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Golfing at The Children’s Course
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Children's Golf CourseWhat’s to Love:  I like just about every sport ever invented, and my fondest memories of childhood involve playing sports with my friends.  We didn’t discriminate when we were young.  If it involved competition and good clean fun, we all wanted to play.  The one sport that eluded us all back then was golf, and I’ve never really been interested in playing ever since.  However, golfing 9-holes today at “The Children’s Course” might have changed everything.

Practice area at "The Children's Course"You may ask, “Why the bad vibes around the game of golf?”  Well frankly, I’ve always sucked at golf.  I mean, I have a storied history of miserable shanks, slices, duffs, mulligans, hooks, and every other dastardly word one can possibly dream up for just being plain bad.  So what?  I can’t golf.  It’s really no big deal, right?  Well, I’ve always been one of those people who could quickly pick-up sports and play reasonable well.  Therefore, playing golf directly affected my “sports ego,” and I was simply too embarrassed to tee-up in front of anyone on a regular basis.

Also, I have always associated golf with country clubs, dress codes, back-room business deals, and perfectly green lawns, even in a desert, due to overuse of chemical fertilizers and water.  I don’t think these elements will ever sit comfortably with me.  Historically, I don’t think anyone can deny these elements are a part of the game of golf.  However, “The Children’s Course” seems to be the antithesis of everything I do not like about the political/social side of golf.  The Children’s Course seems to be everything that is good about the game of golf without all the extra baggage.

Putting practiceThe Children’s Course is a 3-par, 9-hole course in Gladstone, Oregon.  This public course is just right for taking out young children to experience the game of golf without stressing-out about other players’ games.  Errant balls are not met with vitriol or frustration from other players.  Other parties truly seemed psyched to see families out enjoying the game and gaining valuable experience.

More importantly, The Children’s Course is non-profit with a goal of teaching life skills to disadvantaged kids through the game of golf, and their curriculum is guided by a national nonprofit “The First Tee.”  The Children’s Course has a local Board of Director’s that serves as their governing body and assists with fundraising efforts. Let’s face it, golf strives to be a very civilized and social game.  Even during our son’s lesson at the course, the instructor had them practice introducing themselves to each other, and she encouraged them to listen and be respectful toward one another.

Sports, through good coaching and mentorship, has the innate ability to make us better citizens and people.  I learned some of my greatest life-lessons through playing sports.  Proper etiquette in sports coupled with good-sportsmanship, equals memorable experiences that can last a lifetime.

Driving Range at The Children's CourseIf you’ve always been afraid to take your kids golfing, literally fearing for other golfers’ safety, this is THE course for you!  Even if you have a very limited understanding of the game, these folks will help you.  You won’t need special shoes, a uniform, or even clubs – they will help get you setup with their rental gear, which is reasonably priced.  I felt totally relaxed and comfortable on this course, and I even shot a pretty decent game!  Generally, little kids seem to love smashing balls with clubs.  Golf is a game that most kids enjoy right off the bat.  Here is a short video clip of our day.

Here is another video about The Children’s Course.

Caveats:  For a nonprofit public course, this organization is first-class.  We had a near perfect experience, and I can’t think of any constructive criticism or caveats worth mentioning in this article.  Except, I found myself wanting some additional clubs in the rental set.  If you know someone who plays golf regularly, you may want to borrow their clubs if you’re picky.

WebsiteThe Children’s Course

Distance from Portland:  Within 10 miles of downtown Portland.  Plan on a 15-20 minute car ride.  Here is a Google Map.

Recommended Ages:  2 years and up!  As soon as a kids can walk comfortably and swing a club, it’s time to get them out on the course for some lessons or a sample round.  There are 5 practice holes that are very close together by their driving range.  This is an excellent area to get some extra practice, or just try-out various elements of the game itself, before heading out to the 9-hole course.

Parental Stress Factor:  Low!  Golf is supposed to be a relaxing game, and The Children’s Course provides a low-stakes environment where kids can develop their skills.

Physical Difficulty:  If you play 9-holes, there is a fair amount of walking involved, and it may be a bit much for younger children.  At least, the terrain is almost perfectly flat.

Family Fun Factor:  This will depend on how much your family enjoys the game.  With golf, enjoyment often directly correlates with how well you can play the game!  With younger children, the game moves along at a slower pace.  The fun comes out of seeing your kids develop their game.  It’s certainly not as tiring as taking kids skiing, but you will work hard at carrying clubs, giving advice and pep talks, and locating stray balls.

Pet Friendly:  No pets

Weather Considerations:  This course is open 364 days per year (closed only on Christmas day)!  Therefore, plan on playing in almost any weather Portland can throw at you.  Avoid hot summer afternoons due to lack of shade. 

Putting instruction at The Children's CourseInsider Info:  The organization has various programs, lessons, and scholarships available.  If you’re interested, perhaps enrolling your child in their weekly lessons might be a good start.  Check their “programs and instruction” page on their website.  I was very impressed with the instruction that my son received over the course of an hour, and I highly recommend getting your kids lessons via this organization.

If you don’t have clubs, tees, balls, etc., the course has got you covered.  The gear is a bit dated, but it will be perfectly fine for 90% of most casual golfers.  Here is a direct link to their prices, fees for playing, hours, and more.

Seating area at The Children's CourseFamily Tips: Sunscreen, hats, water and plenty of snacks please!  9-holes is a lot in the heat of summer.  You’ll want to come fully prepared for possible meltdowns right on the course.  My best advice is to just keep the kids moving – be their private caddy, which will keep them motivated and in the game.

Since there are no carts, your kids will be walking the course.  If you have young kids or early walkers, a Bob/Jogging stroller would probably work well for when they poop-out.  Plus, it will provide a measure of shade and is invaluable as a cart for all your goodies.

There are limited snacks and drinks available in their clubhouse – this is a nonprofit and not a country club setting after all.  There is a small, shaded, seating area outside the clubhouse where you can enjoy your own food you might bring along.

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Technorati Tags: Portland, golf, kids, family, par 3,   course, 5 hole, practice, driving, range, lessons, instruction, programs, The Children’s Course, First Tee, nonprofit, Gladstone, Oregon, rental, clubs

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