I am thrilled to be turning fifty-five this year, mainly because I will finally be eligible to join a fifty-five-and-over community. I plan to surround myself with like-minded individuals who want nothing to do with kids, pets, yard work, snow shoveling, noise, parties, or anything else that does not involve senior golf. In fact, I am looking for one of those fifty-five-and-over communities that are located directly in the middle of a golf course. That way I don’t even have to look at anything that is not related, in some way, to golf.
My grandfather taught my brother and me how to play golf when we were very young. We started with mini-golf, where we learned the fundamentals of putting and avoiding hazards such as windmills in the middle of the course. When I was about ten we played our first round of chip-and-putt. A couple of years after that we graduated to an eighteen-hole par-three course.
When I was fourteen I stood at the first tee on my first real, full-sized golf course. I’ll never forget it. Staring down the straight, four hundred forty-yard fairway, I was stumped. “Where is the hole?” I asked. My grandfather stooped next to me and pointed. “Way out there between those two rows of trees.” My mouth fell open. I could barely see the pin. It looked at least a mile away.
Senior Golf Supplies
My grandfather has long since passed, but every time I step foot on a golf course, he is with me. He always said the great thing about golf is that no matter how old you get, you can still play. Plenty of senior golfers older than me still sling the bag over their shoulders and walk the five-plus miles up and down rolling hills. Although, I would never do that myself because walking is not as directly related to golf as riding a golf cart. As can be seen by the fact that the word “golf-cart” actually contains the word “golf.”
Plus, golf carts contain other things related to golf that you would miss out on if you walked. Things like holders for your golf scorecard and little eraser-less golf pencil, a rack on the back to hold your golf bag, a compartment under the dashboard to hold your golf balls, and a roof for shade when you recover between bouts of the physically demanding golf activity of swinging your arms once every ten minutes.
Senior Golf Rules and Etiquette
My grandfather also taught me the rules and etiquette of golf. The most unique feature of golf is the unwritten “code of conduct” that compels players with an ounce of self-respect to turn themselves in if they inadvertently break a rule. Even if there is no way anyone else could have seen it. Senior golfers are very proud of the self-enforcing nature of their sport. Shame comes to those who are caught breaking the code.
Having said this, my grandfather also taught me the informal rules of golf. To this day, they allow me to appear, on paper, to be a much better golfer than I really am. They provide acceptable ways to break the formal rules without breaking the code of conduct and bringing shame on myself and my entire family. A staple of these informal rules is something known as the Mulligan.
A Mulligan is, simply put, a take-over. So if you hit a bad shot, your golfing partner might say, “go ahead and take a Mulligan,” whereupon you just pretend the bad shot never happened. You drop another ball and hit again without adding any strokes to your score. A group of senior golfers might decide ahead of time how many Mulligans each player is allowed. Typically this would be something like one per round or one every nine holes. As you age, this can proportionately evolve into one per hole, one per shot, as many as you want…etc.
Golf’s Maximum Score Rule
A close second to the Mulligan is the “maximum score” rule. This rule has many variations but basically states that for each hole, no matter how bad you do, you can’t get more than a certain score, like eight for instance. So if you hit the ball eight times and it goes a total of thirty-five feet, you just pick up your ball, get back in the cart, put your feet up, and say “give me an eight” as you drive to the next hole.
This rule has several advantages. First, if you are having a really bad day, it prevents you from swinging the club six thousand times. You otherwise risk losing all function of your arms for the rest of your life. Second, it prevents the portion of the course behind you from turning into the Los Angeles Freeway packed with angry retirees who did not come out on a sunny day to sit in their carts and watch you swing your club six thousand times.
Senior Golf: Perfect Hobby
These and other creative practices make it possible for you to “play golf” until you are well over a hundred. Even if you are not technically alive at that point, which makes senior golf the ideal obsession as you get older. If you happen to be a stickler for the official rules, there are strategies for improving your game without openly cheating. Try teaming up with other senior golfers who have different strengths. For example, as my grandfather’s eyesight declined, he would often play with a friend who had terrific vision. He made the effort to keep his cost for lost balls under a thousand dollars per round. This didn’t actually work that well, because this friend couldn’t remember where the balls went. But the point is, you can improve the overall experience by being creative.
The Nineteenth Hole
No discussion of the senior golfer’s life would be complete without addressing the infamous “nineteenth hole.” The nineteenth hole is where my grandfather and I, my brother, and my dad, would down a couple of beers and hot dogs. We’d enjoy being guys together for just a little while longer. The nineteenth hole also brings strangers together. It provides an opportunity for those who did not drink mass quantities of beer during the previous eighteen holes to catch up to those who did. This levels the playing field and ensures that even if you took seventy-five Mulligans and scored an eight on every hole, you can still get plastered with a scratch golfer who never cheats. Because with golf, as with life, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how many rounds you get in.
About the Author
Mark Salamon is a physical therapist in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He has been inflicting pain while simultaneously making people laugh for twenty-four years. His humorous take on American healthcare can be seen in his many articles published in The Haven and The Scene and Heard (Mark Salamon) and his website (marksalamonpt.com). He is a husband and proud father of three daughters.