If you have a golfing family, it’s very likely that “family time” may consist of getting together on a Sunday afternoon for a round of golf. Of course, it is very likely that food will be involved immediately following the round, but until then it’s off to the first tee for the family gathering of the week. Golf is a great opportunity to spend several hours together and even catch up on the week. The kids can show Mom and Dad how far they can “bomb” their drive and the parents can show their kids the finer points of raking a bunker. In any case, it will be an enjoyable afternoon for all…at least that is the plan.
The enjoyable round of golf with the family might take a turn to the “less than enjoyable round of golf” for the family member who is the beginner of the bunch. Everyone who has been trying to coax the “beginner” to join in on the fun, are likely to be card-carrying members of the handicap system of the USGA. They’ve been playing golf for a while and really love the game. They know that once the “beginner” gets going, they’ll love it too! They are probably right on the money…they know the “beginner” and know that they will love all the aspects of the game. There’s the social aspect of course, the natural beauty of the surroundings and they know the “beginner” loves being outside…and the walking..the”beginner” LOVES to walk. They walk everyday! Why not walk on the golf course? Then finally, there’s the game of golf itself. Playing golf is AWESOME!
The “beginner” has gone to the range a bit here and there, maybe even taken a few lessons and of course has received many suggestions from the card-carrying family members on what to do to hit the ball in the air. They’ve even snuck out on their own to the local par three course just to get their feet wet. Finally, the “beginner” says, “OK…I’ll go play” and off they go to the course. Suffice it to say, that the young guns in the group BOMB their drives hundreds of yards off the tee…the older more experienced player launches irons shots high into the air where the ball seems to always come to rest somewhere on the green and not too far from the pin. To the “beginner”, they all make it look so easy! The “beginner” takes 2 or 3 shots just to reach the first shot of one of those bombs off the tee. Then, another couple of shots to reach the green and then there is putting!
The experienced players roll the ball into the cup in one or two strokes! Amazing!! The “beginner” may take 2, 3 or sometimes 4 putts to hear the sound of the ball fall and land at the bottom of the cup! After a few holes, the “beginner” is thinking, “this is depressing, it takes me forever just to get to the green, then when I finally DO get to putt, the ball seems to avoid the hole at all costs!”…”And people go on vacation to do this?” In the meantime, the family of players encourages the “beginner” throughout the round, they tell them how well they’re doing for a “beginner” and yes, it takes time but you’ll get it and when you do, you’ll really love it! If this sounds at all familiar, you are not alone.
Of course, I happen to agree with the golfers in the family…once you have a good plan for your improvement, you will get better and you will love it! However, in the process of your improvement you want to have a way to play with the “golfers” in your family that allows you to have expectations that are meaningful to you and realistic to your skill level. Once you have a way to play with them, you’ll enjoy your time on the course far more than you thought you could. Here are a few ways to play in the weekly family golf outing all the while gaining experience on the course.
Pick A Drive – If you hit your tee shot and it is less than desirable, pick the best tee shot of the group and play your next shot from there. You’ll likely be further down the fairway and you won’t feel like everyone is waiting for you to catch up.
Par Plus 2 – If you do decide to play your own tee shot then your goal is to reach the green in par plus 2. That means you want to reach the green on a par 4 in six shots…if not, pick up your ball and drop it on the green about three feet from the hole and make a putt.
Scramble – This is a great one if everyone in the group is a beginner. Everyone hits their tee shot then everyone plays from the best tee shot of the group. Continue playing that way until you reach the green. Then everyone plays his or her own ball once it’s on the green.
If you really do want to play golf with the family, then finding a way to make it feel better when you play is key. Find a teacher you like to work with and stick with it. Map out a game plan for your short term and long term goals. Set some expectation that are realistic to your skill level now and know that you can and will modify those expectations as you get better. There is a universal sliding scale of goal setting in golf that exists for each of us, and it’s always on the move. We are always raising the bar and in golf and it can be raised again and again and again. That’s the beauty of the sport…there is always room for improvement. The funny thing is, when you set your goal to reach a par 4 in four shots, and you realize that you’re doing just that…you raise the bar right then and there! And that my friends, is exactly why golf is the best game in the world!