Google+ Badge

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Family Golf is Not USGA-Approved



With a huge wet blob of steady rain settled over the Carolinas, I'm reminded of one of my all-time favorite rounds of golf in the rain.  Although rainy golf rounds can rarely be described as fun, this particular round holds a special place in my memory, more for the people involved than for the shots executed or the scores posted.  

We were spending Thanksgiving in Novato, California with my son, Wes, his wife, Jane, and Jane's father Russ who, newly widowed and just discharged from his open-heart surgery rehab, was looking forward to his first golf round.  Wes and Jane's home course, Indian Valley, has a Thanksgiving Day tournament that's not to be missed.  It begins with a magnificent, near-lethal combination of triglycerides, sugar, and alcohol (optional) breakfast buffet designed to fortify the competing teams against all the environmental vagaries of rainy season golf in high holiday tradition.  Breakfast is not to be missed.

And so, properly nourished, our first round of Family Golf began, with two physically fit 40-somethings slogging along fairways slightly squishy from the steady drizzle, outfitted in California-trendy rain suits and contrasting color -- red and grey -- Seattle sombreros, and 3 seniors in carts: the non-golfing diabetic score keeper heavily wrapped in sweater, rain jacket, muffler and cap, the slightly overweight, hypertensive mom of the son -- that would be me -- and the recently re-plumbed father of the daughter -- that would be Russ -- both inadequately outfitted but gamely facing four hours of probable athletic humiliation.  The parents were playing as a team against the kids.  After the first hole, when Wes and Jane walked off the green with pars and Russ and I had a combined gross score of 12 on a par 4, we knew we had to find a way to level the playing field.  Our handicaps just weren't going to be enough.  Family Golf Rules began to evolve.

Rule #1: The Use of the Hand Wedge.  (We negotiated this one when Russ was unable to get out of a bunker and, after his fourth attempt, became dangerously flushed and had some difficulty breathing.)  When a golfer over the age of 65 is unable to execute a successful shot from a bunker, the ball may be removed using the hand wedge.  The penalty for the failed shot is removed.  It is permissible for the hand wedge shot to reach the green.

Rule #2: Relief from Uneven Lies in the Rough.  (We negotiated this one when I twisted my once-broken ankel while attempting to extricate my ball from the far side of a deep ditch while standing on a pile of unstable rocks.)  When a golfer over the age of 65 is unable to achieve stable footing, the ball may be placed in a more advantageous environment, no closer to the green, without penalty.  It is permissible to place the ball in the fairway.

These rules did not help us win, but they did keep us upright and able to complete the round in good spirits and without injury.  The kids won the round.  We all went home cold, wet, tired, hungry, and happy, tossed our wet clothes in a pile in the laundry room, propped out sodden club head covers on soda bottles in front of the fireplace, and took hot showers.  While the kids got the Thanksgiving meal organized the old people took naps.

We try to convene Family Golf Tournaments several times a year, and not everyone who participates in them plays golf.  Some ride and walk along, rather like our own congenial gallery, others choose only to putt.  Some take occasional detours, for snacks, to investigate an especially intriguing gecko or stare down a somnambulant alligator.  The Rules of Family Golf are flexible and constantly changing, designed to accommodate special interests and unique preferences.  Not bound by the USGA Rules of Golf, our version of Family Golf is inclusive, informed as much by our love of each other and the sheer pleasure of spending a few uninterrupted hours together as by our love of golf, even though we probably do have our detractors when we're on the course (the guys in the pro shop, the marshall, and sometimes the group behind us, whom we always invite to play on through.)