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All's Fair In Love And Golf

Playing with your father-in-law

Stina Sternberg

John Ritter

June 2010

Q: My future wife's father has asked me to play in his member-guest this summer, and I'm worried I'll make a fool of myself. He's a great golfer, and I...well, I might have exaggerated my golf skills to him. What should I do?

A: Run for the hills, my friend. Trying to bond with your fiancee's father in a competitive setting like his country club's member-guest is a bad idea to begin with. To do it under false pretenses, which will expose you as a fibber and embarrass the man in front of his friends, is not the way to begin the relationship. Unless you're marrying the daughter of Nelson Mandela, you might never live it down. I suggest you 'fess up right away, and tell your future father-in-law that although you'd love to play golf with him, you aren't as experienced as you might have let on, and you wouldn't want to ruin his chances of winning. This is one of those lies that will inevitably be exposed, so the sooner you come clean, the less damage there will be.

Q: I recently heard that the word "golf" originally stood for Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden. Is that true?

A: You also might have heard that if you break a mirror you'll have seven years of bad luck. Or if you stick your tongue out too long it will turn black. Oh, and a watched pot never boils. Just like those old wives' tales, the G.O.L.F acronym is pure fantasy. According to the USGA Museum, the word "golf" was derived from the medieval Dutch word kolf or kolve, which meant club. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, the Dutch did a lot of trading with the Scots, who borrowed the term (and the modified game of stickball the Dutch played on the frozen canals in the winter) and turned it into golf.

Q: What's the appropriate age to start getting my kids golf lessons? I have 3-year-old twins who love watching the PGA Tour on TV, but the golf pro at my club says they're too young for instruction.

A: Kudos to your pro for not wanting to take your money in this situation. You're right to be encouraged by your kids' enthusiasm for golf, and you should bring them to the range and let them have at it (preferably with plastic clubs and balls for toddlers), but don't try to teach them the right way to swing until they're at least 5 or 6 years old. Let them hit the ball with the grip end of the club if they like, as long as they're having fun. Let them tell you when they want lessons. If you add instruction to the mix too early, you run the risk of turning a fun time into work, which will make your children lose interest in the game before they can spell the word "scholarship."

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