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The struggles of balancing golf and family

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Golf is not only about making the shots, or making the putts. No, before that, golf is about making the time, especially if you have a family.

“If I never played golf,” Dave told me between nines at Goose Creek, “my wife would probably be happier. Would definitely be happier. But I wouldn’t be.”

Few of us live in a bubble. “I don’t waste time when I golf,” 32-year old Flavio said at Mountain Meadows. “I play early. I play fast. I don’t hang around and drink after the round. And I don’t say anything at all when my wife goes out on Wednesday night for her yoga class.”

If you tee off at 8 in the morning on a Saturday, you probably left the house at 7 and won’t return before 1 pm, at the earliest. And that’s if everything is on time. “I’m going to ref my daughter’s AYSO game at 3 this afternoon,” Riley told me matter-of-factly on the 13th hole, checking his watch.

“They’re at church this morning,” Darrin, a mid-thirties low double-digit said one Sunday morning on an LA County course. “I’ll be home before they are.” He teed off just after daylight after getting out of bed at 4:30. That’s 4:30 A.M. “I set my clothes out last night and I brushed my teeth and shaved in the guest room, and I’m quiet so I don’t wake anybody up.”

Not everyone has to pay attention to the time during the round. “I’m gonna take a nap this afternoon after I get home,” Scott said. “My fiancé is away this weekend.”

“You’re not gonna do a replay?” His brother-in-law-to-be Patrick asked, “Dude, what’s up with you?”

“I will if you will,” Scott answered.

“No man, I got the honey-do list later,” Patrick said longingly.

Some golfers carve out time from their family obligations; some are able instead to carve out time from their jobs during the week.

“I had a breakfast meeting early today and spent the rest of the morning in the office.” Efron is in sales and apparently he’s doing well since he was playing a pricey course on a Thursday afternoon with one of his friends. “I’ll be home by 6 tonight just like usual. My wife knows where I am, and my boss just cares about my numbers.”

“Two days a week I don’t go in until 1,” Dale told me after finishing 18 one Tuesday morning at Jurupa Hills. “I live right over there,” he said pointing. “I dropped my girl off at school at 7:15, my wife is at work, so I just need to leave the course no later than twenty-after-twelve.”

For some golfers, time is relative. Kent was hanging out on the clubhouse patio reading a golf magazine at 11:30 one weekend morning. “I got done early. We played in under four hours,” he said. “Can’t go home yet, don’t want my wife to expect me home this early every weekend. I’ll stay here until noon because that’s what time we’re usually done.”

When the kids are very young and they spend their days sleeping or crawling or watching videos, time isn’t as important. “I’m not hurrying so I can get home to my girls,” Kevin told me at Strawberry Farms. “They’re with my mother-in-law, and my wife is out hiking with her friends this morning so there’s no rush.”

But when the children are involved in extra-curricular activities like sports or dance, tutor sessions or music lessons, and parental support is measured by attendance even more than monetary donations, that’s when the time it takes for a round of golf can lob a wedge into family relations.

“I quit playing golf from the time my oldest was five until my youngest was 13,” Harry, now a doting grandfather, told me. “And that’s why I never got to single digits…no, really, it was worth it to watch the kids grow up. My wife tells me that, anyway.”

It’s all about the choices we make, and the priorities we set.

“I’m not ever going to play golf for my living,” Jared told me, “so I play when it’s convenient, and I don’t play when it isn’t. That said, I’d play more often if I had the time, and my wife knows I’m in a better mood all week when I play.”

There were eight guys in two foursomes in front of me on the Babe at Industry Hills a few weeks ago. They told me they’d known each other since middle-school, almost 30 years ago. “We used to go out drinking, or drinking and eating at least one night a month,” said Lee. “Now once a month we play golf together on a Sunday morning. The girls think that’s better even though we probably spend more money than before.”

“And we drink just as much,” his companion Jay added.

“I play back nines early on the weekends,” Kelly told me as he finished his day on the links before 9 on a Saturday. “I’m home before the kids are done watching cartoons.” That’s one way to satisfy the golfing Jones.

“The club has childcare so while I’m playing, my wife leaves our son in ‘Kids Court’ and she does what she wants for a few hours. Then she picks him up and we rendezvous for lunch in the grill room.” With a slight wave of his hand to the private club bag-boy taking his sticks back to storage, Jake reminds me there is more than one way for lucky young men to take to the tees.

Then there is the future to look forward to.

“It’s hard now with three kids under 10,” Lawrence said. “But the two older ones are taking lessons, and we play the par-3 course together some. In a few years maybe I’ll have my own family foursome.”

