I am not big on reality checks, but try as I might, I have found it IMPOSSIBLE to ignore the passing of time. In fact, the real world loves to remind you about each of the SEVEN STAGES OF LIFE.
The first two stages aren’t so bad. Even though there are many differences between a 1-year-old and a 19-year-old, those years can be put into one box. Those are THE LEARNING YEARS. Every year you are accumulating knowledge and no one in that box thinks about mortality.
Let’s call the 20-29 stage THE FUN YEARS. Yes, many still have some school to finish and then there is a matter of getting a job, but there isn’t a lot of long-term thinking going on during these years. Live for today is really the motto for those in this box. Good for them.
The next, box is a mild wake-up call. When you turn 30, you start thinking about that promotion at work, saving money and buying a house for your growing family, And while these are THE GOOD YEARS, this is the box when the age jokes start. You ignore them for the most part -- except when you look in the mirror and see the new five pounds or a few gray hairs or a receding hairline.
The 40-49 box represents THE HAIR-ON-FIRE YEARS. Between wife, kids, your family, her family, pets, games and lessons, church, work, parties and vacations, you don’t have time to think about your small place in this vast universe. You are hanging on for dear life. Every round of golf takes a great deal of prior planning and a promise “to take the kids off your hands next Saturday afternoon.” Yes, you are beginning to understand that you aren’t forever, but the doctor says your numbers are good, which gives you permission not to think about your health -- or the hereafter.
Stage 5 -- THE SENIOR DISCOUNT YEARS -- is a real eye opener. The AARP, life insurance and retirement planning ads come day after day after day, which is very disconcerting since it never occurred to you that you would ever actually be 50. On my 50th birthday, my wife, Nancy, gave me a very loving and upbeat note. It did and still means a lot to me. Okay, confession time. I do wish she hadn’t ended the note with: Fifty Is Nifty. It was a well-intentioned attempt at positive spin, but 50 is a big number, too big to ignore. At 50 you are definitely on the Back 9.
Stage 6: THE SIMPLE YEARS. Yes, there are advantages to turning 65 besides becoming eligible for Medicare. Life is slowing down a bit – children are out on their own, grandchildren are fun and golf is proving to be a lifetime sport that combines exercise and friendship. Cocktail hour at 65 becomes an essential part of your daily routine and believe it or not, the future looks bright instead of time sensitive.
That is until you get one of these mailers from your local, friendly cemetery!!! I accept the fact that I am 65, but it never occurred to me that I should start thinking about GETTING MY DUCKS IN A ROW! Honest to God, this mailer startled me! Then after catching my breath (literally), I realized that I am indeed “on the clock.” I immediately started a To-Do List that included writing “I love you notes” to my wife, daughters, sons-in-laws, soon-to-be born granddaughter, brother and good friends; reviewing my will and my obituary and looking at our finances. I then defiantly named Stage 7 THE BEST IS YET TO COME.
The question all of us face time and time again is: How to turn negative thoughts into positives ones? Well, that is when my mind turned to golf and what courses I wanted to play before I had to start using my driver on 135-yard par 3s. In other words, I made myself think about going forward instead of, well, downward. I have been lucky enough to play many spectacular courses such as Carnoustie, Crystal Downs, Cypress Point, Fishers Island, Kittansett, Misquamicut, Myopia, Newport, Old Sandwich, Royal Aberdeen, St. Andrews Old Course, The Olympic Club (Lake) and Winged Foot.
And while the list of great courses I haven’t played is nearly endless, my bucket list of MUST-PLAY courses is pretty short. In order it is:
- Royal Dornoch (Dornoch, Sutherland, Scotland) / I have read so much about this Scottish links course and its history, that I want to rent a house and stay there for a month. In 1981, Tom Watson played two rounds on the same day at Dornoch with his good friend Sandy Tatum. The weather was perfect for the first round but windy and rainy for the second. When asked about that day, Watson said, “It's the most fun I've had on a golf course."
- The Country Club (Chestnut Hill, MA / Clyde course designed by Willie Campbell in 1895; Squirrel by Alex Campbell in 1902)
- Sand Hills (Mullen, NE /1994 Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw design)
- San Francisco G.C. (San Francisco / 1924 A.W. Tillinghast design)
- All Five of the courses at Bandon Dunes (Bandon, OR)
So today’s lesson is simple: START PLANNING YOUR NEXT GOLF TRIP TODAY!
Play Away !
Allan (Current handicap is 11, plus a fragile state of mind.)