For the longest time, my older son, Andrew, has been nine holes short of a golf merit badge. He’d started on the badge late last summer, studying grips, swings, and etiquette. However, he needed to play eighteen holes as one of the requirements. We‘d been to driving ranges and had practiced a lot, but I hadn’t taken him out to complete this final requirement. We’d played nine one morning late last fall. Bad weather and schedules prevented us from making a return trip.
So, one Friday night a few weeks ago, Andrew came up to me and asked if we could play golf the next morning. I promised him we would if the weather was good. I woke up early the next morning and it looked fine. I got the clubs out, expecting Andrew to get up soon. He did.
However, my younger son, Christopher got up first and saw where we were headed.
“Dad, I want to go.”
I hesitated. Andrew is quiet and knows how to behave on a course. However, Christopher has a short attention span and I feared he wouldn't last nine holes. I knew it would tear at me, though, if I left without him. “Come on,” I said. “Just remember, we’re trying to finish Andrew’s badge. You have to behave.”
He promised he would, so we got in the car and headed out of the subdivision. Andrew was excited. Christopher was quiet and even looked sad.
‘What’s wrong, Christopher?”
“Dad,” he said, “you may be missing one of your clubs.”
I scanned through a host of replies, but knew none of them were appropriate. I headed back to house. “OK, go get it.”
Thirty seconds later, he returned with the putter and I made a mental note to check that all my clubs are in the bag in the distant future.
We hit the links and played the first hole. I let Christopher putt for me to get him involved. By the second hole, I felt brave and decided to let him tee off. I stood behind him, figuring that to be the safest place. Then the ball came at me on his backswing.
“OK. My turn.” I teed off and then chipped onto the green. I allowed Christopher to putt for me again. Andrew marked his double bogey and we continued. Two holes completed. Andrew was having fun. Christopher was still engaged.
Then it happened.
“Dad,” Christopher said, “I’m tired. My feet hurt.”
I'd been wondering how long it would take before those words came out. I realized I thought we’d get at least halfway though.
“You gotta be kidding me,” Andrew said in response.
“Shut up, Andrew” Christopher shot back.
People were within earshot. Some of them were trying to hit. “Both of you. Quiet. Now,” I whispered.
I imagined the next seven holes with these two going at each other and wondered if I was going to be able to handle it. Finally, I knelt down and looked Christopher in the eye. “What did I tell you to do before we left?”
Christopher looked sheepish. “Behave.”
“Mm-hmm,” I said, nodding. He promised that he would.
Christopher was true to his word, lasting a few more holes, as I worked with him on his grip and swing. He also got in extra exercise, running back to the greens of previous holes to pick up clubs he’d left. Andrew began having problems and I realized it was his aim. I put clubs on the ground and lined them up toward the green, reminding him of the need to hit straight.
As we hit the ninth hole, I breathed a sigh. I’d had fun but was ready to go home. Andrew hit his best drive of the day on that hole, with the ball flying so well it went into that lake that I thought he wouldn’t reach. We holed out, called it a morning, and headed for home.
And maybe one day we’ll play something more difficult than a Par 3 course.