It’s clear that balancing the time that golf takes with the demands of raising a family can be difficult., at least at some ages. But one morning at Hidden Valley, Edward laid out his blueprint for the years ahead: “My wife loves golf, too,” he said. “Someday when the kids are grown and out of the house, she and I will be playing together every weekend.”

Tell us how you balance golf and family in the comments section below. And check out Tom Hill’s humorous golf book, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth at 7-ironpress.com – use the coupon code GOLFWRX for free shipping of the paperback.

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Tom Hill is a 9.7 handicap, author and former radio reporter. Hill is the author of the recently released fiction novel, A Perfect Lie – The Hole Truth, a humorous golf saga of one player’s unexpected attempt to shoot a score he never before thought possible. Kirkus Reviews raved about A Perfect Lie, (It) “has the immediacy of a memoir…it’s no gimme but Hill nails it square.” (kirkusreviews.com). A Perfect Lie is available as an ebook or paperback through 7-ironpress.com and the first three chapters are available online to sample. Hill is a dedicated golfer who has played more than 2,000 rounds in the past 30 years and had a one-time personal best handicap of 5.5. As a freelance radio reporter, Hill covered more than 60 PGA and LPGA tournaments working for CBS Radio, ABC Radio, AP Audio, The Mutual Broadcasting System and individual radio stations around the country. “Few knew my name and no one saw my face,” he says, “but millions heard my voice.” Hill is the father of three sons and lives with his wife, Arava Talve, in southern California where he chases after a little white ball as often as he can.

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Mike L

    Apr 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    So much of it is having the right spouse. If knew before you even meet your wife (26 for me) you were going to be an early morning, once a week golfer (even after the kids came along) and found someone who understands, your life will be much easier. If you were part of a couple that did nothing apart from when you first started dating, those spouses will never understand. You also need to have the energy when you get home from golf and home from work during the week to make time to do things with your wife and kids to let them know you care. You need to be balance and fair with everyone in your family and make sure golf is your only me time and giving your spouse some too. Also, after a good round, stop off and buy your wife some flowers, so everybody’s happy when you get home.

    • Rich

      Apr 21, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      Great point. My wife and I have been together for nearly 14 years (married for near 7) and she knows that I play once a week at least. My private golf club costs us around $3500 a year as well (in Australia) so if I’m not playing she tells me to go out and play because if I don’t it’s a waste of money. Sometimes I get a hit in afternoon after work as well. She is very understanding of my golf addiction.

  2. Carlos Danger

    Apr 17, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    A few suggestions to you 20 something golf fanatics out there looking down the barrel of an inevitable engagement and family.
    1. Marry a girl who’s father played golf. She is used to dad playing golf on the weekend and it wont be a foreign concept to her.
    2. Join a country club (easier said than done). If golf is that important to you and you have some disposable income, go and check out the local CC’s and see what types of junior membership deals they have. You may be surprised by the affordability if you factor in what you currently pay for public golf and the hours it takes to play public courses, the activities your wife and kids can enjoy like pool, workout, tennis, etc…that may cancel out other membership costs you have, and the social aspect of it. If you dont have kids yet start looking into it now. The younger the better.
    3. Never ever ever ever complain or discourage your wife for going out with her friends, going to the spa, going out of town, etc… you need to encourage it. Once you get in your 30s you will realize that going to the local watering hole with a couple of your buddies so you can have the same fantasy baseball arguments over and over is not really that important if it jeopardizes your chances of playing golf that weekend.
    4. Dont plan your tee times and then plan your weekend spent with the family. Plan the weekend with the family first and then find a window where you could sneak out. Then ask your wife opposed to telling her your going out on “Sunday when the kids are napping.”
    5. Get your family involved. I get my wife involved in little couples things at the club, get her to the pool all the time, get my son in swimming lessons, bring him out on the course with me at night, etc…basically, dont make a membership seem like “your thing”
    6. Get a sales job so you can play at least twice a month during the week.

  3. Dave S

    Apr 16, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Why do you insist on putting a space in front of punctuation marks? How can anyone take a comment seriously that’s so thoroughly riddled with grammatical errors?

  4. Phat

    Apr 15, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    I stopped playing entirely for my firstborn. The relationship I was in dissolved after a couple of years, so decided to focus every weekend on being 100% present with my daughter. Started playing again before my youngest came along (1 & 1/2 yrs now), so golf ground to a halt again. As a couple, my partner and I realised that we do actually become better people when we each ‘choose a poison’ and schedule regular time out. I’ve picked golf (what else haha) so hoping this will be a regular dawn chorus 9 or 18 once a week, weather dependent, as well as an online subscription to follow pga and lpga. All you guys out there that don’t see the importance of being there for your kids, preferring to maintain a single digit cap, need to get your heads read, haha.

