A couple of days after watching Jack Nicklaus play his last round of competitive major championship golf , we got a letter from an 83-year-old woman we’d met on a golf course. She reminded us that her regular foursome, composed of friends from high school, met every week to hack it around. “We really love to play,” she said. “We have a lot of laughs.”
Golf, it’s been said by many, is “the game of a lifetime.” These sages don’t mean that it takes forever to play 18 holes — although on a crowded Saturday afternoon when you’re stuck behind a trio of badly behaved foursomes it can sometimes feel that way. Golf is a game that can be enjoyed equally in youth and dotage. Rugby, basketball, and Greco-Roman wrestling are all salutary and noble pursuits that build character and endurance, not to mention self-esteem and appealing musculature. But these sports, like so many others, require a certain resilience and recuperative power that tends to diminish precipitously as we age. Even gentlemanly racquet activities, such as squash and tennis, games that appeal to thousands of retirees, eventually tax knees and hips and elbows beyond the restorative salve of multiple doses of Advil. Ruefully, and not without some measure of resentment at the ravages of advanced age, we all must put away our balls and gloves, our cleats and cups, and retreat permanently to the sidelines.
Except if you play golf.
Of all the great games, those enduring sports that inspire legends (and cottage industries that revolve around enhancing the legends), golf endures. Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson — and Arnie, Jack, and Gary — show us annually that age does not disqualify you from the game. You may not hit the pellet as far as you once did, and the tremors in your hands might make putting more challenging than it once was. You might even have to take a motor cart (like the younger folk, in their 60s). But you can still play the game, just as you have all throughout your life.
There’s no mandatory retirement age in golf. If only a lifetime were so enduring.