The Niggle: Should juniors play in club competitions?

The NCG team give their views on whether or not juniors should be able to play in the official club comps...


Mark Townsend: It’s so long ago that I can’t actually remember what was going on in the mid 80s at my club.

I seem to recall single-figure juniors being able to enter the ‘board’ competitions which seems about right.

I would let any junior play in any competition but would probably draw the line at letting someone whose handicap is no reflection of their ability win the ‘big ones’.

Which all sounds terribly wrong but there were a lot of Nett 58s back in the 80s and not many (none) since.

If I was to record a Nett 64 and then get pipped by someone who has played 36 holes, seven days a week in the summer holidays and still played off 21 then I’d probably be a bit irritated. 

From memory as juniors we all used to fancy our chances when we had got to single figures but then went to pieces at the prospect of winning anything.   

Karl Hansell: Would they play off the junior tees?

Junior handicaps will be allocated off the junior tees – so the kids would have to play off the whites and if there’s any sort of 150-yard carry from the tee box there’s a distinct possibility of them not getting around at all. 

Unless you’re talking about 15-year-olds and older – if they can play off the white tees they’ve got every right to take part.

Like MT says, they could have junior handicaps that would need updating to suit the competition conditions. 

I saw a Tweet we were sent when we were discussing the handicap changes. It was from a member who was lamenting the successes of high-handicappers at the expense of ‘better’ players. 

He’d been sat at a prize-giving ceremony when his friend leaned over and said: “Have you noticed how it’s always those who can’t play the game, who end up going home with the prizes?” 

We don’t want to resign all the old members to watching juniors pick up all the club trophies, just because there wasn’t a level playing field.

James Savage: Juniors should just play in junior competitions until they are 16. After that they should have the option of playing junior competitions or adult comps until they are 18. 

Any adults who have a problem can just look forward to when they are a ‘young’ senior and get their own back…

Dan Murphy: If juniors are playing off the same tees and using the same handicapping system then they can play in any comp they want just like anyone else as far as I’m concerned. 

If they win a couple of big ones and get pulled then good luck to them and they will soon have a much lower handicap.

The last thing we should be doing is making it difficult for kids to make the transition from playing with their mates to becoming fully fledged long-term club members and hopefully representing the club with distinction over the coming years and decades.

I can’t abide the whinging that goes on from certain sections of golf club memberships about things like this.

Tom Irwin: Juniors at golf clubs should be treated like royalty. Free lessons, discounted memberships, full playing rights, proper off course facilities, discounted kit. 

My best memories in life are summer days at the golf club, 500 laps of the putting green, 54 holes in a day, pestering the pro, they are proper salad days for anyone who grew up around a golf club. 

We had a group of us who all improved together and between won us all the board comps going summer after summer, the buzz of that, the competition, the party afterwards. These are all massive reasons you get hooked and becomes a life long advocate. 

What possible reason is there to stop a junior playing in a men’s comp? If they win because they are improving quickly then brilliant, what an amazing boost for them, and who is it annoying? 

Some small-minded minority who cannot see past the end of their collection of bad crystal? I will take giving the juniors a reason to get hooked any day.

Tom Lenton: It’s easy to see why A junior off 36 with a real handicap of 15 and winning a board comp can upset people though.
MT: I would say all of us as juniors cheated at some point or other. One was the best player in the club by a mile but, even at the age of 14, was very creative with his scorecard. He would say a number at the conclusion of each hole and his playing partners would signify the correct number behind his back.

James Millar: Completely agree with Tom Irwin. Juniors are the future of golf and golf clubs survival. If you’re getting older members making the place feel hostile towards juniors then you are jeopardising the long term survival of the game. 

Let them play in comps, give them dirt cheap (if not free) membership and get more clubs promoting academy courses. Too many clubs suffer from tunnel vision and cannot see the bigger picture. As tom said, they should be treated like royalty, not ostracised.

TL: All in proportion, the adults are paying over a grand and retention and increasing these membership numbers is a golf clubs main priority. 

JM: Maybe royalty is going a little far, but more effort needs to go into junior memberships from clubs. Letting them playing in comps is start. Maybe just have a separate prize for the highest placed junior, then everyone’s happy?

TI: In what world is declining participation ever attributed to ‘too many juniors winning competitions’? – That is not a thing. 

If you are going to make a participation argument relevant to this debate. It is attitudes like ‘no juniors in club comps’ that is the participation problem. 

People think golf is played by smaller minded, pompous people and if that is a prevalent view then unfortunately they are correct.

TL: Priority will always be with adult seven-day members, fact. 

The Q hotel initiative is more like it, an adult joins and they get a junior membership free. Juniors can play in all board competitions, but they aren’t competing for the board prize, they get the junior prize within that competition. 

They are still part of a great days competition at the club and a good time was had by all. 

MT: What about the scratch prize? Don’t suppose anyone could have any problem with juniors winning that.

TL: If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. 


Previous article
Next article