  5. Lou

    Apr 15, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Tom. You obviously have no clue and sound like an awful father and role model. Would hate to be raised and ignored by you . Stick to your day job as you mucked this one up

    • Lou's Dad

      Apr 15, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Lou, I’m sorry I neglected you when you were a boy. Please don’t take it out on Tom.

  6. Xavier

    Apr 15, 2015 at 11:10 am

    I have a one year old and since our little man was three months old I have been taking him out on the course. Either I strap his car seat to the cart or push him in the stroller and walk nine. Since he’s beem walking I let him walk around the greens while I putt. He loves being out on the course and luckily enough rarely throws a fit! I bring plenty of snacks and stuffed friends to keep him busy. I have had lots of fellow golfers and course staff compliment us when we’re out on the course. The best part is I get to spend quality time with my little man and it keeps the wife happy as well. As a result my son loves bringing his club hitting balls in the backyard and in the house… Who says you can’t balance family and golf?

    • Craig

      Apr 15, 2015 at 11:21 am

      That is messed up man .. 3 months old strapped in a golf cart . Shame on u

    • other paul

      Apr 15, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      My son played his first hole of golf last October when it was a nice warm evening. Manager let us do a hole if we hit a bucket at the range. He was 2 1/2. We had a blast. He shot 14 from the ladies tee. Little guy even 2 putted. Shot 14 from the ladies tee 280 yards. Looking forward to our first round next week. Or may e tomorrow if it warms up enough.

  7. TR1PTIK

    Apr 15, 2015 at 9:41 am

    I’m currently playing in a 9-hole league with several co-workers. Every Monday my wife and I switch duties – I drop our daughter off at daycare so my wife can get to work a little earlier and then she’ll pick our daughter up. I usually wind up having to make up 2-3 hours/week for work because of when our tee times are set, but I’m always home before my wife and daughter get back from the gym. We make it work. When I have the money to do it (I donate plasma twice a week to pay for my golf), I also play on Friday or Saturday mornings – as early as I can. I usually play by myself and walk. Unless there’s someone in front of me holding up play, I can usually do 18 in about 2.5 – 3 hours when I’m scoring well. A bad round might add upwards of 30 minutes – looking for golf balls, making additional strokes that I wouldn’t have to during a better round, etc. I never complain when my wife wants to go to the gym, do a yoga class, or treat herself to a massage. She still isn’t crazy about golf, but she gets it and we don’t have any problems. And my kid is ALWAYS a priority.

  8. Really?

    Apr 15, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Just tell her that you’re playing golf. I don’t see what’s so difficult about it.

  9. GolfWarrior44

    Apr 15, 2015 at 8:18 am

    It’s been a cultural change since I grew up in the 90’s among 3 main factors. 1st, back then dads had the freedom to play in basketball, softball, bowling, and golf leagues multiple nights a week and in tournaments on weekends and wives never cared. Nowadays, wives expect the husbands to be home while they go to a yoga class or spin class. 2nd, the fact that most kids started youth sports in 1st and 2nd grade back then and nowadays it’s pre-school only adds to the time parents have to commit to other activities. And 3rd, the 9-5 workday is long gone. It’s now expected for most workers to work 8-5 (they give you an hour lunch knowing you’ll not take all of it and eat at your desk). Add to that the fact that urban sprawl has made most livable school districts in the suburbs most adults are gone from 7 am to 6 pm everyday during the week for essentially an 11-hour workday. Hard to imagine how anybody has time to golf but I know I’ll always strive to find a way!

  10. Jason

    Apr 14, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Here’s how to do it: I have six kids under the age of 11, and bring three at a time with me at twilight to play 6 or 9 holes after the final groups have teed off. It’s heaven. They pile in the cart with me, and they love it . . . and I get MORE practice in than I would playing 18 holes in 4.5 hours with golf buddies, because I’m not spending 3.5 hours waiting around for others to hit. Instead, I’m playing several balls on each hole. Meanwhile, if the kids aren’t hitting balls from the red tees, they’re chasing rabbits, rolling down the hills, fetching balls out of the lakes (or beating me at putting contests). As long as you tee off last and you’re not holding anyone up, you can take your time, and still be back home in a few hours. They kids get fresh air, exercise, and bonding time with dad. If you bring your little tribe with you, the wife will be glad to let you go . . . cuz if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

    • JT

      Apr 15, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Thanks for sharing the blueprint! I’m engaged and soon to be married, and find my obligations require my free time to be more focused time, and like you mentioned, end up getting way more out of it. No kids today, or wife technically speaking, but I’ve already begun settling into the afternoon routine also.

