Baby Drivers

Raise a hand if your local course is part of the route you drive to get the little one to sleep
White Bear Yacht Club

It was 4:17 a.m. I remember that specifically. My 6-month-old son had been crying inconsolably for what felt like hours. None of the tricks were working. He was fed, bounced, and diapered; my wife even stood with him in the bathroom with the shower running. I sang and shushed to no avail, searching for answers while knowing that time was running out for my spouse to get some badly needed rest. So I put on some shoes and a sweatshirt, clipped the boy into his car seat and started driving. I had no idea where I was going, but figured that I needed to drive at least an hour so that the drone of the tires could lull him to sleep.

I eased onto I-95 going northbound and slid in beside the all-night truckers. Almost instantly, the crying ceased. Victory. Mindlessly, deliriously, I wound my way up through Boston’s suburbs, passing road signs for towns with names that this transplant still struggles to pronounce correctly: Peabody, Wenham, Gloucester. Then, everything clicked: Hamilton. I knew that place. After all, it has hosted the same number of U.S. Opens as the course over at Brookline.

I tapped “Myopia Hunt Club” into my GPS. Soon I found myself on narrow roads lined with stone walls fronting large estates, and as dawn broke through the leafy trees, I saw the discreet yellow sign hanging on an iron post. I gently pulled to the side of the road and peered up the long driveway. My clubs, as always, sat ready in the back of the station wagon; I gave their clatter part of the credit for soothing my son to sleep. The 1898 design by Herbert Leeds wasn’t visible from the road, but it nevertheless provided even more fuel to my dream of someday pegging it there. 

Upon recounting the story of my subconscious beacon to my golf buddies with kids, I was surprised to hear several of them had the same story. The courses were different, but the routes felt the same: We all just defaulted to where our hearts wanted to go.

The ride to Myopia became my standard tactic when our youngest couldn’t settle. Sometimes we did it when Dad needed some relaxation. Finally, early one morning, a context shift occurred: Why imagine playing solo when I could pass the game on to the dreamer behind me?

Golf took root in my life nearly 40 years ago. I took my first swings at 7, banging balls with my grandma’s clubs from her front yard into the cornfields surrounding the house. I caddied every summer from 12 to 22 at a course outside Chicago. I wandered through my mid-20s playing golf as a social activity. As I climbed into my 30s, I got serious and began regripping, reshafting and building clubs in my basement shop. 

These days, my sons join me and my golf buddies down there. The “baby” is now 11, and his brother’s 8 (and a much better sleeper). They’re curious about the new wedges I’m taking apart for Matt, the putter I’m cutting down for Zak and the hand-ground irons I’m building for Z.B. (not that one). My car seat is a stool at the workbench, where I drift off for hours as I pour myself into the restful, meditative process of building a golf club.

We’re long past the phase of sleepless nights and sunrise car rides, but the therapy remains. A few nights ago, to settle some back-to-school jitters, we took the family to the local muni. As the last rays of summer vacation dwindled through the trees, my sons strode up the fairway. They turned toward each other and, though I missed the joke, their laughter rang out pure as a flushed long iron over the clatter of clubs in their bags.

Neal Doyle is a vice president at a financial-services company in Boston. He’s been a Broken Tee Society member since 2018.