Beware the Candy Store

When you are learning golf at age 75 there is no end of beginnings. The people at the golf pro shop will say you must first have a good set of clubs. Your local golf instructor says you need instruction, and he’ll provide the clubs. The fancy golf resort in Hawaii will assume you want a world class course and a five star hotel room. Some golfing friends will say you must join the country club. Be sure of this. You’ll get a lot of help. The vast business of golf will welcome you to its candy store, and they’ll help you reach for your credit card with smiles all around….


So…Let me put it in a different light: Simple Beginnings. Golf can be fun and cheap or golf can be frustrating and expensive. If you spend a lot of money up front for full sets of clubs or four one-hour private lessons or a country club membership, you will want some kind of result for the money. You may not progress quickly at all, and if you have spent a bunch of money that will be demanding on your performance.  I’ll offer another approach.

You do not need pressures on yourself when you are learning golf at age 75. Do this. Go to a miniature golf course during the day when there are no kids or families around. A few friends might make it more fun. Just putt the ball through a monster’s mouth and bounce it around corners and you will get a feel for putting. It’s the simplest shot to start with in golf. Mostly you will do it right, with two hands on the putter and striking the ball just hard enough to put it in the hole, and not hard enough to hurt anyone.

One of the most interesting golf stores is not a golf store at all. It is the local Goodwill. The local Goodwill will have a wonderful selection of used golf clubs in wonderful condition. My suggestion is that you start by getting only a putter, and a nine iron, and a 3 wood. Mostly the size will be for the average golfer, and if you are short you may want to get junior or ladies sizes.  Except for an occasional pink paint job, the clubs have no idea what sex you are.

You can probably buy these three beginning clubs for $10…$15 max. Later you will spend more, but only when you know more of what you are doing. These three clubs will let you begin to experience the 3 important parts of a golf game. With a 3-wood  you can learn driving for your Long Game, both from the tee and on the fairway. With that 9-iron you can learn to hit any iron, especially in the Short game (when you are approaching the green). And of course the putter will be the last club you use, on the green, to get the ball in the hole with your Putting game.

In a short time you will discover areas where you can physically practice, and inexpensive ways to begin playing. The putting green at any public golf course (,  and in some golf stores,)  is usually free for unlimited practice. No one will ask you what you are doing. You are improving your golf, like any other golfer, high school to touring pro. To beginning experiencing Long Game and Short Game shots, you can find little plastic  “practice” golf balls with holes in them to practice contacting the ball with your 9 iron and your 3 wood, and not breaking any windows. Probably these can be found at the Goodwill as well, but enough to begin hitting will only cost a few dollars at any store with a Sports section. A large backyard or, better, a patch of grass in a neighborhood park will do fine for you your first efforts at contacting a plastic practice ball. It’s not the exact feel of contacting a real ball, off course, but it will begin to develop your eye and your basic stance and swing.

 Later you may want to hit a “bucket” of real balls, to improve your Long Game, and go around a short 9 hole “pitch and putt” course to begin actually playing with your few clubs. You may learn some basics in an inexpensive group lessons and that is a good idea, but basically you cannot buy the ability to hit that little ball. You must learn to make contact, and hit it where you want it to go. This means you first invest a little time.

Begin your golf learning in this way, and when you finally walk into the golf candy store, you’ll know much more of what you want, and what you need.

Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Save Buckets of Money with a Practice Space

Back in the days of the Red Dog Saloon, everyone knew the length of his or her pace and from that could walk off distances. Chances are, if you are 75, you’ve learned pacing at one time or other in your youth, or should have. One pace is two steps, a left and a right. When you are pacing you start on your left foot count every time your right foot comes down. (We used to slap our right leg and count the next number on the way to the destination). Then, when you get to your objective – the golf hole or the edge of the park, you take the count of your paces. Then you multiply it by the length of one pace. The average man has a pace – a left and right step – of about 5 feet.

Don’t spend a fortune in $8 and $12 buckets of balls to develop your shorter shots. Instead, you should find your own practice area for your Short Game and pace off distances within it to practice your shorter “pitches.” This small area of grass may be the outfield of a baseball diamond, unused during the week. It may be on the back grounds of large office complex. Or it may be in a remote corner of a city park. Remember these are unused areas in much of the workweek, untouched and yours to use. One great golfer, Seve Ballesteros, grew up poor, hitting his balls on the sand beaches of his small fishing town in Spain. He became one of the best golfers ever at hitting the short shots approaching the green…especially when he was in a sand trap. (He became no. 1 in the world — and poor no more!)

