The #DadGolf Playbook: Lessons Learned From An Amateur Golfer And Professional Dad
By Steven Pease
DadGolf is an approach – a philosophy if you will – that I’ve been developing for years. DadGolf can be many things to different golfers, but it all comes back to chasing a dimpled ball rather than noticing you’re going bald. For dads (especially new ones) golf is a luxury; a re-appropriation of time and a rediscovery of mental health. Depending on how deep into the woods you drive it, it’s your chance to get far; far away from the ones we love the most only to return a better, closer man. Funny how that works.
The following is a playbook I’ve developed over the past four years. It ensures you not only get to get away and enjoy Father’s Day on your favorite track, but also that you navigate the (often choppy) waters of carving out time and money to play The Greatest Game.
Lesson 1: Learn to play The Dad 9
The situation: It’s Saturday. You want to play golf. But you have a 4-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl. And a wife, let’s not forget her.
The mission: Put all three down for a nap, get to the course, finish 9 holes, and return before they awake. For those who are wondering that times out at about 2 hours door to door – a tall task to say the least.
The benefits: You actually get to play golf.
The drawbacks: You will literally be running or asking every group to play through.
Sure, you could join a league and play every Tuesday evening, but when you have a newborn and young kids you just never know when you might be able to get out for a quick 9 holes. With my patented (not really) Dad 9 program, there’s no need to feel guilty about canceling your league or buddies’ tee time last minute. The Dad 9, is contingent only on getting people to sleep, or in the case of my boy, highly entertained (thanks Steve Jobs!) before you can jam. You’re not going to be nominated for Dad of The Year anytime soon, but damn if you don’t find the solace needed to return clear-headed and feeling fulfilled. Sure you may be out of breath by the time you get back, but by making it a Dad 9, you’ll not only eliminate the on-course “When do you think you’ll be home?” texts, but you’ll have the added benefit of having saved enough time to come home and immediately mow the lawn. Yayyyyy! What I’ve learned in the last 4+ years is not to feel guilty about golf. Everyone needs an outlet – a chance to opt out of the stress and win back a little bit of “bandwidth” – if only for an hour or two. Even Tiger, a newish father himself, uses the course as a refuge and respite. “You go out there, and for me, I focus, I get into my little world, my little zone, and do the best I possibly can,” Tiger said before THE PLAYERS in May.
Lesson 2: Unlocking the ‘DadGolf Mobile Badge’
This year’s PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP (Note the stylistically correct ALL CAPS) was hands down the best finish in the event’s history. Rickie Fowler “flipped the switch” on 14 on Sunday, to close birdie-par-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to snag a spot in a playoff, add three more birdies, and eventually claim his second win at a marquis event. (That was almost as impressive as coming from 9 shots back with 7 holes to play to win your annual buddy’s golf trip by 1 in Charleston, S.C. *wink* But I digress.) What’s arguably even more impressive was what occurred at the Pease household this past Mother’s Day.
We gave mom the day off. She works so hard, and does such a great job, the least I can do is watch the kids for a day, allowing her to catch up with grandma and great grandma in our hometown. Even with the kids in tow, somehow, some way, I was determined not to miss The Players. Over the last few hours of play, I watched Rickie Fowler’s historic run by completing a feat of epic proportions myself. It went down like this:
• Just as Fowler birdied the 14th, I took two kids grocery shopping; making it to and from the store in about an hour. Thanks to streaming video on my phone (mobile bill was magically about $40 higher this month), and the lucky draw of a dual “race car” shopping kids’ shopping cart, I barely missed a shot.
• Upon our return home, I put the boy down for a nap, while my baby girl “assisted” me with dinner.
• Made five cheeseburgers on the grill, strategically adjusting my living room flat screen to be viewable outdoors.
And still I didn’t miss a shot the last hour. It’s at this point I realized the student has become the master.
Lesson 3: ‘Drink Fast, Go Home Early’
This is the best marital advice I’ve ever received. I was in a golf shop in 2009 – perusing some of TaylorMade’s roughly 25 different types of drivers released that month – when I began chatting with a man celebrating his 60th anniversary that day. As a soon-to-be married man, I felt compelled to ask, “What’s your secret?” “Well,” he said, “my father-in-law told me the night we were married to always ‘drink fast, and go home early’. I’ve been doing that for 60 years, and it hasn’t failed me yet.'”
In nearly every scenario, that’s great advice that grants you the win-win of hanging out and enjoying a few with buddies, and still being back at a decent hour as not to incur the Wrath of Mom. But I’ve also learned to build in some padding when discussing when you’ll be back from golf. If you’re a smart man, 6 hours is a nice round number when giving an E.T.A. to your W.A.G. That way, if you play 18, you’ll still have an hour to eat and drink without feeling crazy-rushed. If you only play 9 (we’re not talking Dad 9s), you’ll be home early. Not only will you rack up much-needed Brownie Points, but you’ll have the added bonus of getting to put one (or both) of your kiddos to bed. Which is unquestionably better than any amount of time spent with a clubhouse pint.
Lesson 4: The Perfect Father’s Day Formula (gifts for your significant other)
Pro-V1 are the three magical syllables every golfer wants to hear on Father’s Day. You simply can’t go wrong shelling out $50+ for a dozen of the best golf balls on earth. But if you really want to ice the cake, give the golfer in your life some time, too. Give them a hall pass to go golfing, and then come home and watch the entirety of the final round of the U.S. Open.
For me, whose birthday just happens to land on Father’s Day this year, having time to bask in the glow of final round coverage of my favorite major is unbeatable. I’m not saying I’m looking forward to completely clocking out – every father of young kids knows there’s inevitably a commercial break where you’ll need to change a diaper or defuse a volatile situation here and there. However, some of the most vivid memories of my life have come on a couch, drinking in the final holes of the U.S. Open: Corey Pavin’s 4-wood in 1994 at Shinnecock, or Tiger’s rout at Pebble in 2000, or his surreal gut-check at Torrey in 2008. The one thing I will really miss is Yanni’s “In Celebration of Man” theme on NBC. Call it a guilty pleasure, but it’s just not going to be the U.S. Open without the transplant Minnesotan tickling the ivories. Fox Sports’ Joe Buck will take over Jonny Miller’s lead analyst seat, while Holly Sonders will undoubtedly be a suitable stand-in for Roger Maltbie. (Sorry, Rog).
Lesson 5: Four-Letter Words
No matter how you spin it, Father’s Day is about appreciating your blessings. This June 21, enjoy the longest day of the year. Bask in the sun. Enjoy the gifts you’ve been given. Because at its best, DadGolf is a cross-pollination of four-letter words – golf, love, kids and beer.