Being a father is the most rewarding experience of my life, but no one told me how much time and energy I would have to devote to parenting. I recently read a romance novel where a woman spent her college years in love with and hopelessly devoted to a college-age sociopath. This sociopath went to the family home of one of his girlfriends, and he was disgusted by the pride that her mother and father had in their children. His aspirations were larger than having a family.
This was one situation where, god help me, I identified with the on-campus monster. Until Brooks was born, I wanted more than a family. Now all I want is not to fuck up Brooks.
This is maybe a bit simplistic. Beyond Brooks not being fucked up by his father, I would like it if he loved to read, and it seems like he does. Right now, that means reliably sifting through his mountain of picture books to pick out a picture of a dog, an elephant, a monkey, a hippo, or a bebop (zebra).
Brooks is good-natured, which means the world to me. I try to make all of our interactions positive and to only speak sharply to him when I perceive that he is in danger. Still, it’s impossible to know how much of his jolly disposition is my parenting and how much of it is dumb luck.
My wife and I live to ski, we would like it very much if Brooks loved to skiing too. This is something of a tall order, we’ve settled in Denver, where weekend traffic often kicks day-trip drive times into the 6+ hour realm. When we decided not to move to the mountains, a mountain house shot up our must-have list. We’re not the only ones. At best, we’re currently looking for a mountain condo… Neither inventory nor prices are moving in the right direction.
I’d like it if Brooks played squash, but I also recognize that this is very stupid. In Colorado, I’ve worked with some top-ranked juniors. This in itself is extremely telling in terms of the player development resources available in the state.
Beyond a lack of coaches, Colorado suffers from a lack of Squash infrastructure. Getting court time is expensive and sometimes contentious. In an (arguably) best-case scenario, the juniors that I’ve worked with went on to be non-scholarship athletes at good colleges. The other scenario, and I’d argue that this is worse, is kids stop playing when east coast talent with more resources at their disposal start to crush them.
I would, without placing too much pressure on myself or on Brooks, be over the moon happy if my son liked golf. I think that part of getting a child to like golf is the ability for them to play as much golf or as little as they’d like. If you start at a young age, nine holes are too many, and once you catch the bug, 18 holes are not nearly enough.
This brings country clubs into play, and I’ve written about Denver country clubs AT LENGTH (see literally anything else that I’ve ever posted) but if you’re new to my writing, the semi-private, down-market, golf courses that I’ve been haunting for the last four years aren’t gonna cut it for Brooks.
Inverness is a uniquely bad place for junior golf talent to develop. The practice facilities are garbage, the course is extremely penal (any time you miss, you’re behind a tree). Beyond that, the membership is tiered, where the lowest tier gains access to the course after 1:00, meaning the ubiquitous, great for young families, dead-in-the-afternoon selling point of most clubs is moot. The tee sheet is always packed, and I have never seen so many people so angry about pace.
I joined the Inverness as a 4-handicap I can (and have) gotten through 18 holes at the club (a heavenly walk) in under two hours (first off in a two-ball pairing and in at 1:58. I was winded when I tallied the card on 18, 88). Even with the ability to play at lightning speed and a reputation for not being shy about telling fellow members when they were off pace, I never felt completely comfortable at Inverness. My wife put on a brave face, but I know this was an even bigger issue for her. Next year I’m hoping to bring out a two-year-old.
For the last two years, I’ve been at the Omni. The range is excellent, almost as good as the travel benefits, and while not a cupcake, the EXTREMELY wide course is anything but penal. There are some juniors developing here, and with the massive greens and fairways, the Omni’s three nines are the perfect place to learn that you can get up and down from anywhere.
The course is un-walkable, and this is going to seem even stupider than squash, but I don’t want Brooks to know that golf carts exist. At least not for a while. I loved riding before I could drive, but walking v.s. riding was a huge point of contention between my father and I. This situation is not unique, and it might not even be avoidable, but I’m not going to stack the cards against myself with a home club where you’d be a goddamn idiot to walk.
All of this is important to me because I, as a golf-obsessed teenager, did not have unlimited access to golf. At least not outside high school golf practice. The finances and logistics of course time were a continual point of contention in an already tenuous relationship with my parents. Unequivocally, this stunted my development as a player.
