Back-yard football is the unofficial sport of Thanksgiving, but pick-up pigskin works better in theory than practice. Half the crew is out of shape or hungover, there's always one guy delivering cheap shots to atone for unresolved childhood drama, and the quarterbacks are so bad they make Mitchell Trubisky look competent. Fun times!
Which is why we humbly propose a new Thanksgiving tradition: golf. Yes, putting together an outing can be an endeavor, and the holidays have enough hoopla as is. But fear not. Our insider’s guide to the proper Thanksgiving golf outing will give you all the tools you need to tee it up this Turkey Day.
How do I play golf without my loved ones disowning me?
It is a time of gathering, but at some point—usually around the time your uncle brings up what the Founding Fathers really meant when creating the Constitution—everyone needs their space. Don't worry about offending family members by heading out to play golf; they're probably getting sick of you anyway. Besides, chances are part of the clan is going shopping. Their journey to the mall is your ticket to the course.
Do I have to bring the rest of the family?
Depends. Make sure everyone feels included; conversely, this is not the time for grandma to pick up the game. (Sorry, Grandma Betty, but you and I both know your church's annual putt-putt jamboree doesn't count.) If a family member isn't totally foreign to the sport, pass along the invite.
Keep it a family affair, or can my friends come too?
You wouldn't think twice if the sport in question was football, and many friendships are just as important, if not more so, than family relations. Plus, odds are you're going to need a few bodies to fill out your groups, all the more reason your buds should join the ride.
When should we play?
Morning. There are negatives to this. Chiefly, it's going to be on the colder side, and—depending on the prior night's events—making sure everyone wakes up in time may require a Herculean effort. However, the later in the day, the more likely you're going to be foiling family obligations, and there's a good probability your wife, mom and sisters are doing their shopping before lunch. The morning window is your best opportunity.
Speaking of cold, weather around Thanksgiving can be dicey. What’s the cut-off for acceptable playing weather?
Is it snowing or raining? No? Then layer up and get your butt to the course. Besides, parades are boring and the Cowboys and Lions games usually blow.
Where should we play?
This ain't the time to embrace your inner Magellan. You might know of a charming joint an hour off the beaten path, but save that for a lazy summer weekend. Same goes with your town's most challenging test of golf. Stick to something local that won't throw curveballs to the higher handicappers.
Na; take a casual approach. Play everything as a lateral, roll out of divots, free drops if leaves are possibly hiding the ball, and be generous on the gimmes.
Even for my sister’s new boyfriend, who everyone thinks is kind of a dolt?
Make that bastard putt everything out.
Stroke play, or is there another preferred format?
Sticking with the relaxed theme, we vouch for scramble. It keeps the fringe, recreational players involved while reducing the risk their play submarines the round. It also stands to reason that, at this time of the season, no one is bringing their "A" game. Not often you're allowed to shake off the bad shots while celebrating the gems. Take advantage of this while you can.
This almost sounds like you’re taking the competitiveness out.
Easy there, Sack. Creating a more inclusive environment doesn't mean we're handing out participation trophies. The name of the game remains getting the lowest score as possible, which allows plenty of room for competitive fire and cageyness.
So it’s cool to break out the Patrick Reed “ssshh” after sinking a birdie putt?
I thought you said your sister’s boyfriend was the dolt.
Fair enough. Keep it to nine holes or stretch it to 18?
No one will put up a fuss if you're playing football for 90 minutes. A five-hour golf excursion might raise some eyebrows. If the course is open and things are moving, forward on, but chances are you won't be the only group out. Pray for 18, prepare for nine.
Do we have the green light to enjoy some spirits on the course?
By no means are we advocating getting liquored up, yet there's nothing wrong with dabbling in the spirits. (True story: The Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians shared a Thermos filled a spiked cider. Look it up.) It will likely be a tad nippy out; putting that beer coat on is almost a matter of health.
Any other suggestions?
Thanksgiving dinner conversation occasionally gets schismatic, especially in these times, so table any political discourse during your round. Rolling back the ball should be the most divisive topic broached; even then, proceed with caution (particularly if your family member works for the USGA).
Thanksgiving is a period of recognizing your blessings. While both the game and your family are prone to drive you crazy, you're a lucky bastard to have them in your life. Savor this opportunity to bring both together.