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(Photo: Desert Aire Golf Course, where my family played when I was a school boy.)
My Start at Age 12
It wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say that golf was a family game during my youth. We all played, even my mom, the least avid golfer in the family. She was a nine-holes-after-supper player. She was good but expected far too much. The game frustrated her, and she put away her clubs for good in the 1970s.
My brother played in the summertime but never caught the bug like I did. The game became a consuming passion for my dad and me. A family pass was $30 a month at Desert Aire Golf Course in Palmdale, California. For less than $100 our family could play unlimited golf all summer long. And I did.
On the edge of the Mojave Desert, Desert Aire was a flat, short, 9-hole public course with few distinguishing features besides the Joshua trees that were native to the area. It was not a difficult course. Nor was it a course anyone was dying to play. But it was the course where I learned to play golf. I loved Desert Aire.
I gave up baseball for golf at the age of 12 and spent my summer days on the fairways. I sometimes rode my bike three miles on sandy trails to Desert Aire with a small carry bag slung over my shoulder. I had a little shag bag of scuffed and cut golf balls that I hit to a lone practice green. I learned to hit off hardpan because grass was scarce at Desert Aire. I pretended to be the pro golfers I watched on television. It was hot. Triple-digit heat was normal. The old-timers went off early, some at 6 a.m. My golf buddies and me played in furnace conditions during the early and mid afternoon when the course cleared out. One day I made five 9-hole loops around Desert Aire, walking 45 holes.
I never had a formal private golf lesson from our head pro “Red” Simmons or assistant pro Ron O’Connor. I did take group junior lessons. Ron refined my grip, and at some point in my junior career Red gave me a tip about the shoulder turn. (I still rely on that swing thought.)
I made the high school golf team as a freshman. I was terrible. I fit right in. Palmdale High finished eighth out of eight teams that year. I got better and our team improved to third place when I was a senior. I went on to play one year at Antelope Valley College. Because I fell in love with golf and learned to play the game at humble Desert Aire, I enjoyed the privilege of competing at private country clubs and public resort courses throughout California. I never once regretted putting down that baseball glove.
How about you? How did you get started in golf? Did your family play?
−The Armchair Golfer
(Photo: Courtesy of Desert Aire Golf Course)