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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: May 2024

Senior Tees

Douglas Denton Church


  • Giving up hobbies you love in light of aging can be difficult, but with advancements in technology and medicine, you may not have to give them up at all.
  • A new perspective can help you enjoy activities you’re getting frustrated with. 
Senior Tees Sookkasem

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GOLF spelled backwards is FLOG. That’s frequently how I feel after 18 holes flogged. Golf is a humbling game. And, to add to the humbling nature of the game, as I have gotten older and the younger men I play with seem to have gotten better, the distance between my best efforts off the tee and their booming drives has continued to grow ever larger. I was never capable of the huge 300-yard drive. My best efforts usually would be in the 250-yard neighborhood. But over the last decade, that has dwindled to 225 or less, and it is evidently going to continue in that direction. This situation has been depressing as I hit my third shots when my playing partners hit their second. I feel that I am holding up the progress of the game while the other players wait for me to find my ball and play my next shot. The resulting self-imposed pressure is magnified at clubs that enforce four-hour time limits for a round of golf. It got to be so bad that I contemplated giving up the game I have played my whole life, which has brought me great joy! It was so frustrating that the idea of just selling my clubs crossed my mind. What to do, what to do?!

One of my frequent playing partners turned 75 and decided that, even though he could out-drive most of us, he was moving up to a new tee box. Frankly, I hadn’t paid much attention when the course superintendent put out some new tee markers closer to the green than the women’s tees. I think I assumed it was for juniors or a teaching tee for the pro to use. But no! I was wrong! They were the senior tees, the DREADED senior tees! What “genius” had come up with this idea?  What person with any sense of personal pride would yield to the temptation to just move up 50 yards to tee off closer to the green?! I have to admit that there was more than a little “judgment” and frank resentment going on as I watched my friend striding confidently to the easier teeing ground. How could he?!

Coming to grips with this new tee proved challenging to me. At first, it was simply my ego that prevented me from moving up. I just wasn’t going to give in to this affront to my traditional game! Then it was embarrassment! I didn’t want my playing partners to see me quit on the regular tees. And there is perhaps the embarrassment of interrupting the foursome’s march or ride from the so-called “men’s tees” to the “Senior Tees” so I can hit— even if no one rudely fails to politely wait for my drive. And, finally, it was the humbling concession to the effects of aging. The old saying, “…pride cometh before the fall…” was starting to penetrate my thick skull. So, I encountered the dreaded trio of impediments: ego, embarrassment, and pride all got in the way of conceding to my advancing age and the implications thereof. However, after a suitable amount of time analysis and soul searching, I finally moved up to the senior tees, and I almost hate to admit this, but it made a big difference in my attitude about playing golf! I enjoyed it again! I was able to hit my ball to the point that it was within the range of my longer-hitting playing partners, and it’s all about the second shot, anyway! Reviving my enthusiasm for the game was the payoff for overcoming the dreaded trio of impediments: ego, embarrassment, and pride.

It came to me as I grappled with the dilemma posed by the “Senior Tees” that this was a perfect metaphor for the whole aging process and dealing with the causes and effects thereof. I have a good friend who has a serious problem with her knees and hips to the point that she cannot walk. But when I suggested that she get a walker, oh no!! (The dreaded trio, ego, embarrassment, and pride.) The advancement in so many areas of medicine has made it possible to overcome many of the disabilities associated with “old age.” Knee and hip replacements, while still classified as major surgery, have now become almost routine, with years of experience improving surgical techniques (e.g., anterior versus posterior approaches with hip replacements). Hearing aids are cheaper, better, and more discreet. Modern medicines can help deal with all kinds of ailments that, at an earlier time, would cause you to be homebound. Cancer is still a challenge, but the survival rate, primarily a result of early detection, has improved by leaps and bounds. All it takes is the willingness to overcome the stubborn resistance to visiting your doctor or admitting your limitations (and the dreaded trio), and you have the potential to live longer and live better and enjoy it more. One of my swimming friends had been experiencing shortness of breath, and instead of seeing a doctor, he decided he had to swim harder, take more yards, and go faster. It was surely a conditioning issue! That is until he passed out, and his wife called 911 and took him to a hospital where they discovered tumors in his lungs. Fortunately, surgery and post-surgical treatment got him back on his feet, but it took what could have been a life-threatening event to get him to do what he could have and should have done much earlier. (Have you made your appointment for your annual physical yet?)

There are many more examples that each of us could conjure up to make the point. Giving up my car keys when it becomes clear that I shouldn’t be driving may be the hardest challenge for me personally, but that time will come. Realizing that you don’t have to mow your lawn or shovel the snow from your driveway if you live in a community that provides that service as part of the HOA dues may save you time and maybe your life! Giving someone else the job of organizing the outing, etc., may result not only in giving you time to relax and enjoy the event, but it also gives that younger person the experience, with your expert guidance, of course, that enables them to learn the inside details of the job and do it well.

There is no magical age at which you must make these transitions, but your body will tell you when it’s your time, and then you must find the grace to allow yourself to turn a page and take advantage of the benefits that are available to someone in your stage of life. I don’t look forward to being in a wheelchair, but I can certainly make the argument that being able to move about in a wheelchair is better than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. The good news is that it is a rare occasion that you will have to abandon all of your habits and abilities in favor of a “new way” all at once. The likelihood is that you will address the changes and challenges incrementally. It is the recognition of the need to avoid the hated trio of excuses not to!

Kurt Vonnegut, my fellow Hoosier and famous author, said, “They say the first thing to go when you’re old is your legs or your eyesight. It isn’t true. The first thing to go is parallel parking!”  I recently purchased a new car, and guess what? It will parallel park by itself! It’s apparent that some bright engineer at General Motors read Vonnegut and anticipated my need!

I conclude with this thought:  Embrace the senior tees and all that is implied by that phrase. All we have is time, and why not find enjoyment and make the most of it?