I’ve always been more of the work-to-live type, so I’m not sure that stunted is the right word for golf’s impact on my career growth, but I spent what some would call a lost decade in the golf industry. I sought out golf employment primarily for course time, and I got to play a lot of great rounds at a lot of great courses. This stint included six years caddying at Cherry Creek Country Club, the only club in East Denver, where we have settled.
Cherry Creek is a HIT in the hit-or-miss design portfolio of Jackie Nicklaus. Caddying ain’t mining coal, but it’s taxing both physically (duh) and mentally (from the perspective of servitude). I have also written about this at length.
I mostly stayed at CCCC because of employee tee times. Eight per week were available, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 3:00-4:00 in 15-minute intervals. I have done close to 1,000 loops at Cherry Creek and played the course upwards of 100 times – so I’m only half kidding when I joke that I know that course, (great use of strategic width) and those greens (much of the break is subtle, to the point of imperceptible) better than I know anything else.
I still think about CCCC all the time. When I can’t sleep, I find comfort in playing the course in my head. When I caddied at Cherry Creek, there was a stratospheric disconnect between myself and the members. Joining the club was the absolute furthest thing from the realm of possibility. Six years later, after a seismic shift in values, and from a less precarious financial situation, joining Cherry Creek is, using the word in its most literal sense, possible.
On one hand, I can’t imagine anything cooler than joining the club where I used to caddy. Cherry Creek is an A-level course with A-level facilities. On the other hand, in a situation where I am dead to rights guilty of hearing what I want to hear, I misread the structured initiation costs, thinking that as a junior member, I would pay a $50k all-in initiation fee, rather than $50k when I joined and another $30k when I turned 40.
Is Cherry Creek worth that money? Probably. In an honest evaluation of Denver metro clubs, CCCC ranks amongst the last clubs in the A-tier, below Castle Pines Golf Club, Cherry Hills, Denver Country Club, and Colorado Golf Club. I’d put it alongside Ravenna and Castle Pines Country Club, above Glenmoor, and Columbine, and then you dip into the B+ section of the B tier with Rolling Hills, Bear Creek, etc.
Eighty thousand is market rate, and drifting towards the lower end. (Not an absolute steal at $50k, unless your parents are members, unfortunately.) Next question, is it worth the sacrifice? For me, that would mean a switch from squash to tennis, which I’m willing to do. I’ve already admitted that squash is stupid, but it is still a sacrifice, and the tennis facilities at Cherry Creek don’t allow for winter play.
Squash plays an outsized role in my life during the winter months. Depending on the weather, I typically hang up the clubs around Thanksgiving and pick them back up again in mid to late March.
I am not the most powerful ball striker, on the positive side, my strokes gained metrics skew heavily towards putting. All of this is to say that inconsistent turf interaction and difficulty reading speed dormant grass has lead to some bad days. So if I want to stay at the squash club, and I would LOVE to stay at the squash club, I’ve gotta minimize golf costs.
Enter Meridian. Their $9,000 initiation fee is the cheapest of any Denver area private club (Inverness and Omni are semi-private). Their practice facilities are some of the best in the state, with three practice holes, and a large short game area.
The club does not have anything, and here I mean ABSOLUTELY anything that I don’t need, no tennis, no pool, no spa amenities. The locker room is not a place where you’d want to hang out.
I wish that amenities meant less to me, but the reality is that the spartan, golf dojo aesthetic of Meridian is something that I will have to come to terms with. However, I am getting my biggest wish – Brooks will grow up around golf. He will always be able to play as much or as little golf as he wants.
In all of this, there is a big silver lining, and that is that Brooks won’t think that you valet your car in front of Cherry Creek’s massive Italian villa style clubhouse before you peg it. I don’t want him to be spoiled. He’ll also have the option to play squash and maybe he’ll get something from it, even if that something is stupid. With the realocation of resources, Brooks for better or for worse, is going to spend A LOT of time on the ski hill.
And maybe, just maybe, my son will grow up to be the third-generation Tull (full disclosure, I’m not totally sure if my mom took my dad’s last name. And if she did take it, I don’t know what hardware she’s bagged since they tied the knot) to win a (stupid) squash championship.