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Plugged In The Hazard: Deep Thoughts on Junior Golf

Andrew PennerBy Andrew Penner,

Junior Golfers in actionAs our kids grow into louder, more destructive members of society many of them will take it upon themselves to uproot plants, eat gravel, and openly play with themselves in public. We can count on this. Many of them will also decide to take up arms (or titanium 3-woods) and mercilessly invade golf courses all across the country. This is when it really gets interesting.

I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of our youth playing the game of golf. After all, six years ago I made a youth myself (I had some help). I am, however, opposed to hair pulling, back talking, and the creation of gigantic murals depicting dinosaur feeding frenzies (on walls, ceilings, doors, etc.) with permanent felt markers. If only my six-year-old would be interested in sketching a picture of Jack Nicklaus at impact - or Ben Hogan hitting a one-iron! If that were the case, perhaps I wouldn't be so inclined to send him to his bedroom for eight weeks without the privilege of being able to play Nintendo (I'd forego food and water, however, taking away video games for two months is much more effective).

I've actually come to realize that playing golf with my boy is somewhat invigorating. To begin with, whenever I play golf with him I usually beat him by about 108 shots. I like that. To me, winning is what it's all about, regardless of your opponent (and yes, I take candy from him too). After winning a match, my instinctive reaction is to rub it in saying, "Na, na, na, na, na, I'm better than you-u!" In fact, I did that to him once and he proudly came back with "Yeah, but can you soil your pants five times in one day?" I shut up after that.

As a father and golf professional, I've come to realize that there are a few do's and don'ts when golfing with your kids. Here are a few rules…

1. Don't Spank After A Bad Shot

The only time I've ever spanked my boy is when he threw my remote control over the balcony (it was during the Super Bowl). Every now and then kids need to be disciplined. Or in the case of my neighbor's little hellion, 24/7. What parents need to realize is that spanking on the golf course is not proper golf etiquette (nor is constant nagging). Spank the ball, not the bum.

2. No Suds For Dad

As a pureblooded North American male, I generally don't pass up a chance to sip a cool, frosty one when watching the boys throw the pigskin around. However, I've yet to challenge my boy to a "shotgun" competition on the golf course.

3. Golf Clubs Are Not Weapons

If your child feels it's acceptable to use his/her golf club like a bayonet, machete or sub-machine gun, it's your job to set them straight. The worst case scenario takes place when parents themselves use their clubs as javelins, thus implementing the "monkey see, monkey do" law.

4. The USGA Rules Do Not Take Precedent

Any kid under six has the option of using illegal clubs, balls, and a tee anywhere he/she deems acceptable (they will no doubt exercise this freedom with plenty of liberalism). In addition, if I'm going to beat my boy by 114 shots the least I can do is give him a slight advantage on those long holes. One yard ahead of the championship tee markers doesn't quite do it. Would you want to play a golf hole that was 4000 yards long?

5. 54 Holes In One Day Might Be Too Many

Kids wear out quick. My boy is good for two-and-a-half holes - that's it. If there's an attractive lady riding around in the beverage cart, sometimes he can make it for three. I'm not a big fan of parents forcing their kids to play more than a handful of holes before they can get the ball airborne. After an hour my boy and I are eating hot fudge sundaes and throwing pickles at each other at the local fast food joint.

Golfing with your kids isn't something to rejoice about. It's something to rejoice in. Your kids are your most precious gifts. Treat them well. When they shank, skull, duff, and hack their way around the course catch them off guard by giving them a "high-five" for their accomplishment. Who knows, maybe they'll let you beat them by 108 shots next time you peg it up with them.

Andrew Penner is a freelance writer and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. His work has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout North America and Europe. You can see more of his work at www.andrewpenner.com.

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