Summer had finally arrived, and it was a cloudy Saturday afternoon. My 14-year-old son, Tony, and I went out for a bike ride on a trail that runs along a creek. At our destination, we laid our bikes in the grass and scrambled down to the water to look for throwing rocks — flat rocks for skipping and round rocks for target practice and distance. 

“Remember when we went golfing, and we had to look for your ball in the tall grass?” Tony asked. I knew the moment he was talking about, but I decided to test his memory. 

“That wasn’t my ball, that was yours,” I said. But he recalled every detail, even rewinding the scene to the string of comments I made before teeing off. 

“Your shot went into the woods,” he said. “I’m the one who hit it straight and high in the air!” 

He out-remembered me, and he was right. My shot was terrible. His was decent, good enough to get over the geese lying in the fairway and set him up for a strong second shot.

The kid has a great memory. 

A few mornings later, I was packing up my computer, phone, cords, and formulating the day’s checklist in my head for work. “When are we going to go golfing again?” Tony asked at breakfast. 

I gave him some crappy response about “being busy,” or “maybe we can do that this weekend.” But an hour later, as I sat at work firing off morning emails, it dawned on me to “lock-up shop,” so I shut down my computer and called a golf course to book a Friday afternoon tee time. I rolled back home and walked into the house.

“Tony, get your golf stuff together, let’s go play a round.” 

Best decision ever.

Tony and I are complete hacks. As his father, I simply follow one golden rule: honor my son’s desire to play golf. 

He loves the game. I have no idea why. Golf isn’t a game I grew up around. Our family hasn’t influenced his drive to get out there and learn golf. It’s his lead. And if my son wants to play golf, then that’s what we’re going to do. 

When Tony and I went out to play our very first round of 18 holes, a few carts of people waited to tee off behind us. A small audience patiently waited for my son and I to move through the lineup. As we took our first swings, a stranger in his mid-40s approached and asked, “Is this early in his golfing game?” 

“This is only his second time playing 18. We are both pretty new to the game,” I said.  

The stranger shook hands with Tony, then me, introducing himself as Dan. “Tony, how tall are you?” he asked. 

“Six foot one,” Tony replied. 

“Wow. How old?”  

“14.” 

Dan kept up the banter as he pointed to an area by the practice greens. He took an interest in Tony.

“He has a natural swing, I could see it was early, but he has something to work with. I noticed when I was standing over there. Do you mind if I jump in and play with you guys?” Dan asked.

“Absolutely, that would be great,” I said. 

Dan was now in our group, an experienced player who was going to be an invaluable asset for the next few hours. His grandfather had taught him how to play from an early age, so he had played golf practically his entire life.  

As we moved through the course, Dan offered small pieces of advice to Tony and me. He told us to keep our heads down and eyes on the ball. He tweaked our swing mechanics and where we planted our feet. It was never too much information, just small pieces offered at the right time during the game. Tony would listen and try new ideas. It wasn’t always easy. 

“I can’t hit the ball, I don’t know what to do!” he said, then refocused and tried again. I knew the teachable moments were working. Tony gave feedback, asked questions, and had conversations with Dan about how things felt or what he was thinking about. 

The ball didn’t always advance far, but there were a few times it traveled well and in the right direction. After a good hit, Tony tried to hide his smile, be humble, but I knew he was having fun, and was proud of his progress. We both were.  

I’m glad Dan noticed Tony and I were new to the game. He stepped up and made an introduction based on a simple observation. The pace of play may have been slower than what Dan was used to, but it made the game way more interesting from a perspective of learning and trying new things. 

It was interesting to see how open Tony was to an outside voice. His ability to listen and try new techniques helped me see that golf was something my son was going to stick with. Although challenging at times, he keeps a positive attitude and only lets the bumps in the road slow down his mental game for a few brief moments. It doesn’t affect the overall experience of playing but keeps him open to accepting and implementing feedback from strangers. 

Tony enjoys the game and frequently asks, “Dad, when are we going to go play again?” 

Looking forward, I need to be more flexible and open to answering, “Just as soon as I can send a few emails, then we can play.” 

Adam Grubb

Adam Grubb is the CEO and Creative Director of Stick and Hack Media. He hosts three podcasts on the platform and is Executive Editor of StickandHack.com and Stick & Hack Magazine.