Took Nat, Max, and Hannah to our favorite mini-golf course yesterday. (Ben hates it so he stayed home with Ned.) It was a great time to go because everyone else was still at the beach -- we had gone at 10 and we were long finished by 1:30! So off to Cape Escape for a round of miniature golf.
Max and Ben do not like the courses with the little props, but I do. This course is particularly a favorite for them because it is truly like a miniature adult golf course: it has tiny sand pits, rough, apron, putting green, and water with koi in it! Unlike a real course, though, there are waterfalls and a tunnel to putt through. The whole time we were there they were playing songs by Jack Johnson, the Beach Boys, and Jimmy Buffett.
As a kid, mini-golf was a very large part of my summer vacations. When Laura and I were very young, my parents took us to Montauk Point, Long Island every summer. In that sleepy little town -- not far from the Hamptons in miles but eons away in terms of everything else -- there was a mini-golf course called "Lil's Puff 'n' Putt." The "puff" referred to the sailboats they rented -- there was a small pond right next to the course. My parents would take a little sunfish out while Laura and I played. It was nothing short of bliss. It was just the kind of mini-golf course that I love: lots of props, like a windmill where you have to time your shot so the blades don't hit your ball; or a small raised ant hill you have to get your ball inside. Anyway, the best thing about Puff 'N' Putt was that if you got a hole in one on the very last hole, you would win a free game.
Laura, ever the big sister, would keep score, while we putted away. I did not think I was very good at it, but one summer, at the very end of the game, I got a hole in one, and won a free game. Because we were leaving that day, we could not play it, but I kept the scorecard the whole year, and when we returned the following summer, Laura and I played our free game!
We got to be pretty good at the game; Dad showed us how to aim for the hole, how to tap the ball gently, and the correct way to swing and stand. I improved my game as a teen when I worked at country clubs, and one summer I dated a groundskeeper who took me night-golfing (no, this is not a metaphor). Jeff showed me how to play the real-sized golf game.
I have taken my sons mini-golfing, but not as much as I would have liked to (not as much as I did growing up). For years and years we assumed Nat wouldn't like it or wouldn't get it. We finally got up the guts to try when Max was around 8. He had true beginners luck: a hole-in-one in his very first game. This made him think he was good at it, and so from then on he always liked playing. Whenever we would go to the Cape Max would come up with his list of things he wanted to do while on vacation (or "Pcation," as he called it for some time, bless his little boy ways). Cape Escape mini-golf was always on the list, along with eating at Moby Dicks and taking nets to the bay for hermit crab-hunting.
It also turned out that Nat actually didn't mind mini-golf at all, at any point in his life; he was just kind of spacey about it. So when Max asked me to take him and Hannah golfing, I figured I'd just take him along this time. "Golf, then ice cream," I told him. "Yes," he said.
I was really happy about how good I was at it. It seemed like my lifetime of playing had paid off. I really felt like I knew what I was doing. Max was very good, as well -- I think he actually got two holes in one -- and Hannah was, too, for a beginner.
What surprised me was how good Nat was, but Dad has always said Nat is a natural athlete. I don't know how much of a natural golfer Nat is, but he has really improved since his 10-year-old daze. He has his own special move I called the "Nat Sweep," where he kind of half putted, half dragged the ball into the hole. This may seem a bit like cheating, but I counted each time he lifted the club off the ball, so that Max was satisfied it was not. Actually I don't know if Max really cared, but I am always trying to be fair to everyone.
Aside from the Nat Sweep, Nat has an excellent mini-golf swing. Where did this come from? And then I realized that his tremendous improvement must be as a result of how often social group plays mini golf! It was good to realize that even though we missed out on the early childhood mini golfing that I was exposed to, my two older sons definitely caught up as teens. Next on the list: get Benji to like playing.