I started playing golf when I was 40. Well that’s not true, really. I haven’t yet really started playing golf. I bought my first set of $900 golf clubs when I was 40…that is true. Using those clubs, I have played with golf and at golf, but never approached playing golf. My decision to take up the game of golf at forty was the result of memories of long ago…
The wide open spaces of country life was my domain during my pre-college years. So for 25 years after college I had sat behind a desk with intermittent forays back into running which I had done as a college athlete with much greater proficiency. Knowing I could not relive my glory days and I would only look as a bumbling cartoon figure on the verge of certain death as I loped along carrying an 50 extra pounds, not so evenly distributed, I decided another sport may be the wiser choice.
Golf was a natural choice I suppose. My father had bought me a set of golf club when I was in college. I had a roommate whose Dad was a member of a country club and I suggested we go sometime. Not knowing, about country clubs, I had no idea each person needed their own set of clubs. With that knowledge safely stored, I looked for the opportunity when I could hit my father up for the money. “Dad”, I said one Saturday morning as we studied the items at a yard sale, “They are only $5 and that includes the bag.” He stood there looking as though he was trading a new car for this set of rusty clubs. I said, again, “Dad, “I’ll pay you back, I didn’t know we were stopping at yard sales today, really. C’mon Dad.” Finally, after fruitlessly searching for something more valuable on which to secure his loan he gave me the money to make the purchase, he gave me the money. Now, I thought, I going to play at the country club! We went. My roommate and I did go to the country club…one time. We played the par 3 course. His first shot sailed high with a gentle draw and landed softly just short of the green. My first shot ever with a golf club sped with great velocity about a foot off the ground, it hit a rock retaining wall and careened back onto the course and rolled within a foot of his ball. Confidently I said, “See I am just as good as you and I just started playing today!” As his eyes began to roll, I fell onto the ground in a fit of laughter and squirmed with delight. You can’t do that”, he whispered. “Get up and be quiet.” So ended my first golf lesson.
My next lesson in golf came a year or so later when I played with a boy scout friend of mine. After attending different high schools, we both attended the same university and lived close enough, but as he had chosen a different path of study, we never saw each other. That is, until we ran into each other at the cafeteria one day. During our catching up, I told him my single golf story and as I finished he started to smile. He had always wanted to learn to play and since I “knew how” he would get is Dad’s clubs and we would go together that Saturday. We did just that. We went to an old course his Dad suggested which we will forever remember as “The Desert Classic” because their was very little grass in the fairways. The course was fairly run down, but playable. Not being able to hit the golf ball straight became a problem early in our round. We developed quite a knack for losing golf balls. As neither of us could get the ball in the air when we hit the ball offline, it would zing into the woods and sound like a buffalo tearing through a cornfield as it buried itself under some leaves and other debris never to be seen again. Laughing and stomping through the woods, no reminded me how quickly I had forgotten my first lesson. We would occasionally find a golf ball or two to keep our “round” going. Along the course on the 12th fairway, the woods seemed close in on the fairway and the wooded area seemed unusually wide. We, of course hit our balls into those woods and began looking for them. This time we hit the jackpot! There were balls everywhere. We reasoned that is was very wooded and the more wealthy golfers would just not bother to look for their balls so this narrow fairway had stored its bounty in the woods awaiting our discovery. Many of the balls were yellow and were Top Flite brand. We loaded our bags with as many balls as could be stuffed into them and we congratulated ourselves on a find that would surely keep us in golf balls at least through our college days. Later that evening my friend called. He told me he had shown his Dad the balls. His Dad had told him they were range balls and after reciting to me what is Dad had told him about a practice range, we agreed we had made an embarrassing mistake. Lesson number two: There are places where you can practice golf.
Advancing 25 years into the future, my fond memories of my 4-5 “rounds” of golf never left me and I decided my mid-life crisis would be to play golf. My very first day at the range, a client, recognized me and said, “I didn’t know you played golf!” I insisted I did not know how to which he responded, “That’s ok, you’ll be easier to beat.” And the very next Saturday, became the first round of what I call The Annual Grudge Match. Every year I tell him his 40 years of playing golf is no match for the skills I have develop since the previous match. I try to intimidate him with new shoes or new socks or a funny hat. Every year he beats me, but we have a rousing good time! A couple of years ago, we were playing on a course where a heavy rain had soaked the fairways. After a particularly good drive, I had about 100 yards to the green with no trouble on the approach. Confidently, I swung my wedge. I chunked the shot and plowed through the fairway grass about two inches deep and six inches long. The plot of land I had hurled into the air competed mightily for distance with the ball as it floated listlessly forward. The ball was barely able to hang on to its eventual victory by traveling about eight feet (including the roll). I looked at the abused ground, I looked at the wide open space in front of me and then I turned to look at my friend. He was not laughing. In fact, he had a most consoling look on his face. Going back to my farming heritage for an explanation, I remarked, “Well I hit that one with my sh** shovel.” As soon as I uttered the words, he fell to his knees and exploded with hilarious, uncontrolled, tear-welling laughter! We both laughed. We laughed loud and long. So much for that first lesson. When we had finished laughing and he had composed himself, he approached his ball and hit it…just as I had…we laughed again; we repaired the damage to the fairway and we both made bogey.
So as the first cool days fall upon us, my friend and I are loathed to remember the first two rules I learned about golf…1)golf is a quiet game and 2)there are places to practice. We do, however, strictly adhere to the first rule of life – Have fun whenever you can.
Columbus Georgia has three very playable public courses for all skill levels.
Stop by Greatercolumbusga.com the night before and plan your day: Hotels, restaurants, and after round entertainment can be found in one location Table of Contents. It’s all you need to know about Columbus Georgia