I first touched a club when I was two years old. My dad cut little holes in our yard, stuck tin cans in the holes and mowed the grass a little shorter in those areas. He then stuck a homemade flag in the cans and voila, we had a golf course.
I played that course, “Norland National” or something like that, for two years and then off we headed to our local nine-hole, small town golf course. It was the kind of place you find in novels written long ago, kind of a heavenly place that was safe and everyone was friendly. It was the kind of place you could spend all day without getting into trouble, well not too much trouble.
Once we got to the course he tutored and taught me the fundamentals of the swing and gave me a passion for the game and then turned me loose. Although he was a very good player (a two handicap) he promised me that the day I beat him we would go to our Holy Grail of Golf, Pebble Beach.
The day I beat him he started making plans to go and later that summer we were able to play Pebble Beach and The Olympic Club.
My dad is now 85 years old and to this day we are still able to play golf four or five times a year in Florida.
I tell you all of this to drive home the point that golf is the greatest game there is.
Golf can be played for a lifetime – although I find that as I get older my skills are trending toward what they were like very early in my life.
Golf is a game that you can compete against golfers much better or much worse than you, thanks to the handicapping system.
Also, golf is a game that teaches so much about life.
During a round of golf you have to overcome challenges, celebrate small successes, demonstrate patience and finish strong.
The game requires discipline to play and requires many hours of practice to play at a high level. But golf might also be the only game that during a round you are allowed time to enjoy nature and the camaraderie of your friends, even as you beat the pants off them.
It also allows time to relax, while still getting some great exercise, if you forego the riding cart.
When you put all this together, you will see that golf is a game for all people and people of all ages.
Even though the game can be frustrating at times, it is also a game that is rewarding. During a round you may have some failures, but you will always have some successes and things that will keep you coming back time after time.
I love the fact that the game has allowed me to have something in common that helps my father and I connect and spend quality time together, and it is a game that I will certainly pass on to my son. And hopefully we will be connecting for four hours and 20 minutes a day at least four to five times a year when I am 85.
We can hope and then we can celebrate with the help of my handicap and the senior tees when I kick his butt again for one last time.
Larry Norland is the director of golf at Green Haven Golf Course in Anoka.