In the next few months, we’ll be introducing a new golf tip series here on our blog. I was approached by Bob last year when he stopped me and explained an idea that he had for the blog.
Without further ado, let’s meet up with Bob who will be sharing lots of great information about dialing in your golf game.
For the rest of us
Toad Valley has been my course for more than 40 years
I’ll never forget how I got started with golf
It was 1975. I was a teenager living on SE 60th street, just north of Rising Sun Stables. We didn’t have any money to speak of, so golf wasn’t something that I figured I’d ever play. But my dad had taken me to a garage sale, and I spotted this ancient driver someone was selling for a quarter.
I thought it might be cool to have a golf club, so I asked my dad for the 25 cents. Dad said he’d buy it for me, but there was no way he was paying a quarter for it.
“I’ll give you 15 cents for the golf club,” he told the owner.
“Make it 20, and you’ve got a deal,” the man said.
And with that, I had my first golf club. As my wife can attest, it would not be my last.
I couldn’t wait to hit it. The minute we got home, I bolted out of the car and ran over to my neighbor’s house. “Come and see what I just got!” I yelled.
My friend was not impressed.
“What are you going to do with that thing?” he asked. Truth was, I honestly didn’t know. I’d never swung a club before.
Finally, we scrounged up a golf ball from his basement and even found a tee. We headed out to my back yard, and my heart was pounding as I teed it up.
“How far do you think it’ll go?” my friend asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe I’d better aim across the neighborhood.”
I stood up to the ball, took the club back, and swung hard. And that ball … wow! It took off like a rocket, straight as an arrow, across one yard, then another, then another. It might still be the best drive I’ve ever hit. We never found the ball.
And with that, I was hooked. For the past 40 years, I’ve been obsessed with a single-minded desire to repeat that feeling. Maybe it’s a silly pursuit, but it’s my silly pursuit, and it brings me joy.
Of course, just hitting one amazing (and lucky) shot wasn’t enough. I wanted to actually play the game. But where? I didn’t have the money to play most courses, and a country club was out of the question for a family of modest means like mine.
Enter Toad Valley.
In those days, you could play an entire round of golf at Toad for about $3. Heck, even a poor kid like me could scrounge up that much money. Ride a cart? Ha! Why would I ride? I was young and energetic. I didn’t need a cart. I just needed a couple of golf balls and as much daylight as possible.
Then as now, I love Toad Valley.
Recently, as I thought back to those early days, it dawned on me what it is that makes me love Toad Valley so much – and why I really want nothing to do with country clubs.
Don’t get me wrong. Country clubs are great. A great friend of mine is the head pro at Wakonda. I had a chance to play there last year. It was enjoyable, I guess, in a $135-a-round sort of way. But it wasn’t satisfying. In fact, the first thing I wanted to do after the round was to play again that day. At Toad.
See, when I come to Toad, I feel like Norm Peterson on Cheers. Theresa or Jason or Allison always greet me by name. In fact, Theresa knows me so well that she only has to ask me one question.
“Small or large, Bob?”
See, Theresa knows that no matter what, the first thing I need is a bucket of balls. If I’m playing, it’s a small bucket to warm up. If I’m practicing, I’ll need a large bucket. Maybe two. That’s Toad. They know their customers and do everything they can to make your round as fun as possible.
I’m not a pro golfer. I’m not a celebrity. But when I come to Toad, I feel like one. And that’s why I love it so much, and why I’d rather play here than at any country club.
Country clubs are for the swells. Toad Valley is for the rest of us.
So – what am I doing here? Throughout the golf season, I’m going to do some blogging in this space. I’ll share thoughts and memories. I’ll give you some playing advice, not to fix your swing but to help you enjoy the game with your swing.
I’ll share playing tips for specific holes and give you ideas for games to play with your friends. There will be a few lessons – not from the perspective of a pro who’s trying to build the perfect swing in you, but from the perspective of an everyman, a range rat who has worked his entire life to build a swing that works well enough to put up a good number every now and then.
In fact, you could call them “Lessons for the Rest of Us.”
Mostly, I’ll just try to help you capture those special moments, like the one I had as a 15-year-old when I struck a golf ball for the first time in my life.
My desire is that you love this game, no matter how you swing or what you shoot. It’s a game that deserves love and respect. And Toad Valley is a place where you’ll have a chance to make memories every time you play.
Good luck. Hit ‘em straight. If you have a rough day, remember this: With golf, there’s always tomorrow. And there’s always Toad.
Bob Castelline is an award-winning journalist and writer, who now works in ministry. He’s a regular at Toad Valley, playing more than 120 rounds in 2016, and a self-described range rat. You can find Bob on the course or the range at Toad almost every day.