By CEAN BURGESON
Recently, my son was introduced to the most frustrating sport on the face of the earth — golf. I hesitated to let him learn, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to submit him to the pain and agony — mixed with periodic moments of glee — that only golf can bring.
But, my son is a true sports-lover, and an avid athlete, so I relented and let him go to golf camp. Unfortunately for him, he enjoyed the camp, and the sport.
So, after his two weeks of lessons, I took him to Manistee National to golf what they call the “short set.” Marked by gold stakes at around 150-220 yards, or shorter for the par 3’s, this is a fantastic way for young golfers to get acquainted with the game, without getting frustrated about shot distance.
But of course, there was some frustration on Reidar’s part, as he whiffed a few times, took a few big divots, or overshot the greens on his chip shots — just like the big boys do. Better that he start to experience the exasperating aspects of the sport early, so he knows what’s in for him, I figured.
The short set, while a good teaching tool, is also a stellar way for dads to lower their scores for nine holes and work on their short games. You can be sure that I put that score card on the fridge for everyone to see. Of course, I don’t let anyone know that I had the benefit of playing a distance roughly half of the fairway for the majority of the holes. It was dad and Reidar’s “little secret.”
As a father, it was a joy to teach my son the finer points of the game. No, I’m not talking about grip, stance, club selection, or any of that stuff. The golf pro taught him that in camp.
I’m talking about how to yell “fore” when you hit a wicked slice towards the tee box on the next fairway, where a foursome is getting ready to hit. Or how tipping the woman driving the beer cart will assure she’ll stop again to re-beer you when she comes back around.
There was also the lesson in how to improve a lie with your foot, by kicking the ball out of the woods or other identified “hazard.” My son particularly liked the method I taught him for getting out of the trap, with the patented “baseball throw” method.
And, as usual, there’s the sometimes creative scoring method. He picked up on that one quickly. It seems that shaving strokes is something golfers do almost inherently as part of their genetic code.
More serious lessons were part of that first round, though. Teaching how to tend the flag, let the person whose ball is away hit first, being quiet and courteous when other golfers were hitting, replacing ball marks and divots, and knowing where the cart can and cannot drive, for example.
The sport holds ancillary lessons, as well.
Golf, however much we sometimes hate it, is a lesson in discipline, manners, and gentlemanship. I’m not sure that last one’s a real word, but it fits what I’m trying to say. Etiquette is really the proper word.
The reason I like golf is simple. You hit 10 bad shots, then one good one. That one good one gives you such a thrill that you can then make it through the next 10 bad shots — albeit sometimes with the urge to throw your $200 driver into a water hazard.
But it must be an enjoyable experience overall, because I keep coming back.
Golf is also relaxing, often times peaceful and scenic, and a good opportunity for golf partners to just talk, far away from the hectic pace and frenetic activity of everyday life. I made sure to point out to the little man that the game wasn’t just about hitting a white ball around a course for a few hours.
So, yeah, I’m going to be a little corny here and say that my son Reidar and I did a little male bonding on the golf course on that sunny July day. But it’s a day I’ll never forget — our first round together — and I hope there will be hundreds more like it in the years to come.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org