Dan Jenkins: Why I hate family golf

From the archive (December 1994)

Daddy's Half Pint Golfer


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I’m sorry for laughing at this story. I apologize for Dan Jenkins. Forgive me for chuckling at the foibles of family golf. OK, now that it’s established that we should be ashamed of ourselves, sit back and let an old Jenkins column (December 1994) remind you of the Texas legend’s genius for finding humor in all things self-righteous or politically correct. The man who invented the 10 Stages of Drunkenness would have found humor even in a pandemic.

During these times of serious self-quarantining, many golfers have come to appreciate the joy of getting out on the course with family members. Parents pushing baby strollers have been observed following Golfer Dad or Golfer Mom. But there’s also joy in making fun of ourselves, and Dan always had a low handicap for tapping into our funny bone. He left us in 2019 at age 90, having lied about his age throughout adulthood (he said he was a year younger), but his friends thought it was Dan’s last laugh at a good life .—Jerry Tarde

Not long ago I had the unforgettable experience of trying to play 18 holes behind one of those foursomes known as a plague on earth when it is not known as the Family That Golfs Together.

I don't believe I've ever taken vacations that long, frankly.

Upon finishing the round, I limped into the men's grill and asked the bartender for a pen and notepad. While trying to calm my rage with a few cocktails, I thought it would be therapeutic to make a list of things I would rather do in this lifetime than play another round of golf directly behind such lovers of the game. I decided I would rather:

  1. Eat a veggie burger.
  2. Lift heavy furniture.
  3. Attend a political rally
  4. Drive across country without smoking.
  5. Watch a game show on TV
  6. Listen to accordion music.
  7. Discuss wine.
  8. Read Proust.
  9. Go to a rock concert.
  10. Try to deal with "frozen cursor syndrome" on my word processor.

I play fast, of course. I don't line up putts from four sides, three sides or even two sides in most cases. I don't "sweep" the line, figuring that any object the ball might hit along the way will give it a better chance of going in the cup than my putting stroke.

The only time I walk around with a towel is after I've showered. I might add that the only time I plumb-bob is when I'm conducting a symphony.

My club selection never causes any delays. I know what I'm going to hit before I get to my ball because I've been there many times before, or in a location just like it.

What's more, I can hit two mulligans while my companions are improving their lies.

I am among those who firmly believe that a round of golf should not take more than 31/2 hours, four at the most. Anything longer than that is not a round of golf, it's life in Albania.

So now I'm out there behind the Family That Golfs Together, all of whom are wearing shorts and anklets, naturally.

Macho Dad has a five-piece swing that strongly suggests he can't possibly play below a 22-handicap, but he insists on hitting from the tips, from so far back his takeaway runs a serious risk of getting caught in the crape myrtle.

Never-ready Mom wears a wide-brimmed straw hat, and her golf glove features a handy little wrist compartment for her tee.

Idiot Teenage Son has his baseball cap on backward and grips the driver as he would a sledgehammer. He is here at gunpoint. He wanted to be at the beach today with his pals, drinking beer, doing drugs and falling madly in love with the third runner-up in the Miss Cerebral contest.

Sullen Teenage Daughter is also here at gunpoint. She would rather be locked in her room at home, chain-smoking cigarettes and listening to gangster rap.

I will describe only one hole.

Macho Dad stripes it down the middle, about 167, bringing it in from left to right. He struts to the cart, puts the big furry-animal headcover back on his driver.

From the blues, Idiot Teenage Son swings for the centerfield fence but hits a trickling 30-yard bunt. He trots after the ball, brings it back, tees it up again. Macho Dad goes over to give him a lesson. He points the V’s, firms up the left side, adjusts the stance. This time, Idiot Teenage Son swings for the right-field wall but hits a toe-job pop-up shot that barely clears the ball washer. He's not happy to learn he'll have to play that one.

Sullen Teenage Daughter goes first at the reds. After four whiffs and a yard of turf plowed up, she hits one 10 yards, although the club sails 15 yards. She retires to the cart with a shrug. Never-ready Mom takes six tedious practice swings, then smother-tops it into the rough, where they all enjoy an Easter-egg hunt.

After what seems like an hour later, the Family That Golfs Together is finally on the green, where Never-ready Mom stands over a one-foot putt, forever. Members of my group are now hollering such things as, "Pull the trigger, Mom!"

Myself, I'm playing Scarlett O'Hara, except I'm holding a golf ball instead of a turnip. But my fist is raised to the sky, and I'm saying, "As God is my witness, I'll never play golf on Sunday again!"