you “should do.” It’s just you and your child, and a bucket of balls.
- Fresh Air. You, are out of the office. Your child, is not in front of a computer or TV. So far, two-for-two. You are both in the great outdoors, filling your lungs with a healthy dose of Mother Nature. It may be freezing, raining, 100 degrees, or a perfect 60 and sunny. Whatever the case, you can share the experience together and round out the day with a hot chocolate or hot fudge sundae.
- The chance to teach life lessons. Golf provides the perfect opportunity to subtly teach your kids the important things in life- like humility when you hit the ball well and good character when everything falls apart. The best way to do this is of course to be a good role model. In worst-case scenarios, I guess you could say it’s a good chance to teach your kids how to swear softly, and hold it together enough not to throw your clubs.
- Patience. Even though it may not always feel that you’re fine-tuning your patience, you are. When I think about the hours my dad stood behind me while I dubbed my irons in exactly the same way, I think he should be given a medal for not just calling it a day. He didn’t yell, he didn’t get frustrated with me. He just told me- over and over- what I needed to do (or not do). He took this patience to the tee, the fairway, the rough, the green, and everywhere in between. He didn’t give up on me, and therefore I had no choice but to not give up on myself.
- Lifelong golf buddy. My only warning for the dads out there who decide to teach their kids the game is that I hope you really like to golf, because your kids just may end up loving it as well. Years later, those same sassy 7-year-olds who “hated the game” or know-it-all 14-year-olds who were “never going to play this dumb sport again” are going to be the ones wanting to golf with you on their days off. They’ll look forward to the time they get to golf with, and talk to their dad- as adults, and as good friends.
So, to all of the golfing dads reading this. If you love your sport, and love your kids, take them to a golf course now. It may just turn out to be the greatest win-win in the history of golf.