Hopefully you will find a lonely place with wide open grass, mowed just short enough for you to keep the ball in sight. You claim this territory like the cattlemen claimed grazing land, because you are there first and know how to use it. These spaces can be yours to learn the Short Game – that is everything from 100 yards out, to the green itself. To improve in golf, however, you must have a target, and you must know how far that target is. You cannot learn much if you just hit the ball out into the wide-open space (pleasant as that may be the first few times).

So, one of first things you should learn is how to pace out distances. Here’s why: Much of the delight you will have in golf is the discovery of your own talent, and you will find that in practice, and more practice… every time you have a free hour. For that, you need a solitary practice ground, where you know how far your targets are away from you.

You can continue to work at this practice area only if you use it precisely, with no swing more than a half swing at first. You must hit the ball with very little power until you can always hit it straight. And when you can hit it straight you must pace off just how far you want to hit it, because the second rule is that you must not hit it too far, out of your decided boundaries. Terrified drivers or broken windows in the neighborhood are a sure way to lose your precious space. Do not hit it anywhere near someone walking their dog.

Now you can hit hundreds of balls inside this practice field, and get very good at pitching the ball thirty feet, then 50 , perhaps 100 or more feet – toward a target and hitting precisely, not wildly. You’ll learn to swing methodically and relaxed, and to bring the edge of the club between the ground and the lower half of the ball – lifting it into the air — every time. You will get better and better, and you will do this for Free!

Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Golf Riches For You To Discover

My nephew is about to retire, and he says that although he loves to play golf, it is far too expensive for him to do on a retiree’s budget. Unfortunately, he feels that it is a “rich man’s sport.” At 75, we have to believe that our richness is in years, and in savvy. If you do believe that, you can find ways to make this game of Golf much more affordable.

Let’s start with a statistic (probably Golf Digest…but you tell me): the average golfer now spends $2,700 a year. Given, that is not a figure that recommends itself to the homeless, but on the other hand, people can spend that much or a lot more on boating, skiing, tennis, multiple vacations, or generous Christmas gifts. So before we decide golf is too expensive, let’s say “compared with what – and what level of that what?” Golf trips with all your clubs to Saint Andrews famous course in Scotland could indeed cost you a few dollars (or pounds). But that is not a required level for your golf at all. Much joy can be had on a simple municipal course.

So, if you’ve decided that a little golf might not be totally out of budget for you, let’s start on the American trait of “cost-whittling”.

Time of day: First of all, if you are retired, you can choose your time of day at public courses. The cost usually reflects peak times and goes down from there. For instance, Saturday at 10am will be the most popular tee time. Almost all courses offer discounted rounds to the general public on certain days of the week or times of day. (Ordinary rich golfers DO have to work except for the most popular times…a sad but true fact).

 Your equipment: As I have mentioned in a few posts, at the Goodwill or other second hand stores, you can find a carry-bag and 4 or 5 adequate clubs you need to start for way under $40. Then later add better individual clubs — or even 3 or 4 year old full sets — that you find online for astronomically less than their new price. You should be able to find decent balls for a dollar each. A dirty little secret: Most experienced golfers use only about 7-8 clubs maximum each round, because they discover what works best for them.

Your Age: Almost all courses have a 25-30% discounts for Seniors, but many offer 50% off to Super Seniors over 75. You might say the older you are the cheaper golf becomes. Why should juniors have all the benefits of age? After all, you’ll probably be old longer than they are young.

Trade Volunteer Work: The one special currency that golf course managers have is the ability to grant free rounds to Volunteers. Here’s a notice at one course looking for volunteers. I asked if free courses were given to volunteers who do certain amounts of work, and they said of course.

One very important consideration is that golf courses are small businesses in themselves. You have free time and perhaps some skills they need; they have a golf course they can let you use in exchange. (You’ll have to admit there is potential here.) As in most small businesses, they have limited needs for special skills, and they cannot afford either to employ staff for those small jobs, or pay market rates for part time employees. For instance, if you have been an accountant and can help during tax time, you might get a few rounds as payment.

It comes down to your own creativity and your own moxie. These gifts of yours don’t have to wither with older age. You have the idea and you negotiate the deal. Be entrepreneurial. One short trek through brushy or swampy areas will reveal many excellent quality balls that are too remote for rich golfers to thrash and slog just to get their errant ball. Golf shops can resell these for $1 apiece. They could structure a way for you to bring in these balls for a quarter, or for rounds of golf.  It may mean that you have to fight rattlesnakes in the scrub brush on desert courses, but at least these creatures will not discriminate on the basis of your age.

Copyright 2019 — David Hon