1. Par 5 478 Yards Handicap 17
“Go ahead buddy, the tee is yours,” he said with a wide smile as his son tried unsuccessfully to tee up his first official drive.
It was just after sunrise on one of those long summer days perfectly designed (by who/what?) for a round of golf. The already warm air smelled of freshly mown bermuda grass. The lines of the fairway were far straighter than anything nature ever created — as if somehow the straightness of the lines makes man an equal with nature, even though it never quite seems to.
“See that white stake right in front of you son?”
“Yes,” he said, still unable to coax the tee into the ground.
“I want you to aim right for that. Just pretend it’s the clothesline pole you always hit in the backyard; now let me show you a little trick.” He cupped the just purchased ball, still tacky from countless days sitting in the pro shop display. Then placed the the tee between his index and middle fingers and effortlessly punctured the turf and steadied the ball, ready for its inaugural contact.
Jack gazed into the mist, and zeroed in on the white post. All of his concentration focused intently on that one piece of wood. His body tensed, his ten-finger grip on his driver tightened, his feet planted firmly into the ground. He swung the club back with the ease of a child. At the peak of his swing the metal shaft bent almost imperceptibly. A split second later….thwack! The most beautiful sound in golf, the sound of joy itself. Metal on dimples, echoing off the tunnel of trees, muffled ever so slightly by the damp earth and foliage. No nightingale has ever sung a note so lovely.
The son’s ball never veered from the dark green line mowed into the equatorial center of the fairway.
The son looked up to his father expectantly. “Straight at the white marker; just like you told me dad.”
And knowing what his son wanted to hear the father replied, “Nice shot son. Gonna be hard for your old man to top that one.”
Jack skipped back to his bag and placed his elephant head cover back on on his driver. The head cover had been a gift from his dad from the pro shop only minutes before. A memento for their first round of golf together. To Dan the elephant symbolized a good memory, wisdom incarnate. To Jack it was simply the largest and wildest looking head cover of the bunch. Symbolism was still a few years away from being an idea he would understand.
Dan repeated his effortless teeing of the ball in the ground on the tee as his son watched to learn, just as he had done with so many other things, big and small. Jack watched his dad tie his shoes, put on a cufflinks, steer the car, mow the lawn, kiss his mother when he came home from work. He watched his father do everything and tried his hardest to be just like him. His father seemed to do everything so effortlessly, always with a smile on his face. So now he watched him as he set up to take his first swing in their first round together. The son wouldn’t miss this for the world.
Dan set up with the ball just off his left heel as he’d read in a golf magazine once. He made sure his interlocking grip felt comfortable, shifted his hips, waggled the clubhead a few times and then delicately placed it behind the ball. He eyed the fairway ahead, a slight dogleg left. He closed his stance just a touch in hopes of coaxing a draw out of his swing.
He had always played a draw. It was what the greats of the game played: Bobby Jones (the greatest of all), Hogan, Arnie, Jack. (The son had heard these names, but didn’t yet understand them the way he eventually would.) If it was good enough for the greats, it was good enough for him. He felt like a draw was a man’s swing and so a draw it was.
And shortly after his own whack! his ball turned from right to left as if being guided by the fairway itself. It was still ascending as it passed Jack’s ball. His son marvelled at the shot, a shot he didn’t even know was possible.
“Holy cow dad, how’d you do that?”
“Grab your bag son and I’ll teach you.”
And so they grabbed their bags and walked together toward the fairway, the father’s hand playfully mussing Jack’s bleach blonde hair. The first round of many was underway, a lifetime of lessons ahead.
Dan had waited until Jack was old enough to comfortably walk with a bag on his back before taking him out for a round. Just as a man played a draw, so too did he walk the course. What better way to get a feel for the distances, and for the course itself? Not to mention the pace of things. Golf was all about finding your own pace and rhythm. If you found that, you could play the game with the synchronicity required to truly enjoy it. That was what he hoped to pass on to his son, an appreciation for the beat of golf. His son would have to find his own rhythm, but first he would have to find the beat.
“What club should I hit dad?”
“The three wood son.”
“Alright!! Another big club.” Jack quickly pulled out his fairway wood and took his stance. Again he swung so smoothly and thoughtlessly that it looked as if the club swung itself. And again it went straight ahead. He and the game were getting off to a good start together.
“Great shot son.” He said proudly as thoughts of college scholarships bubbled up in his mind.
More good shots followed by father and son as they walked toward the first green. The clubs click-clacked in their bags as they strolled along, side-by-side up the middle of the fairway.
Dan could hardly believe how well Jack was striking the ball for his first time on the course. Sure he was a natural on the range and even on the local pitch and putt, but the real course was something else entirely. But here he was, a natural from the very first day. Not only that, his demeanor was so…peaceful, as if he felt at home on the golf course.
Dan knew this feeling well, as he felt uniquely calm on the golf course too. The game changed the beat he walked by, slowed it down, made it mimic his heartbeat. He wondered whether this was as nature intended?
The father and the son both two putted, Jack for bogey, his dad for birdie. Plus one and minus one after one. The symmetry felt right to Dan. Plus one was exactly what Jack was to him, himself +1.