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Thonock Park junior ban

The message is clear: Banning juniors from competitions is not the answer

Ping overruled Thonock Park’s ladies after they voted to ban juniors from entering some competitions. They’ve set a bar every club should seek to match
 

It’s not very often we hand out the bouquets so let’s give a big hearty round of applause to Ping. If you’re unsure why you should be so fulsome in your praise for the equipment giant, let me set the scene. Close to their European headquarters in Lincolnshire is Thonock Park, home to two 18-hole courses that Ping own.

Last week, the club’s ladies held a meeting where they voted to alter their competition terms and conditions. This would have stopped junior players from taking part in ladies’ trophy and cup competitions – a bizarre act in these days of growing the game.

It didn’t take long for Ping chiefs to stop the nonsense. Managing director John Clark said in a statement:

Last week, a ladies’ meeting was held at Thonock Park and a proposal was voted on to change the criteria used to determine eligibility to play in ladies’ competitions. The proposal would have prevented junior players from entering ladies’ trophy and cup competitions.

Upon hearing news on the result of this vote, Ping (the proprietors of Thonock Park) immediately revoked the proposal and have it very clear that it goes completely against the values, principles and philosophies of Ping and would never permit this to go ahead.

At a time when golf clubs in general need to reach out and welcome new golfers, a change of this nature could only serve to impede Thonock Park’s ability to remain strong and continue offering a first-class membership package to all golfers.

Ping will continue working very closely with the committees of Thonock Park to ensure the club provides every member with the highest quality experience.

I can’t speak of the reasons why Thonock Park’s ladies thought this was a good idea.

But my own experiences lead me to this. At some clubs, junior golfers are regarded with mistrust and envy.

The handicapper often hasn’t caught up with them yet and their capacity to improve, helped by the time to practice, is greater than the rest of us.

They win competitions and get their names on the board. I know it’s frustrating. I’ve been the player denied by a junior romping to victory.

But I’ve also been the junior disheartened by these rules. At many clubs, a youngster’s victory is a source of pride, boosted by the knowledge they’re playing their part in bringing through the next generation.

For others, though, there is bitterness: they are taking their trophies, their vouchers and their ‘glory’.

It’s backward thinking and it always backfires. It isn’t too long ago some clubs openly discouraged juniors from joining. How is that policy looking now?

This is why Ping’s intervention is so important. By irrevocably establishing the right of their juniors to play, and in such a public fashion, they’ve raised the bar for us all.

Those that seek to limit play based on age can now expect to get called out publicly – with the social media storm that will inevitably follow.

Playing at a club where 99 per cent of the competitions are mixed, and without barriers on age, I find any kind of separation puzzling.

The sooner we stop dividing ourselves, and embrace as a community instead of pursuing our own little cliques, the quicker our game can thrive.

So bravo Ping. You’ve done golf a great service.

Have you experienced anything like this at your club. If so, I’d like to hear from you. Contact me in the comments below or you can tweet me

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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