Fear in the Time of Challenge

 As the Yaki Indian wise man Don Carlos said, the decline of old age is the toughest challenge of all.  I don’t have to tell you that family members are bed-ridden, lifelong friends die off while you still owe them dinner at your place, and events of your early life are a distant muddle but for a few photos. You surely have less bounce in your step – but you still have a step. The challenge of old age is to put any life back in Life, while you are still walking.

So the time is near for you to begin actually playing golf. This could be your way, and perhaps your only way, of fighting back the early withering of your soul. And there are signs already that you may succeed. Hopefully (as I suggested) you have picked up a 3-wood and a 9-iron and a putter – at your local Goodwill store for a total of $15. Hopefully you’ve found an empty field for hitting the 3 and the 9 and a carpet for your putter to get the feel of these clubs. And hopefully you have then with the 3-wood and the 9-iron knocked some balls on a low cost driving range, and the putter on the totally free greens at most public golf  courses.

Life is short and you must now begin golf in earnest. Do not wait for golf to come to you. There are usually pitch-and-putt courses in most towns, and some have holes up to 200 yards. Often their fees for seniors (and super seniors over 75) are extremely reasonable. In more remote locations, you’ll  just have to start on the long course with a nine-hole rate in the off-peak hours midday. However, the longer pitch-and-putt courses (sometimes called “Executive 9s”) are probably your best way to start experiencing real golf.

Do that even before you have tried to master any stroke or any club. Do that if you have a few weeks wait to take inexpensive group lessons. Time may not be on your side. Here is my cantankerous and surely controversial opinion: Even though you may be inept and the experience somewhat frustrating, you need to understand golf in the context of playing golf. Only after you have tried to play will you know what lessons you need the most, what equipment you need the most, and what kind of practice you need to start…now.

We’ll talk about those things in short order. but do not be afraid either of embarrassment or hurting yourself or wasting money or worse, embarking on something so huge you can never complete it…. Many others are as embarrassed as you, you adjust yourself immediately to anything that hurts, you can begin cheaply, and as for something so huge…

To get our attention at our age, it practically has to be huge. I had the good fortune to be at the 2012 Harvard Commencement speech by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the President of Liberia and a Nobel Prize winner as the first female leader of an African nation. She told the soon-to-be-comfortable Harvard grads that they would aspire to goals, but she warned that if they were predictable and safe goals, these would drain their life of passion. She told the soon-to-be-comfortable Harvard grads that their lives would mean little if their goals, right now, were not “absolutely terrifying”, almost impossible to imagine reaching.

Maybe she was not talking to you, or certainly not talking about golf.  Or maybe she was….Without demeaning her message or the potentials of Youth, I think that if you are just starting out on golf then probably it is scary. Scary is probably how a round of golf looks to you. HUGE. Impossible. So this should be of comfort, and be your great luck, in the Time of Challenge. You should welcome this new thing you are afraid of…because by now you are more ready than you know.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

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Golf in the Elements

If you are 75, you have seen a rainy day or two. And wherever you live, there are usually cold days in some of the year, and you mostly don’t let them get in your way. With snug cars and centrally heated roofs over our heads, it is easy to forget that once upon a time we were tough. Our kids wouldn’t dream of swimming in cold water, but we frolicked in it. Our smartphones know the weather, and so we come to know it hour by hour. It’s a sure sign of sloth, when we can’t look out the window or step outside to find out how the weather really is, because our smartphones will tell us in the comfort of our beds.

No one will question your right to restrict your golfing to sunny days only. It does put you in a category, and it does limit your options. But with so many years of travail behind you, you have the total right to demand that the sun shine on every joy you find, and every day you find it. There are plenty of sunny days for golf, and plenty of golfers of all ages populate weekends on the courses (leaving weekdays mostly to the retired).

But remember this: once we were tough. Once we played our sports in the rain – tennis, with soggy balls and wooden racquets that were warping. Once we played outside all day long because as kids, the outside was ours. The outside was freedom. So even before you venture out to a full length course, you will probably have to decide if you are a fair-weather golfer, or a tough one.

No one is suggesting you go out golfing in torrential rains, or in cold that freezes your eyes and earlobes. However, in golf there are a few advantages to being tough. If you go out on a misty day, you will probably have the whole course to yourself — this is good for beginners not being rushed by impatient golfers behind. If you go out on a cold day, such as most climates experience in the fall, or early spring, you can manage well in 50 degree weather while other golfers are waiting at home for summer. Some northerners even hit colored golf balls into the snow. (They find them, like so many Easter eggs lying about, in the spring).

So your choice is to be a fair-weather golfer, or a tough one. Shorts and sporty shirts and baseball caps are all a fair-weather golfer needs. But the tough ones are out in the grey mist and the cold autumn and late winter days. They need waterproof golf shoes (from England, on Amazon at $29.95) and a rain shirt that keeps you dry and warm while swinging away ($18 on sale online) and ordinary golf gloves, but for both hands.

If you are among the tough ones, you will discover as I did, that you have as many as four more months golfing, with few people on the course. Occasionally there are winter rates, and golf has its “winter rules” which allow you to take a ball from the mud and drop it on about any spot of grass you want. However, to be truthful…when I started golf in December, I had to be tough because I was impatient to get out there and hit the ball.

There is one more advantage to being a tough golfer. When the sun and warmth finally breaks through, all the fair weather golfers are just getting their strokes back. You will be jumping with joy in the pulsating air, and ready to enjoy not being quite so tough. However, you also know you may continue your golfing days a couple more months after the skies turn grey again. Think of it…It is like negotiating four more months of Life every year. Perhaps it is a deal you have with your God…but what a deal!


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

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