Golf, a sport once associated with the rich and the retired, has found an entirely new group of players: children and families. Just ask 13-year-old Kurtis Campbell of St. Lazare, who has been golfing since he was 2 years old and received his first set of plastic toy clubs. He’d spend hours placing cups around the living room and trying to hit a ball into them. He also started going to the driving range with his father.
By 5, Kurtis was taking lessons and his love of the sport has never waned. Last year, he won three junior golf tournaments and he is hoping that his golf skills will earn him a scholarship to a school in the United States.
Kurtis’ enthusiasm for the sport has also rubbed off on his family; his parents Wendy and Brad and his younger brother play a game most Friday nights. (Brad admits that Kurtis tends to be the winner in these family competitions).
Wendy says golf has been a great way to spend time together as a family while helping the kids various skills. “It is a gentlemen’s sport that teaches patience, etiquette and respect, and it is a great way for kids to spend their leisure time,” she says.
Ken Gasseau, a Canadian Professional Golf Association (CPGA) pro who runs Academie Golf Gasseau in St. Lazare, has been teaching for more than 11 years. He says kids are usually ready for lessons around the age of 5, when they have both the coordination to adeptly swing a club and the focus needed to play for more than a few minutes at a time.
Brian Williams, owner of Golf Dome West Island, an indoor/outdoor golf and activity centre, says the best way to get a child started is by taking them to the driving range and letting them repeatedly hit balls. If a child seems to enjoy the sport, the next step would be lessons or a summer camp program, where he or she can learn not only the necessary skills but also the ins and outs of golf etiquette.
Although golf has a reputation for being expensive, families can keep things affordable by registering their kids for junior memberships, offered by most golf clubs, which usually cost between $350 and $550 per season and allow kids to play everyday for up to six months.
A complete set of golf clubs, including a bag, can be found for as little as $100, particularly if parents check out sales at sporting good stores or search for used equipment. Most golf courses have a dress code so young players will need to wear polo-style shirts with a collar and Bermuda-style shorts. Once they are outfitted, however, it’s all about learning and enjoying the game. “I love the adrenalin rush that you get when you tee off on the first tee,” Kurtis says. “That feeling never gets old.”
Training young golfers
The CN Future Links program, available at several golf courses in and around Montreal, helps young golfers develop skills through classes, junior leagues and tournaments. Players can follow the seven-level Learn To Play program to gradually improve their ability. There is also a Girls Club program, which focuses on those 7-18, who traditionally have been underrepresented in this sport. For a complete list of golf courses offering the CN programs, visit www.future-links.org, then click on “For Participants” and then “CN Future Links in My Area.”
Kids golf free program
The National Gold Course Owners Association of Canada is sponsoring a “kids golf free” week from July 6-12 when children under age 16 can play one free round of golf if accompanied by a paying adult. This year, participating golf courses include Le Challenger in St. Laurent, Club de Golf les Quatres Domaines in Mirabel and the Mont Tremblant Resort course. For information, visit www. kidsgolffree.ca.
Golf etiquette 101
Golf is a sport of respect. According to the Royal Canadian Golf Association, which governs the rules of the game in Canada, the overriding principle of golf is consideration for others.
Here is a brief list of golf etiquette that players of all ages should understand before stepping onto the golf green:
- There are no umpires or referees, so players must rely on integrity and abide by the rules.
- Players should have self discipline and display good sportsmanship at all times.
- When hitting a ball or a practice swing, players should ensure no one is standing close by or in a position to be hit.
- Players should not play until those in front of them are out of range.
- If a player is in danger of hitting someone in front with a ball he should immediately shout the traditional word of warning “fore.”
- Players should not disturb another player’s concentration by moving, talking or making unnecessary noises.
- Electronic devices should not distract other players (cell phone ringers should be set to vibrate, for example.)
- Players should play at a good pace and keep up with the group in front of them.
- Slower groups should invite faster groups to “play through” or move ahead.
- Players should be ready to play as soon as it is their turn.
- When playing on or near the putting green, bags or carts should be positioned to allow quick movement towards the next tee.
- Players should not intentionally damage a course or hit the head of a club into the ground.