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I’m going to play golf with friends this weekend.

Golf is a great game for so many reasons, but here’s a huge one:

It allows me to spend quality time with friends.

This seems fairly obvious, but consider this:

Once or twice a week (and sometimes more in the summer), I take a two to three hour walk with three of my closest friends. This walk almost always occurs while most people are still asleep or still lounging around their homes in the early morning. It’s a walk in a beautifully landscaped setting that provides all the health benefits of time spent in nature (which are considerable). And since I walk the 3-5 miles, up and down hills with a 35 pound bag strapped to my back, the game also affords a decent amount of exercise.

I spend the time talking with my friends. Competing with my friends. Assisting my friends in their attempts to master this impossible-to-master game. Attempting to master this impossible-to-master game myself. It’s a process that requires intense concentration, a certain degree of athleticism, endless strategy, ongoing risk assessment, and constant experimentation.

It engages the mind and body simultaneously in a way few things in life do.

It’s also time filled with meaningful, unforgettable, hilarious, and unbelievable moments that become the narrative fabric of our lives. My friend, Dan, who recently started playing with my friends, recently commented, “I feel like you guys have a story to tell for every inch of this course.”

Yeah. Pretty much. This golf course and that other golf course and that other golf course.

What a glorious thing to stand in the tee box, lining up your shot, filled with the memories of the past. Horrendously errant shots. Hilarious misadventures. Brilliantly hit golf balls.

Also the snippets of conversation never to be forgotten. Moments of levity and solemnity that can only be shared between close friends. The requests for advice. The sharing of secrets. The ongoing pranks. The nods of empathy and support.

Golf also brings friends together and develops new friendships. Earlier this year, I played golf on a Saturday with three guys who only know each other through me and only met each other this year. Then on Sunday, I played golf with three different guys who also only know each other through me and who also only recently met.

In just the past six months, I have played golf with at least 16 different people. Friends. Friends of friends. The fathers and brothers of friends. Complete strangers. My son, Charlie.

Golf is a means of bringing people together with such ease and purpose. It makes for fast friends.

In this busy world, golf offers me something in the early morning hours that others rarely enjoy. For a few blessed hours, an oftentimes random collection of my friends join me for a purposeful, competitive, camaraderie-laden walk in a beautiful space.

When else can someone bring three friends together for a morning like this? How many people can say that they have walked thousands of miles with their friends over the years, talking, competing, laughing, and sharing their lives together?

Now Charlie and I are walking the course together. Competing against ourselves and each other and all of the elements that make greatness in golf so elusive. We walk the fairways and pick our way through the rough while laughing up a storm. Creating storyworthy moments that we will remember forever. Talking and sharing our lives.

Sixteen years ago my friend Tom threw a set of irons into the back of my truck, connected by a thin, red ribbon, and told me that I was going to start playing golf. He had spotted the clubs at a yard sale and had purchased them for $10.

I later added a $1 putter to round out my first set.

I was skeptical at first. A boy who spent his childhood without money still saw golf as a ridiculous game for wealthy elitists.

Thank goodness I gave it a chance.

I’ve been given many wondrous gifts over the course of my life, but few measure up to that used set of golf clubs that began my journey into this great game and bestowed upon me the joyous perfection of an early morning walk with my friends.

If you’re not playing golf, I feel bad for you. You don’t know what you’re missing.