Playing golf from the perspective of a young adult

Our Golf Advisor summer intern and student at Michigan State University, Brandon Rothenberg shares his experiences in the game of golf, from becoming a caddie to finding joy in playing the game.
Caddie-turned-golfer Brandon Rothenberg takes a swing at a Detroit-area public course, Rackham Golf Course.

If you ask two people to give their take on playing golf, chances are, their responses will involve words like "frustration" or "impatient." Robin Williams' NSFW rant on the game of golf holds true for most golfers, and if you haven't watched the stand-up bit, turn the volume down.

Some people are born into the game. They grew up in a "country club" culture where they played around on the putting green as a toddler, and eventually, would spend their weekends on the fairways and in the clubhouse as they got older. Others take after the game through a family member, such as an ambitious parent who tried everything to turn their son or daughter into a professional par-shooter, but to no avail.

Then, there's someone like myself, who wasn't interested in golf until later in life.

I grew up infatuated with baseball. I played on teams with my buddies, and I would have played year-round if I could. As a teenager, summer activities consisted of sleeping in, going to camps and enjoying the great outdoors, but golf never crossed my mind. If I was a golf junkie growing up, would my parents drop me off at the driving range for a few hours instead of the mall? Would I ask my mom for a new Scotty Cameron for Hanukkah instead of a Playstation? I guess I'll never know.

The summer before I started high school, a couple of my buddies were going to work as caddies, and told me to hop aboard. I knew nothing about the game of golf, but there was money to be made, and I realized I would be able to afford video games for once. As the years went on, I found a liking for caddying and spending my summer days out on the golf course.

After watching people play golf up close and personal all summer long, I figured that I could do the same thing, and it would be easier than hitting a moving baseball. To my surprise, I couldn't be more wrong.

One of the only things lefties have going for them is if they leave a club behind on the course, chances are whoever finds that club will return it, as they have no use for it.

In the winter time, I started looking around for a starter set of clubs. As someone who hits on the "wrong" side of the ball (yes, I am alluding to the fact that I'm left-handed), I struggled to find clubs. Everything was for right-handed people only, and when I found lefty equipment, it came with a hefty price tag. One of the only things lefties have going for them is if they leave a club behind on the course, chances are whoever finds that club will return it, as they have no use for it. Eventually, I came across a starter set for $100, so I didn't have to break the bank.

Since I waited till the winter time to catch an off-season deal, I was stuck taking my first golf swings at a heated outdoor range in the freezing cold. My first taste at taking golf into my own hands consisted of a plethora of swings-and-misses, topping the ball to my heart's content and baseball-swinging the heck out of my clubs. I chose to stick around a little and watch the other people hit. The sight of kids my age struggling to hit made me feel a little better, and gave me the confidence to stick with it.

By the time I was a freshman in college, I had a couple of years of experience under my (non-golf) belt. At this point in time, I was certain of several things. First, golf is not cheap, but one or two good shots on the day made me hungry for more golf, no matter how mad I was with myself at the end of the round. I also knew that I was not a good golfer, but in reality, this wasn't that big of a deal. Playing best-ball matches with my buddies became my best friend, and I soon realized that my short game was the mere reason I'd make the effort into booking yet another tee-time.

Fall colors at Tullymore Golf Club in Stanwood, Michigan.

In Michigan, fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The leaves are changing colors and cider mills are open, but it's also a sign that winter is coming. In my opinion, fall golf brings out the best in you. It's when you realize that there's only so many rounds left to play on the young season, and it feels like this is when golf is truly meant to be enjoyed. Playing golf up at school is always a blast, and something that I look forward to. Forest Akers Golf Course is located on Michigan State University's campus, and college kids play there constantly. There are two 18-hole public courses, and from what I've seen, kids definitely take advantage of the local links.

My golf game has come a long way, but there's still so much to learn, and so much of the unknown to be appreciated.

If you're considering taking up golf for the first time, or you're just like me and have been playing for a handful of years, here's what I've learned: Practice makes perfect, and you won't be great overnight. I took my first golf lesson several months ago, and while you could play two rounds for the cost of an hour-long lesson, it does help. Unfortunately, you'll probably be worse before you get better. Golf is such a mental game, and when you've got someone telling you what you should be doing, muscle memory and old habits will always seem to get in the way.

Sometimes, you have to appreciate golf for what it is. You're bound to have a good day on the course, even if it lasts for only a few holes, but you have to appreciate the small things. If you sank a five-footer to save yourself from a triple bogey, embrace that with a fist pump! Take a walk with your clubs instead of riding for once. It gives you a whole-new take on the game. There's more time to appreciate a great shot you hit, to breathe in the views around you and the fact that there's time on your hands to go out and play.

I feel that if I wasn't exposed to golf at an early age, I would have never picked up a club. Truthfully, golf isn't advertised to people my age. Kids who love sports appreciate the postseason, an up-and-coming draft class, a specific match-up, and the list goes on and on, but golf doesn't have these qualities. The average golfer my age might pick up the remote and watch golf, but only when Tiger is wearing his Sunday red at The Masters.

Efforts have been made to draw more attention to golf, and expose different groups of people to the game. Topgolf is by far the clear-cut best option. With only a select number of locations across major cities in the US, Topgolf has been one of the best assets for the sport in a long time. They achieve a goal of bringing together golfers and non-golfers into an environment that satisfies both parties.

Topgolf helps out the young adult golfer by offering deals such as half-off golf on Tuesdays and college night on Wednesdays where you can pay a flat rate and play for several hours. This has been a step in the right direction, and isn't the only asset to bring golf in the young adult limelight.

The dog days of calling ahead to book a tee-time are over. Different websites and mobile apps now feature dynamic pricing which allows for discounted tee-times. In my opinion, golf courses would be smart to offer student discounts for kids who can provide a valid high school or college ID. It's not a difficult program to implement, and can make an impact on future business, as well as draw more young adults to play.

People have gone their entire lives playing golf, and there's still something to learn or improve upon each time they go out and play. It's a lethargic, time-consuming process that, when the time comes, will deliver some of the highest highs. Some days you feel like throwing your clubs in the water, other days, you wish you could play another 18 holes. But in the end, it's the constant battle between mental-toughness and confidence that keeps you hungry for more.

Brandon Rothenberg is currently an intern at Golf Channel and attends Michigan State University.
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Playing golf from the perspective of a young adult