I turn 50 today.
As a golfer I look upon this milestone with the same bittersweet feelings one gets making the turn between the ninth and tenth holes and a really great course. I’m exhilarated to have played some great holes (and some not so great) and I am still in the midst of the game, yet the round is at least half over now. I’m faced with the “homeward holes”. The back nine of life. The part of the course that will take me back to the clubhouse. Mmm.
I really don’t “fear” the clubhouse. It actually was one of my favorite parts of the day back when I was learning the game. My dad taught me to play. He and I played countless rounds together and, almost without fail, when we were through, we’d go into the clubhouse for a root beer and some pretzels at the bar. Dad would put his arm around me and say, “Let’s get a little ‘RB’.” I can still see the foam rising in the glass today.
I feel as though my life so far has mimicked the experience of playing Pebble Beach. It’s a course I played several times and know it well. It is as special as you’ve heard. The front nine however has some forgettable holes. Number one is only remarkable because it is the first hole at Pebble Beach. Number two is a very reachable par five. Three is an iron off the tee and a long iron into the green. Four gives you your first glimpse of ocean on the right while playing a very short par four (the only test here is a well-trapped green).
Then you come to hole five. Redesigned in 1998, this is a beautiful par three. After the first four holes of adolescence, number five offers you the same special feeling you get as you enter adulthood for the first time. You sense that you’ve entered some special station in life, yet you don’t feel the full weight of grown up pressures just yet.
The par five sixth hole begins to reveal something more is expected of you now. This isn’t your muni course back home. This is real. This is like when you got married and bought that first house. Get the ball up the hill on your second shot. No “or else”. Just get it done.
Number seven is the first time you have kids. One of the most photographed holes in all the world, it’s nothing more than 106 yards downhill to a fairly good sized green. No problem, you say? Okay. Let me introduce you to the wind off the Pacific that will gust to 50 mph unexpectedly, leaving you scratching your head wondering whether to hit a half a wedge or a driver.
Welcome to “the cliffs of doom”. Number eight is simply breathtaking and frightening all at once. This is time to take chances. Make the kind of shot that changes your life, er… round. If it works, you’ll ask someone to take a photo of the moment. If it doesn’t, you’ll slink into your cart and cry for mommy.
Number nine is long and difficult. It is a 481 yard par four usually into the wind, with the fairway and green both sloping severely toward the ocean on the right.
So here I am. I’ve worked hard. Carded some bogeys, at least one triple bogey, but also got me a couple of birdies – and not lucky ones chipping in from 100 yards out, I’m talking tap-ins! When I look at my scorecard for the front nine I guess I’m at about even par. And although I’m a little intimidated at the thought of finishing the round someday, I do look forward to the back nine ahead. I’m a little better player now then I was on the front side. I’m more patient and seem to think through the shots more carefully now. Plus, the 18th at Pebble Beach awaits me.
My faith tells me that, when I putt out on that 18th green, my eternal life in God’s clubhouse will begin.
When I arrive, I do hope He’ll have an RB and some pretzels on the bar.