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Kids and golf: Recent column draws sympathy and outrage

TravelGolf.com Staff Writer Michael Patrick Shiels recent recollection of how he and his 7-year-old son were treated by operators at two Detroit golf courses has generated a wide variety of passionate responses from our readers. Some who sympathize with stories of their own, and others who denounce him as cheap and unreasonable.

Shiels intention seemed fairly common: wishing to teach his child a game that can be enjoyed for a lifetime by walking along with his son as the boy played and Shiels not playing himself. The afternoon quickly soured, he says, when he was greeted coldly, either being told "no" when he explained how he wanted to help his son or told non-paying walkers were not allowed at another course.

Shiels is certainly not alone in his decision to boycott the course for their rudeness, however convenient the course may be. Many readers shared similar stories of either being turned away being treated unfairly because they brought their kid along.

"I live on the 8th green of a nine hole par-3 course in our subdivision" said reader Nick Aramino. "I have not played the course since last October due to the reception and attitude of the owners towards my son's playing. We went out of our way to be cordial, friendly, and to show that we respect their rules even to try to develop a friendship since they live in the subdivision. In spite of this, we were treated like an annoyance, or invaders. Like you, I refuse to give my hard-earned money to people who elect to treat me like that. I am a business owner, too, and I do not treat any of my customers (that way)."

Tom McAuliffe, golf director of a municipal course in Linville, N.C., shared a statistic that hints intimidation may play a factor toward people new to the game, and as a result, golf could suffer considerably.

"I recall a National Golf Foundation study a few years back noting that while the game of golf attracted some 3 million new players annually, a like number of players quit," noted McAuliffe. "The NGF cited three reasons: cost, the time involved to learn and play, and the intimidation newcomers and wannabes felt at the pro shop counter and from players they came in contact with on the course. . . Fact is, we (in the golf industry) better do a better job growing the game--showing some compassion and interest in the beginner--or find a new line of work."

However, parents who may soon take their kid to the links for the first time shouldnt feel Shiels experience will be necessarily representative of where they go. Many courses, like reader Carolanne Doigs facility, welcome and nurture children and beginners:

"We have been a youth friendly golf course for 45 years," said Doig. "We evaluate the child not just by his/her age. We have even constructed a 9-hole pitch and putt course for children and beginners and we like to tell adults that they must be accompanied by a child on the Wee Course. Our young golfers come to the course early in the summer holidays to get a free bucket of balls on the range before 9 a.m., they hang around the shop and we give them odd jobs, while at the same time they are learning about all aspects of golf. We are promoters of the game with all its traditions and etiquette and the kids soak it up. We get many comments about our young golfers. We know they are our future and we nurture them."

But not everyone agrees with Shiels. Reader Joe Sciortino notes that it makes little sense for a course to allow non-paying customers on their course.

"Once again we get magazine writers who rarely see the ‘big picture when writing critical pieces," said Sciortino. "When was the last time you were in court trying to use a ‘simple hold harmless waiver as a defense for a dead or maimed child in your business?"

Sciortino goes on to explain the severity the legal system has implemented on todays youth.

"In Palm Beach County, Florida, parents are now forced to pay $10 for their children to just try out for school sport's activities, and then another $40 if they make the team. Why? Insurance premiums. And schools have some of the most well written, ironclad "hold harmless waivers" in the law. Nonetheless, insurance companies are far more likely to settle claims than fight them in court, regardless of waivers, especially when children are involved. . .Next time Michael just pay the fees and play with your son."

Other readers pointed out it's not always the kids who might misbehave. Reader Don Didio was recently paired up with a father and son, and soon surprised to see it was the father who was acting inappropriately.

"By the 4th hole, I was ready to depart company and play through," said Didio. "It wasn't the 10-year-old boy but the 40-year-old father that tweaked my nerves to the breaking point. He constantly corrected the kid even though son was a far better player than father! The boy exercised the etiquette and respect taught him by a golf professional at another course. Dad had no respect for anyone, especially his own son. Bottom line is this: I believe kids should be welcome at ANY course within certain time limits, i.e. not on early morning weekends. But, parents should leave the business of teaching to the pros where they will get the most benefit."

More Reader Responses

"His one-sided account of the experience was unnecessary and only served as a vent for his frustration while doing nothing to enhance the article. On the positive side, the second half of his article was better as he tried to provide positive information and exercise responsible journalistic practices by allowing the golf professional an opportunity to respond to the situation. But, it is important to point out that simply because Mr. Shiels had a bad experience at two golf courses does NOT mean that there is an overall problem with junior golf. He forms his conclusion without research or any objective evidence to support it. Of course, if the initial premise of his article is called into question, then so is everything that follows. The basic question is unanswered. . .is there a problem with junior golf or is there not?" - Henry Verlander

"I tried to get my daughter and nephew out to caddy for myself and a friend a few years ago to expose them to the game ... We were told in no uncertain terms this was not allowed. It didn't matter what we said they had to have clubs. Which didn't make much sense seeing they had never played golf before and would have slowed the course down considerably." - Andy Parchesky