  11. kevin

    Apr 14, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    I have a 6 month old at home and have already decided not to renew my membership for the summer (Canadian East Coast winters are not conducive to year round play). I roll putts on carpet in the house while the little bounces in her Jolly Jumper before bed and I’ll hit balls off a mat into a net outdoors this summer. Though it won’t replace playing regularly, I hope to at least be able to get around a course the odd times I will play in corporate events or weekend rounds with family. I look forward to introducing my daughter to the game one day and hopefully we enjoy it as much together as I have with my dad over the years.

  12. other paul

    Apr 14, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    I play at 6:00am most of the time. Or if I get rained out at work. But then I have to play in the rain… Played 9 holes 10 times last year in the wet. Shot 38 one time.

  13. A

    Apr 14, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    “When the kids are very young and they spend their days sleeping or crawling or watching videos, time isn’t as important.”
    -Absentee father rhetoric

    You get out what you put in- just because children don’t acknowledge your presence, they are absorbing everything going around them and surely know if you’re around or not.

    • Tom Hill

      Apr 14, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      Granted A. But just as a parent must parent actively, a golfer must golf actively. I am only trying to point out the way some golfers balance the two. Enjoy both being a parent, and being a golfer.

      • A

        Apr 15, 2015 at 2:10 am

        Understand your point of view on this Tom.

        I just don’t agree with the mindset of guys who bring a child into this world, refuse to mature and perhaps even *gasp* put the clubs away for a year or two to a) help Mama shoulder the load of responsibilities with child and around the house, and b) make a conscious effort to consistently be a part of their child’s life. Your words about the years when the child is sleeping, crawling, or watching videos as not important really struck a chord with me. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

        To anyone reading this with a young baby or one on the way- trust me- you are not “missing out” on anything by cancelling your weekly tee time. If anything, you are gaining an amazing life experience that can never be replicated or recreated. As mentioned earlier- you reap what you sow with child rearing. How about instead of throwing on yet another Elmo video and heading to the club, you take them to the park and watch their face light up when you put them on the swings for the first time?

        Rest assured- the golf course will always be there… your child won’t.

        • Dave S

          Apr 15, 2015 at 9:19 am

          It’s obviously a balancing act, which I think is what the author was trying to communicate. No where in this article does it recommend or glorify becoming an absentee father. At the same time, just because you have a child, doesn’t mean you have to give up something that you truly enjoy and that makes you happy.

        • JT

          Apr 15, 2015 at 9:23 am

          A.. Take a step off your high horse for a moment, this was a well written article and a nice change of pace for the site. Your point is valid that family is important, but other people’s views are worthy for consideration also. Don’t lose sight is the fact that a husband and father still needs to retain his own identity, and having a healthy active hobby (walking 9, or *gasp* 18) is a good thing for everyone!

          • Carlos Danger

            Apr 17, 2015 at 2:35 pm

            Isnt “A” being an absentee father wasting his time commenting on golf website message boards? Jeez man…get of your laptop and go pay attention to your kids!

  14. Jordan

    Apr 14, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    This is a great article. I have a 3-month old son at home and have been trying to figure out how to keep playing. It’s hard to justify being away from home and my family for 6-7 hours on the weekend when my wife and I both spend so much time at work during the week. Playing early back nines was definitely on the radar. Getting up at 5am doesn’t sound that fun, but we do what we have to do to maintain some sort of golf form. Luckily, my father-in-law and all three brother-in-laws play so we try to get out at family gatherings around the holidays when we are somewhere warm.

  15. Golfraven

    Apr 14, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Yep, thats my golfing life at the moment. Playing only Sunday lunch time when Little one is sleeping in the car or I sneak out at 7am on weekends or sometime before the office. Haven’t played 18 holes for years now and only manage after work turnaments and driving range when honey jobs are done – well whey never get done as the list is endless. Looking forward when I can play golf with my son and will make him mu excuse to play more – currently he is my excuse not to play.

  16. Jay

    Apr 14, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Todd,

    Not sure where you live but at Rancho Park in Los Angeles, playing the back nine early is very common. You shouldn’t feel weird asking about it. The only thing that would make it something they don’t allow is if the 10th hole is not close enough to the club house for you to tee off from there as easily as you would #1. You should call ahead of time to see if your course allows it but also to find out what the cut off time is each morning

  17. Todd Ramsey

    Apr 14, 2015 at 11:47 am

    I really like the idea of playing back nines early. Does anyone have any suggestions about how to make this work at different clubs? I am not a member anywhere, and I don’t want to sound like a crazy person when I call. Thanks.

    • JT

      Apr 15, 2015 at 9:27 am

      Get to know the staff and ask if it’s OK when you arrive. Don’t call ahead to ask you’ll get a canned response.

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