Golf: “Time-Suck” to Avoid #1 (or, the post in which I piss off half my readership)

This article was republished at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine.  Follow this link to the article.


Time Suck– (n) Something that’s engrossing and addictive, but that keeps you from doing things that are actually important, like earning a living, or eating meals, or caring for your children. (from

Is playing golf the best use of our spare time? (look what it did to Judge Smalls)

Perhaps the greatest challenge we all face in being both a good provider and a present father is that there never seems to be enough time in a day.  Our jobs and careers demand our time; our kids need a lot of us, too.  It is really hard to find the time.

It is also hard to find the energy necessary to be a great dad.  Stress, time demands, etc all seem to rob us of energy, and prevent us from being relaxed and present.

To help us recharge and to get us into the better mental (and physical) states necessary to be a great provider and father, we need some time for our own activities.  Time with friends, physical activities, reading, music, what have you.  In the classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey referred to this as “sharpening the saw”- making sure we take enough breaks to recharge, so we don’t burn out and lose effectiveness in our roles over time.  We dedicated dads need reminders to do this, because while we focus on taking care of others first, we also have to spend some time taking care of ourselves.

And this gets me to the point of this post (which is intended as the first of a series on time sucks to avoid).  We need to do things for ourselves and recharge.  However, these things also take up our most precious resource, time.  Ideally, the best activities maximize our fun, relaxation and recharging, while minimizing the amount of time taken away from the rest of our lives.

And first on my hit list of “Time Sucks to Avoid” is GOLF.

I’ll admit this right off the top.  I don’t get golf.  Never have and never will.

But, according to my many friends who play golf, this is only because I am unaware of:

  • The challenge of trying to play well
  • The joy of hitting a perfect shot
  • The benefits of a relaxing day out and good exercise
  • Playing a game out in a beautiful setting
  • The opportunities for camaraderie and friendly banter (potential beer-fire benefits!)
  • The focus on hitting the ball, which clears your mind of your other work and family concerns

Frankly, I just see “a good walk spoiled”, a waste of valuable real estate, an opportunity to lose money on poorly considered side-bets, and an excuse for drinking at 11am (golf can also be really expensive and cause people to wear funny pants, but I fear I’m just piling on now).  Seriously, though, it seems to me that golf gobbles up just too much time for the very real benefits it confers.

Can we get the same benefit from 90 minutes of tennis?  A beer-fire?, A pick-up game of basketball? A Saturday softball league? A night out with the guys? A bike ride?  Most of these options represent good exercise alternatives to golf, can be just as socially rewarding, and are less expensive.  And better still- they don’t gobble up 5 hours of your weekend (not to mention time at the driving range and/or lessons each week, as well as all the money for lessons and equipment). 

I suppose a quick round with friends on ocassional Saturdays is one thing, but multiple rounds, plus all of the extra practice time and expense seems excessive to me.

Maybe I’m being too harsh.  And, of course, I could be wrong.  After all, I’m a tremendous slouch, and I admittedly don’t get golf.  (…but don’t get me started on the time-suckitude of watching golf on tv!)

Care to defend golf? Have any other “time sucks” to nominate?  Let’s discuss in the comments section.  

15 thoughts on “Golf: “Time-Suck” to Avoid #1 (or, the post in which I piss off half my readership)

  1. Years ago as a young father with a demanding career I initially split time on weekends with my buds between golf and tennis. I soon learned that playing golf in Staten Island (then the countrified borough of NYC) meant getting up at 6:30 to grab a tee time at around 10:30 only work my way around the course by 6:00, all this in the hope of maybe breaking 100. Reason soon prevailed and I settled on 2 hours or so of tennis with friends, leaving plenty of time for family-type activities. Now as a single senior (gasp I can’t believe I’m one) my tennis playing time is up to 5-7 hrs. per week and I infuriate my peers who play golf by saying I’ll get back to golf when I get old!

    Moral of my comment: although guys with kids have always need healthy outlets, don’t fall in love with an activity that takes too much time away from more important things – for working dads that means finding a balance. I’m glad I was able to do so those many years ago. I believe it made a difference. I’m hoping readers of Scott’s blog will fight to create a healthy balance in their lives too.

  2. I’m still working on becoming a good golfer, but an 18-hole par 72 course takes about 4 hours. There’s always the option just to play 9 holes. Cost wise it’s only $60 or so for a full round of golf at a decent public course. As for lessons, equipment, etc, that is all up to the individual. There’s plenty of decent affordable clubs that will last a long time. I’m not a dad so my weekends are certainly much more free, but I can understand how it could be difficult for a father with young children not being able to have that much time.