"ARRRRGH!!. Having been involved with competitive junior golf for 10 years with a son who played and now the Junior Golf Scoreboard, I continue to grow weary of the GOM's who control golf. GOM's = grumpy old men. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a parent and a child under 10 playing a few holes late afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday. By that time the GOM's are into their third beer in the clubhouse. These are the same guys who have nothing better to do than serve on the golf committee and stop as much junior golf as they can. Much more of this and every club in America is in serious trouble 10-15 years from now." - Mac Thayer

"I have run into similar problems when taking my young son to the golf course on vacation. My son just turned 5 years old in August 2004. He's been playing for 3 years, he understand basic etiquette (better than most adults I encounter) , plays the ball down (unlike most adults), rakes his sand traps, repairs ball marks on the green, repairs his divots and plays 9-holes in under 90 minutes (all unlike most older players). It is my responsibility to keep him safe and to teach him about reasonable on-course behavior, while making sure it's fun ... If a course owner or professional is of the opinion that all children should not be on the golf course, then they are in the wrong business. A golf professional's number one objective should be to enrich and grow the game. If they do that they will realize both financial rewards and a high degree of satisfaction from their jobs. At the same time they will be promoting their future, which is something we all need to think about." -Bob

"As a First Tee Director and employee of a Special Park District...I found your article concerning. I like to think that progress has been made in providing affordable, accessible, comfortable venues and programs for junior golfers and new golfers (including adults). The staff involved with the situations described needs proper training in customer service ... The juniors and new golfers that we see at our system of courses, 45 holes of executive or short course style holes, appreciate the warm, comfortable environment and programs provided. It all starts with management, modeling appropriate responses and a ‘go-to place provided for seasonal staff to find the answers to questions. Liabilities need to be addressed but a balance can certainly be met." - Lisa Masters, head golf professional at Three Rivers Park District

"Great commentary. As the father of an 8-year-old who loves the game, I experienced a similar ignorance/rudeness when taking my son to our local muni. You would have thought it was Augusta National. Golf course operators must eventually realize that there are many golfers who view this not as an escape from our families, but an opportunity to enjoy more time with them. Six hour Saturday rounds mean I won't play, but if I can play with my boys and wife, then it's worth it. Let's hope they get a clue." -Les Sweeney

"The biggest problem is finding other kids for kid golfers to play with. It can get expensive for parents to play with their kids as our local municipal courses ... dont have a walk only policy. My suggestion is to have kids hours. Kids tee off at 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. and clubs can pair up the kids with other kids. Younger kids getting to play with a kid a couple years older. My 12 year-old has played since he was 7 and except for some resort courses, like Litchfield in Myrtle Beach, which have kids play free after 2 p.m. accompanied by a paying adult, it's expensive at the local level." -Larry Trink

"I have a 10-year-old daughter. I sign her up for a golf clinic sponsored by the PGA. The night before we had a hail storm and the clinic was called off. She was so disappointed I told her I would take her to a big boy course. I told the starter it was her first time on a regulation course. Turns out you had to be 10 to play the course. We were put out by ourselves and we took a dcart. We were behind a foursome and I was very aware of pace. She shot a 61 for the 9-hole course and we had a great time. Seems to me the PGA holds these clinics to get kids involved in golf so why keep them off the course? I really dislike slow play but it's up to us parents to be mindfull of it and if we are slowing the game for someone we should pick up and keep pace. The last thing I want to hear is some guys yelling at my daughter. Kodos to any guy that takes his child out to play golf. - Victor Meyer

"The future of the sport that we love to hate is our children....take them with you as early as possible and teach them how to act on a course before you teach them to play. Give them an appreciation for the game, then teach them to play ... Just be sensible about what time of day & day of the week so you don't tick off the other members...the kids can wait for awhile to learn that kind of language." -Jim McDaniel

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • golf attitude

    peter wrote on: Oct 11, 2004

    I dont have any children but i have run into a certain attitude of pros behind the desk of certain clubs. First of all I am giving my 30+ dollars to play their club. I do not need to be treated like I am lucky to be stepping into their clubhouse. I may not be the player that they are but I would never have the customer service attitude that they do. Believe it or not this is a customer service business just like any retail department store. There are too many courses in the United States to go back to one where you were treated bad.


  • kids in golf & stupid rules

    Charles D. Denton wrote on: Oct 5, 2004

    I agree that Golf course management should open up more to kids. I have the same problem with this issue as I do about the proper attire for golf. I want to be comfortable. I do not wear cut off shorts or tank tops, but drove 45 minutes to play with a family member. It was my first time at the course and his second time. I wore a nice T-shirt. I was told I would have to have a collared shirt. I had to buy a $25 shirt to play a $15 round of golf. This is stupid. I was told that the club's members may complain if they saw me in a T-shirt. How unprofessional I would look. Well, I am no where close to professional when it comes to golf. The thing that got me more upset was while teeing off on hole #2 I saw a young guy with a collared shirt teeing off on #5 barefooted. Now which one looked more unprofessional? Golf as a whole has got to get out of the country club mentality. If someone has never been there then give them a break on local rules.


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