It's a rainy winter day, and my mind has started wondering to the game of golf.
It has been said that golf is a game for life, as both the young and old can experience the game and have a whole lot of fun playing the game.
By playing the game and keeping track of your score, you can earn a golf handicap which allows you to play other golfers in head-to-head or in tournaments where competition is fair and equitable because the better player "gives" strokes to the lesser player in an effort to make it a fair competition. This is a feature of the game that allows players with different abilities, ages, you name it to compete at the same level.
This begs the question, when should one start playing the game? The answer depends on the person and their interest. Nobody should be forced into playing the game, because that just makes one dislike it and give it up when things aren't going their way.
Golf is hard to become good at. It's easy to play, but as the Hall of Fame United States golfer Lee Trevino once said, "golf is a game where you have to play your foul balls." That is, hit a bad shot, and you have to play the next shot from where you found the former shot.
So what is a good age to learn? Many will tell you that if you aren't taking it too seriously, a youngster can learn the basics. There are videos of no less than Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball an less than five years of age. But you can just as easily learn when you are 60.
The important thing is to not take the game to serious at first. Have fun, hit golf balls at a range. Work on the basics, like your grip (how you hold the club), alignment (where do you aim), stance (upright, bent) and posture (how much do you flex and bend your body). Swinging a club at a driving range and watching where the ball goes when you hit it is a good way to have an idea of whether you are doing things right, or wrong.
Many newcomers to the game try and do way too much in the beginning before they are truly able to understand the golf swing. They hit some balls, the balls go everywhere but where you would like them to go, and all of a sudden the newcomer is frustrated and hates the game. That leads to many players just giving up.
A better idea is to go to the range, hit some balls, make some progress and start to feel comfortable with your swing. At that point you might try playing the game on an actual course. A great suggestion is to play on a "short" or "executive" course where the distances are short and the holes, while challenging, aren't just too hard for a beginner.
Start playing well there and you can move forward to a regulation golf course, where you have to use every club in the bag on a variety of shots. Along the way one should learn the rules of the game, like playing the ball as it lies, not walking on another players "line" on the putting green, not talking while an opponent is hitting a shot and so forth. There are many short courses, as well as regulation courses, which offer specials to entice you to play at a deeply discounted rate. Sometimes, one can obtain a special rate for two or more players, which is great for the pocketbook.
It is imperative when playing a course to select the right set of tees for your abilities. There are many courses that have four sets of tees, each with different distances and obstacles to evade. Playing the pro tees might be an option for a strong player, but disaster for a newcomer to the game. The best advice is to play the forward tees, do well from there and then move to a longer, more challenging distance for your game.
Of course, professionals can help with instruction, giving players lessons and tips. The best advice here is to have at least some knowledge of the game before investing in lessons, and it really doesn't make sense to pay a pro to watch you swing for the first time. Instead, visit a golf driving range, practice a bit, and then once you are in the swing of things ask a pro for a lesson or two. Many will have packages whereby you can get several lessons at a discount.
Bucks County golf clubs have excellent teaching professionals. There are also instructors and professionals to help you at golf ranges. The ranges at Bensalem, Middletown and Five Ponds are filled with players of all ages and abilities.
Some courses offer young players the option of playing a significantly shorter course, just so they have the feel for playing a golf course. In this regard, a parent can play from a tee box that is appropriate for their game, while the child can play from a much shorter location. It makes the game a whole lot of fun for a youngster.
Having said this, there is no reason a person in their 30s, 40s or 50s could not start playing the game. Age is truly a number in golf. There are players who picked up a golf club for the first time in their 30s and a couple years later were outstanding golfers. It's important to have some athletic ability, and flexibility of one's body is always good. But the point is age is not the determining factor as to when one should or could start playing the game.
The Professional Golf Association of America (PGA) often has its golf professionals hold clinics for beginners, and those beginners can be of many ages. Generally speaking, younger players are lumped in with younger players, older with older players, and sometime by one's sex so that the males learn the game with the males and the women with the women. There is no right or wrong way to learn, as the most important thing is to actually try.
Playing golf can be an escape from the rigours of the job, but it can be career enhancing as well when you parlay a friendly game into a business opportunity. Golf is a way to develop friendships at your local club, as well as a competitive outlet where you can take the game as serious as you like.
No two golf courses are the same --- I know, I've played more than 900 in my golf career --- and they can be inexpensive or budget busting. Some players have "bucket lists" of places to play, while others just want the opportunity, and when it's they they take it. It doesn't matter, because the point is taking the challenge and having some fun.
Golf is truly a game where an entire family can get together and play a round of golf. By using the appropriate tees the game can be fun for all. Local public and municipal golf courses offer varying special rates late in the day where green fees are discounted so it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to play the game of golf.
When all is said and done, golf a wonderful excuse to sample nature's best and get away from all the thinks that can drive you crazy in life. Of course, some will say your drives will drive you crazy, but that's a story for another day.