Hit the links with your kiddos this summer.
People have surprisingly strong feelings about golf.
On one end of the spectrum, there’s writer Mark Twain, who famously called it “a good walk spoiled.”
On the other end, there is my mother, who begged me to get married at her local course, unable to imagine a more beautiful view than the 18th hole.
Me, I fall somewhere in between. Thwacking a ball at the driving range is satisfying, and putting is contemplative, but golf and all its powerbroker connotations haven’t seemed to have much at all to do with our lives as busy Portland parents.
Silly me. In fact, there’s some serious golf culture in these parts. In our mild climate, golf is a year-round sport. And experts say you can start your kids as soon as you feel confident that they won’t attempt to use the club as a sword, and have the coordination and focus not to get frustrated with the slow, steady pace of the game.
A few places to start: Out at the Metro-owned Glendoveer Golf & Tennis, there are two courses to chose from, plus a well-regarded golf camp and — bonus! — an 18-hole foot golf course, for those who are looking for a little more bodily contact from the sport.
In August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open comes to town, at Pumpkin Ridge. (The tournament runs between August 22 and August 28; that very last day is Kids Day and features free lessons for kids from pros, with clubs provided.)
We met friends at the driving range at the public Eastmoreland Golf Course in Southeast Portland recently, to see how all our kids took to it. No special clothes are required, no collared shirts or golf cleats, and there’s no charge to use the facility, though you have to pay to rent a bucket of balls. Club rentals are available through the pro shop, too. A small bucket of 25 balls is $4; a large bucket is $11. Pro tip: If you don’t mind getting up early, kids 17 and younger can get free practice balls and clubs from 6 am-9 am, seven days a week.
My 6-year-old son, who is pretty coordinated for his age, got straight to business, grabbing a club and happily hacking away at the balls. We tried to convince him to slow down, to correct his stance, to follow through with his club (it all sounds like good advice, though really, we don’t know what we’re doing) and after awhile, he was regularly hitting the ball a decent enough 25 feet or so from the tee.
More importantly, he was focused on the task at hand, did not give up even though he wasn’t immediately successful (there were plenty of swings and misses) and seemed to be having a blast. I’m all for activities where kids have to try, try again, and this one seemed textbook. Our friends, who are more experienced golfers, gave him some pointers and he gamely tried to follow their instructions.
His twin sister was just as determined, but a tougher nut to crack. She wanted to grip the club like a baseball bat, and, at first, missed more than she connected. No one wanted to stand too close behind her either, for fear of getting inadvertently clobbered. She was better, though, when we hit the putting green, which requires a softer touch. Here, my son still wanted to hack at the ball, and any golfer will tell you that that’s not a winning strategy when it comes to the all-important putt. Elly took her time lining up her putts, and got to celebrate several sinkers.
I’d been worried that we’d be getting in the way of the “real golfers,” but in fact, the course felt totally family friendly. There were other kids on the driving range which felt spacious with two levels and 34 stations. And there were toddlers staggering around on the putting green — future powerbrokers all, no doubt.
It’s no Scotland, but there are plenty of places to test out your golf skills with kids in PDX.
Heron Lake Golf Course:
Designed by renowned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and his son, this city-owned course offers opportunities to spy wildlife as you play. 3500 N. Victory Blvd.
The Children’s Course:
This nine-hole, par-3, nonprofit course is dedicated to providing golf opportunities for PDX-metro-area kids and their families. Book a lesson with one of their pros to get your kids jump-started. 19825 River Rd., Gladstone.
Glendoveer Golf & Tennis:
Not one but two well-regarded 18-hole courses, this is the place to send kids who are ready to get serious. They run summer golf camps for ages 7-17 — campers even get kitted out with natty golf hats and gloves. 14015 NE Glisan St.