Why Junior Golf Isn't Fun

I'm not your average Soccer (Golf) Dad that is for sure. My opinions are often times counter to what my brethren in the fatherhood alumni think. And with that preface I give you the following...golf for kids sucks. It is too slow, boring and stressful to keep any more than a tenth of the young guns out in the PGA Jr League interested in the sport for the long run. And the hot term is growing the game. In order to grow the game I propose that we dont strangle the fun out of the game for kids. 

 

Imagine being 7,8,9,10 or even an elder at 14 and having to walk around the golf course in near silence for 9 holes over the span of 3-4 hours. Seriously, 3-4 hours. Kids do not make for speedy golfers on their own. When left to their own devices they are more concerned about snacks, snacks, pokemon and hitting their driver on every shot. They often times forget to take a club let alone the right club. They sometimes pick the harder shot and leave themselves in a tough spot adding 2+ strokes to their hole - easily. All the while the parents are supposed to just sit and watch. Even as a scorer for the groups I cannot intervene and remind a player to take a club to his ball that is 40 yards right of his partners ball. If I do this I am given the evil eyes and more times than once get tattled on by a do gooder of a parent that has nothing much else going on. 

Pro Cool Dad Tip - Do not be this insufferable human being. Also do not be the one that counts their score like this is the US Open. Relax in short. For my sanity out their and yours. 

 

Of all the horrid things happening with JR golf at this level there are some upsides. Learning this game, accountability, honesty, sportsmanship and all the other AD words used by golf's governing bodies to get parents to want to sign their kids up to GROW THE GAME! But kids want none of that noise. They want to run around like maniacs and hit golf shots with their best buds in the summer heat.  They want to laugh and have fun and if that's for 3-4 hours then they will be all about it. They don't want or NEED to be beat down with rules, rules, rules and procedures. They could care less if the ball mark going in front of the ball or behind at this stage. And they surely

Why 9 holes when it takes them 3-4 hours? Make it 6. Or make it a modified course with one par five and shorter par 4s. Get creative and have holes with a bonus area to get an extra point for a chip in or something! 

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We should be encouraging kids to play quickly and to score well. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to this sort of mental slog when they can go play soccer or ride bikes or play Pokemon Go (that's actually all they do). 

Oh and for the folks that think you need to challenge a kid. You are incorrect. Golf is not a battleground to harden one's self for the cold brutal reality of LIFE. It's a game and to a kid they associate games with fun not misery. So make the pins easier to get at, shorten the holes, encourage help from parents. Oh and maybe encourage these kids to play alternate shot so they talk to each other for once. I've never been around four children so quiet for three hours. Not even in church or when I was always in detention. 

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Oh and let me address practice. They need to actually work on aspects of the game not just pound balls or go play mini slow matches. They need drills but in a light hearted and fun way. They should do relay races with putters or break targets on the range. Hit above and below funoodles Let them play music! Let them LIVE!

What are your thoughts? Does your child golf and if so, does he have fun? Could they have more fun.  

Pinehurst - History Evolves

Few places can boast a 123 year history rich with great golf and hospitality. Fewer places can say they've taken the lead in ushering a Renascence, of sorts, for the game of golf. 2014 was an eye opening year for the public of what Championship golf could look like. The resort and USGA fully embraced the natural features of the sand hills area. Coore and Crenshaw set out to retrun No2 to what it would have looked like in Ross's era. Wiregrass replaced perfectly manicured Bermuda and irrigation systems removed resulted in a much less water consumption. The results provided a great championship test and a polarizing debate or two was sparked. 

Fast forward four years and The Cradle has captured the hearts and minds of the guests and locals alike. A short nine hole loop on the storied clubhouse's front lawn serves as an outlet for youthful energy and old ingenuity. In my hours on the Cradle I watched countless golf teams playing as one group cheering and jeering their friends in good nature. Father's led their sons around the track. Their bags as big as they are but the energy was boundless. It is not only common but encourage to bring a gangsome and make a couple well natured bets. Enjoy some drinks and take in the music playing on the course. 

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The Cradle isn't great just because it is a short course. It's greatness lies in its design and presentation. Gil Hanse laid out the Cradle and it's evident that his imagination was firing on all cylinders. I couldn't help but image a shot from this spot to that or over this green to that green. And I can safely say without hesitation I am one of many that have dreamt up their own shots on this tiny parcel of land. The best thrill is standing on #9's tee box and watching people play into the 3rd hole. A punchbowl played up the hill results in all kinds of hopeful anxiety of an ace. I hope more courses take the lead set by Pinehurst and find ways to make golf fun again. Short courses or their putting course, Thistle Dhu, are templates for sustaining our game. 

 

 

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Now, Pinehurst could rest on the remarkable success of The Cradle and Thistle Dhu but instead they keep moving forward. My sense of the place is that they not only respect but cherish their past. They want to carry those traditions into the modern era and make their own mark. The continuation of this is evident in Pinehurst No. 4 which is currently under the knife of Gil Hanse. What is being done is nothing short of amazing. Having played the course a few years ago and seeing the return of the land's natural corridors I am left dumbfounded. How could such land actually lay under all those bunkers? Gone are cart paths and narrow chutes to play down in a hit and chase fashion. Replaced are open areas with sweeping views of holes just played and those yet to attack. Short walks from tee to green. Blind tee shots, heroic carries, ground game and principles that define golden era courses have returned. 

 

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As Pinehurst continues to evolve it carries a bright torch. People will follow the lead of our great public venues and I am hopeful that more local courses see the value in naturalness, playability and FUN.