I played my first game of golf when I was eleven years old at a small, nine hole course in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario. At that time, we were spending three weeks each summer staying at a “camp” out on Three Mile Lake and, as I learned much later in life, the only way that the dads were going to be permitted to get out on the links was if they took the boys with them!
So, armed with a set of rental clubs, a few of my dads golf balls, and very little instruction, my golf career started—and ended! I quickly learned that I had an affinity for the rough and for any point of danger on the course, be it water hazard, sand trap or woods. Although I eventually got the ball into the hole, I do remember clearly a few times when, in an effort to speed up the game, my dad encouraged me to pick up the ball and throw it onto the green. (This is a practice that I still sometimes employ!)
I gave up the game, just as quickly as I picked it up, not playing again until I was in university. Oh, there were times when I did go out later in life, but as some of you will understand, when you’re not particularly good at something, the tendency is to avoid opportunities that will only serve to reveal your weaknesses.
That changed for me this year. Partly because of my retirement from teaching and partly because I’ve begun hanging around with a group of great guys for whom golf is a passion and a part of their social context, I invested in some new clubs, a few lessons and a summer membership at Granite Ridge Golf Club in Milton, just a few kilometres from home.
The newer clubs bring me closer to some of the latest technology. (Until just a few weeks ago, I had a 1907 hickory-shaft putter in my golf bag.) The lessons were purchased to clear some of the habits that remained in my muscle memory from earlier days. The membership? Well, that was a ploy to get me out on the course as much as possible over the summer months.
So, between the end of June and today, I’ve been out eight or nine times and, although I have a long way to go, thanks to the kind support of friends like Mike Harding and Alex Kuchta, both of whom have taken the time to offer some valuable tips, my score is slowly inching its way towards the coveted 100 mark.
But beyond gaining confidence at doing something that, at a few points in my life, I had written off as a potential leisure activity, returning to golf has meant something even more important to me.
For me, it has come close to matching the pub experience. You see, when I go to my local watering hole on a Friday night, the goal is not really to drink. For me, the real idea is to have some dedicated facetime with a one or two people in order to enjoy some real conversation. To be sure, beer or wine is usually involved, but the prize is usually the interaction. If there are too many people, or if the music is too loud, I’ll usually make an early move for the door.
I’ve learned quickly that the game of golf offers a very similar opportunity. Although hitting the ball, and trying to get better at a really frustrating game is the context, the real payoff is the opportunity to connect, to talk about things that I don’t normally get the chance to talk about and to come away with a sense that the time has been well-spent. And, at the end, there is still the possibility of beer!
These days, I find myself suggesting a game of golf instead of a trip to the pub. In reality, it’s not that much more expensive, there’s some exercise and some idyllic scenery involved but, most of all, there’s the promise of good uninterrupted conversation. And these days, that is like gold to me!
So, watch out…your invitation could be just a tweet away! And if anyone is looking for an old hickory stick with a brass head, let me know!