Family GolfJuly, 2014
Peter Chippindale tells us why getting into golf with your family is great
Around 23 years ago now, my wife (Lynn) & I were looking for some sport / activity to occupy our youngest son (Chris) who was then 7 years old. The problem was that virtually everything Chris tried, no matter how accomplished he became, he was always overshadowed by his elder brother (James). So, for example, Chris became a very good table tennis player – at 12 years old however, his brother won the ‘Bradford Cadet Table Tennis Championship’ and played for the North of England teams. The three year gap between the two made it very difficult for Chris to compete.
At the time we lived no more than a 1000 yards from our local golf club and since James had never played golf this seemed an obvious choice for Chris. So off we went, Chris & I, to a nearby golf driving range. I’d played casual golf for around 15 years but had never become a serious golfer or member of a club so I had an old set of clubs which we used.
Chris took to golf like a duck to water, after a couple of group lessons for youngsters he was hitting the ball right out of the driving range with amazing accuracy and consistency. He has a very supple, natural golf swing and can power a golf ball a prodigious distance. Very quickly he developed other skills, for example juggling with a golf ball, a la Tiger Woods, tossing it up then hitting 150 yards up the range. At last we thought, here’s something he can excel at, without competition from his brother.
Within a couple of weeks though, James was asking if he could come with us and have a go at this golf malarky. Very soon the whole family, the 2 boys, their younger sister (Katie), Lynn and myself were regular visitors at the driving range, all of us taking group lessons. Soon after, we joined our local golf club as a family, mostly playing together for the first year. Indeed, for the first 2 seasons, Lynn would only play with us, fearful that she wasn’t good enough to play in Ladies competitions. Lynn, James & myself have very competitive personalities, at least as far as sport is concerned, and put lots of time into improving our game & lowering our handicaps.
Even now, on the range people stop to watch & be entertained! We got seriously hooked on golf. In her first year of competitive golf with the Ladies’ Section Lynn won every competition bar one and quickly acquired the lowest female handicap in the golf club, James had the lowest junior handicap (& later played for St. Andrews university team ) and I, well I became a lot better. Chris just carried on juggling & hitting the ball for miles, but without a competitive bone in his body he simply didn’t have our need to win, preferring simply to enjoy himself and see what score he shot at the end. Even now, on the range people stop to watch & be entertained!
Around the same time we began skiing together as a family with more or less the same pattern emerging. This time, though the two boys both became very accomplished ‘hell for leather’ skiers, Katie outshone both of them and later became a qualified Ski Instructress , Lynn became very competent and I became an expert in dealing with aches and pains.
The point is, that here were two sporting activities we could all play to a reasonable level, a focal activity for the family. This gave us a massive amount of quality time together as a family and I’m sure helped to develop the very deep bonds that exist between us. Over the last 20 years or more we’ve played lots of games and had great times together in many different places and countries. James & I have just come back from South-west Ireland playing some of the best courses ever and we’re thinking of another trip there next year.
Being able to play competitive golf as a couple is a massive added bonus. In the last few years since the children have grown and especially following retirement, Lynn and I played competitive golf in competitions all over the UK, from Aberdeen to Cornwall, all over Europe, in Ireland, France, Spain, Italy and Portugal and in the Caribbean too! Fantastic experiences for us both, but more importantly shared experiences & we won more than our fair share off quite low handicaps. Contrast that with the guy who goes to play golf to get away from his wife and gets constant criticism for spending too much time doing so!
Most definitely my favourite golf companions are the members of my family, an opportunity that many golfers miss out on! So, is it worth devoting the time golf demands to become a competent player so you can play together with your partner (and children)? – absolutely, you’ll have some great experiences together, there’s no-one better to play this game with. Given the choice of playing, say with my son or Tiger Woods, sorry Tiger – eat your heart out, you’d be second choice every time!