    I find the challenge of golf to be very enjoyable and self fulfilling when I hit a good shot, or par a hole. Day to day life does not give me the challenge that a hobby like golf does.

    I disagree with your thoughts that it’s a reason to drink at 11 am. I’m sure there are some male golfers that do that, but not all do, nor should playing golf used as an excuse to do so.

    Golf can also be a hobby that brings families together. I’ve seen plenty of teenage sons out for a round with their dads, as well well fathers and sons in our age range play together. I’ve also played a round with a husband and wife and it was so nice to see them encouraging each other and sharing a passion for the game.

    Maybe someday I’ll have a son to play golf with. Maybe in a few years my nephews will play golf, and it will bring me closer to them and my brother in law. Ultimately, not everyone can share the same interests. Hopefully my post will let you see a different side of golf.

    • Thanks for the comment, and I hope you come back and comment on future posts. My post is intended to be (mostly) humorous, so I definitely exaggerated a few things for effect- like the drinking, costs, etc.

      I especially like your comment about families playing golf together. What a great activity to do something fun and relatively unstructired with your kids- a lot of quality conversations and bonding can happen on the course.

  3. I will defend it to an extent. I agree at least somewhat with everything you wrote but I have a different experience with golf and fatherhood, from a son’s perspective. Another reader hit on this point already but I’ll reiterate – When your kids are old enough, golf can be a great father-son activity. My dad was not a golfer until I was in high school, so he wasn’t taking off on me to hit the links on weekends when I was little. He took the game up mainly as a way to have a recreation he could do with his older brother, whose knee issues eventually made tennis, which was always their thing in their younger years, no longer feasible.

    My dad didn’t even think he’d like golf when he first started, but he did, and he passed this on to me. Throughout high school I spent countless hours playing golf with my dad that I probably wouldn’t have spent with him otherwise. I got out of it in college and beyond because I don’t want to invest the time and money it takes to keep improving your game and wouldn’t really enjoy being an occasional hacker, but i still hit the driving range every now and then. Time will only tell if my son and I become golfers together when he’s old enough.

    as for other time-suck nominations:
    -watching football
    -being on your smartphone too much
    -reading/writing fatherhood blogs

    (fyi, I’m guilty of all of the above)

    • Hi JT- Funny you should mention these- I am planning a post about Fantasy Football, in large part because those who play serious FF seem incapable of not watching the 15+ hours of football on TV each week, as well as the pros and cons of smartphones for work-family time and facebook, et al as time sucks.

      I am really enjoying your blog as well! We should collaborate on something soon (email me if you have a post idea that touches on work and fatherhood)

      • I actually did send you an email like a week or two ago and I’ve been meaning to check in with you cause I’m assuming you may not have gotten it. Im pretty sure I made the subject of the email something about fatherhood blogging. I’ll see if I can dig it out of my sent folder and try to resend it…

  4. I agree with you on most of this Scott, I too never could “get it” when it comes to golf. As for the reasoning that “someday”, MAYBE my son will want to play golf with me to me is ridiculous. Maybe someday your son WON’T want to play golf with you. Think of how many hours of time you will spend golfing and driving range, etc. between now when your child is 2 and then when your child will be, let’s say, 12. That’s ten long years of you golfing in anticipation of one day, MAYBE, taking your son with you.
    I can think of a dozen other activities that fathers can do with their children at any age and not have to wait ten or more years before joining their dad. Spending four or five hours per week playing golf probably isn’t the only down time for most guys either, add in the time watching football, baseball, etc. and time spent on the internet and you’ve got a whole lot of time alone and not much time spent with their families.
    As for needing down time, a guys night out or a couples date night every now and then should be more than enough down time for anybody.

    • I hear what you are saying, but I’d like to clarify that sharing activities with your kids is incredibly important (even if, as you say, planning this 10 years in advance is pretty silly), and that down time/recharge time is critically important, and may need more than just every now and then. I especially think booked-into-your-schedule exercise-related activities and time away from both wife and kids are really vital. My 2 hours a week of volleyball really recharges me, as does the ocassional beer fire.

      Thanks for following the blog. Please come back and comment often!

  5. Great post on the idea of “time sucks.” As an occasional golfer myself, I have recognized the time conflicts that the game represents. I go to the range more often than I actually play on a course — usually just for an hour or so on non-teaching days. I find it healthy to focus only on hitting a small white ball as well as I can. While it’s frustrating, the feel I get from (sometimes) hitting a great shot is incredibly positive.
    The biggest reason I don’t actually play golf very often? I enjoy my time with my wife and kids! I can’t see spending 5+ hours away from them on a weekend (my wife is not supportive of the idea either!).
    This was mentioned earlier, but I think the biggest time sucks are TV, the internet (especially email), and smartphones.

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