Dear Josie, (dad takes daughter to hit golf balls)

Dear Josie,

Last week I picked you up from preschool, and we went to the driving range to hit golf balls.  It was one of those places with softball cages, miniature golf, and laser tag inside.  You’re four now and it was your first trip.  I think your favorite part was right at the start.  You have a little pink bag with three clubs and the bag straps on like a backpack.  You liked carrying your bags into the pro shop like that.  A woman said you were “too cute.”  That was probably the highlight of the afternoon.

So that we would have less chance of bothering people and maybe not firing any golf balls their way, we went to the far end of the line of mats to hit.  The entire range was netted in and there were flags and little greens to aim at.  You said you didn’t want to aim at anything.  You were just going to hit the balls.  You also remarked that it was too bad there were so many balls out there because it would be a good place to run.

Your golf swing varies.  Usually you hunch way over too far and if I try to help you stand up straight, you go all limp and fall back into my arms.  Most of the time, you have about a two-inch back swing that is not so different from your grandfathers, but occasionally you will do a huge, back-twisting one where you pause at the top of your swing and look at me as if it’s some sort of challenge.  In general, you “push” the ball out, twenty yards when you really get hold of one, a foot when you don’t.  I was impressed with how few times you whiffed.  Maybe only three times.  I tried not to think that we paid $13 for the bucket of balls when there were ten or so right in front of us.  We could hit balls for free at the beach, but if we went there you’d rather go play on the playground or look for creatures in the water.  I understand this.  I know to be very patient and am trying not to be “one of those dads.”

I’m not taking you to the driving range because I have great sporting aspirations for you.  I am taking you to the driving range because I’d like to be able to take you as soon as possible out to the local par three so we could spend some time walking up and down the fairways together.  I’m having a hard time at home when what you seem to want to do is play act Disney movies over and over or have me pretend to be the Evil Queen.  We are a lot alike, always on the mental and physical move, but at the moment, we haven’t found a lot to do together.

I think golf can be an enormous waste of time and money, but not if it’s you and me getting to walk and talk.  Golf would also give your mom a break.  You have boundless energy.  The more tired you get the more demanding you get asking to do something else, to play one more game, read one more book, or run a few more laps around the circle of our downstairs.  That’s something you, me, and your sis do together:  we run laps around our downstairs.  Sometimes we even set up obstacle courses.  If you happen to take a nap, your mom and I know we are in trouble.  We will run out of energy way before you.  You and your sis tired us out so much the other day, that we went to bed at 7:58.  I’m sure we were both sleeping by 8:15.  You occasionally announce that we are all going to stay up all night.

Sometimes between your golf shots, you sat down in front of the bucket right there on the mat.  You’d take a long time to put the next ball in position.  I felt like telling you to get up and hurry up, but I kept those thoughts to myself.  We alternated hitting five balls at a time, and when we got down to the last four or so, you asked me if we could go when the balls were all gone.  I said yes, and then you rapid fire hit the rest of the balls out into the range.

On the way back to the car, you decided that you wanted to putt on the putting green.  It was empty of patrons and so I said yes.  I tried to explain that on the putting green, you have to hit the golf ball much more softly.  It is here that you connected with some of your most powerful shots of the day.  You sent the first ball zipping off the green and into the wall of the pro shop behind.  You hit your first few balls completely off the green.  Then, after I tried to coach you again to hit the ball more softly, you hit your next few an inch or two.  Still very determined to be calm, I said it was time to go.  You dropped your putter and took off on a sprint away from me yelling that you didn’t want to go yet.  Once I caught you, you said that you wanted to putt some more.  Back on the green, you got the hang of it and you lagged a few putts up close and putted them in. You were very excited about making the putts and threw one fist up into the air when the ball rattled home.  On the way out to the van, you told me that you never wanted to hit balls again.