These days, golf is becoming a family affair
As families do more activities together, golf associations are reaching out to include them.
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According to a recent NGF survey, 60 percent of private golf clubs had implemented some type of program to enhance their appeal to families. At the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., professional Bob Baldassari recently implemented a flexible pricing system that allows golfers and their kids to play as few holes as they'd like. Many children do not have the attention span or the stamina for 18 or even nine holes, he says.Skip to next paragraph
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"Even if you play one hole, you can say, 'I played golf today,' " says Mr. Baldassari. "I'd rather get parents and their kids in five times a month playing one hole than one time every six weeks for 18 holes."
Other courses have begun setting aside times for families to play together free of charge. For two months in the summer, families at the Santa Teresa Golf Club in San Jose, Calif., can play without cost 90 minutes before dark. The special, offered four evenings a week, has succeeded in encouraging people "who generally wouldn't make it out on the course to give [golf] a try and see that they like it," says Dave Elliott, a pro at the club.
Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club near Tampa, Fla., opened a nine-hole, 850-yard walking course in May. The idea was to offer a less intimidating option to novice golfers and nongolfers – generally wives and children – than the resort's elite courses, says Ramona Hurley, an Innisbrook spokesperson.
"In some cases, men will go out on one of the championship courses in the morning and go to the walking course with their families in the afternoon," she says. The resort also offers free lessons to guests.
If successful, such programs might build upon the gains golf has made among kids. In 2006, 4.8 million youngsters played at least one round, compared with 4.4 million in 2005, according to the NGF's most recent golf participation report. This year Allen is teaching one-third more youngsters than last. Some, including Allen, credit Tiger Woods with boosting golf's image among youth. Others say golf is a welcome alternative to more competitive team sports.
"It's really nice because it's so individual," says Sarah Stinebiser, whose two sons and daughter – ages 8, 10, and 13 – are all Allen's students. "There's a lot of pressure with sports like baseball and hockey, and kids can get so nervous and stressed."
Genny Reynolds, one of the moms who signed up for Allen's camps after her two children began taking lessons, says playing golf with her family has been rewarding. "It's exercise, it's keeping fit, it's something that everyone can do, at all levels," she says. "Plus, as you get older, it's harder to spend time with your kids. You can golf with them when you're 80."