Escape from the Screen, "It's Okay"

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Have you thought about golf as a family option for fun lately? Admit it, you just said "huh" right? No, I'm serious. These days, we’re growing family units often distracted by “the screen.” According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s report in 2010, “The average 8- to 18-year-old now spends 7-1/2 hours every day with media, from playing video games, to watching TV, to surfing the internet.” I’m not here to say the TV, the internet, the iPad, the smartphone or any other “screen” is the worst thing ever, but I am here to say the truly beautiful things in our lives are still those things that are real, touchable and natural. In other words, virtual is not the real thing…it’s only a synthetic copy.

If you want family time, friend time or even just personal time that is real, golf is a great option. To enjoy golf, you don’t have to be a great player, you just need to be willing to try it and try to enjoy the journey of getting better at the game. Hopefully, you’ll have some family or friends who are doing it with you. Sure, tour players and very skilled amateurs play for traditionally accepted reasons that are tied to their score, but you, your friends or your family, can play for fun!

That's right, in a new initiative from the PGA of America, you really can play just for fun! The initiative is called the "It's Okay" program. If you go visit Kevin Coombs, PGA Certified Golf Professional and his staff at the Green Mountain Golf Course, Vancouver, WA, they encourage "It's Okay" golf: it's okay not to play by the rules, it's okay to tee up your ball in the fairway, it's okay to take your ball out of the bunker, it’s okay to move your ball away from a tree. In fact, it’s okay to pick up and go to the next hole if you’ve had enough “fun” for that hole and it's okay to not even keep score. [If you’re a traditional golfer, please avoid frowning at this thought now. The “It’s Okay” approach may not be golf to you, but it could be to someone else.]

All Coombs and other smart operators, like Tri-Mountain’s PGA Professional, Mike Bender, expect is that all golfers care for the course and keep up their position with the group immediately in front of theirs. In this way, someone playing golf by the “It’s Okay” plan can play in front of or behind a “traditional” golfer and both can enjoy their experience equally. If you ask me, the only other "not okay" activity is frowning on the course. After all, it’s a game and you’re not at work. Cracking down on “frowners” is a difficult area to police, so you and your friends will have to do that on the honor system.

It's also okay to play only a few holes after work, before work or at lunch during the week. There’s no requirement for 9 or 18 holes…whatever you have time for on a given weekday works. GMGC offers an innovative “Play by the Hole” program for parents and juniors age 12 or younger to play anywhere from one to nine holes, hit a few balls on the range, and use a golf cart starting at $7 for one parent with one child for one hole up to $29 for two parents with two children for nine holes.

On another angle, it's also okay to play just to get your personal pedometer going. It's true, you won't find an extreme level of fitness on the course, but you can improve your health and wellness. Walking in an average round of golf can easily provide the daily recommended 10,000 steps. With my kids, I’ve tried the “Wii Fitness” routine, and again, the virtual thing just doesn’t do it for me. When I’m on the course, the birds, the grass and the vistas are real…and better yet, they’re different every time we see them. Plus, when I’m with my kids, none of us even think about “tuning the other” out. We enjoy the fresh air and we always laugh out loud, which sometimes is the best medicine, isn’t it? Another point: It’s okay to LOL at someone else provided you’ve done the same at yourself at least as much. If you’re ready to play, Green Mountain Golf Course and Tri-Mountain Golf Course also offer a special “Get Golf Ready in 5 Sessions” program specially designed for you, family, friends or colleagues to take part in a very low stress, low cost manner.

If you’d like to learn more about the PGA of America’s programs, I have another “screen” I’d like you to visit. At www.playgolfamerica.com you can learn more about the “It’s Okay,” the PGA Fitness Trail and the Get Golf Ready programs I’ve mentioned. Thanks for reading, and remember, Golf is good for us…ALL of us.

Monte Koch is Player Development Regional Manager of the PNW PGA Section for the PGA of America.