If you’re like me, you probably found yourself playing less golf when you got married and even less golf when you had kids. But I’m here to offer hope. Playing golf with your kids is like our version of the Champions Tour -- a second chance right around the time you thought your best golf was behind you. No doubt, golf with your kids can be complicated (my last round involved a frustrated 7-year-old heaving his 8-iron into a dense patch of poison ivy) but I’ve also found it has led to some of my most rewarding times on the course. What follows is one father’s personal and highly subjective guide.
I probably don’t need to tell you this, but this is not a Sunday morning at 8 a.m. activity. Or at least not if you plan to go to a golf course that includes other humans. (If you happen to have your own private golf course at your disposal, I encourage you to do what you want. I also have reason to believe you and I can become best friends. I’ll follow up). Restricting family golf time to evening hours is not only advised out of consideration for your fellow golfers, but also for your own sanity. Trust me, there’s nothing fun about watching your kid hit eight consecutive shots in the bunker while some crankasaurus stands with his hands on his hips in the fairway. I’m a firm believer that kids need to have a general respect for pace of play even at a young age, but you’re setting yourself up for disaster if you don’t allow for the occasional delay.
Look, I spend as much time as any parent trying to push against my kids’ fixation with material possessions. It’s a problem, particularly on an editor’s salary. But face it, part of the fun of golf for kids is all the stuff that comes with it. I’m not advocating you buy them a brand new set of Callaways. But even the littlest things make a difference -- ball markers, tees, the occasional sleeve of balls. This should get you through the first month or so of their golf careers. Then they’ll see their first Nike commercial and you’re screwed.
My boys are such insane, competitive little animals that they insist on keeping score the traditional way. But I’ve also introduced a new system that is relevant to their respective levels. While the objective may be to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible, I’ve told my boys to grade each shot on a three-point scale: If it’s a good shot or better for them, give it a plus-1. If it’s OK or pretty typical, it’s a 0. And if it’s a horrible shot, it’s a -1. Regardless of what you score the traditional way, any round with a positive score is a victory.