Our 7-year-old son Aiden has caught the golf bug.
Thanks (if you can call it that) to the coronavirus, his summer has included zero innings on the baseball diamond but plenty of time on the links. He and I have gotten in some holes or hit a bucket of balls on the range once a week or so.
To give you a sense of how bad his itch is at the moment, he competed in last week’s Galesburg Junior All-City tournament. No more than two hours after we got home from the final round, he turned to me and asked, “Dad, can we play golf today?”
The good news about having a kid who likes golf is that it means I get to golf, too.
The bad news about having a kid who likes golf is that it means I have to pay more money for golf.
Golf has a reputation of having an intimidating price tag, but I’ve found out you don’t necessarily need to break the bank in learning to play. Being the cheapskate dad that I am, here are three ways we’ve helped our son get acclimated to the game without having to fork over too much coin.
Oak Run Junior Golf Camp
Held weekly in June and July (just July this year because of COVID-19), Aiden has participated in this each of the last two summers and loved every minute of it. For the bargain-basement price of $3 each week you show up, campers get an hour of instruction from Oak Run’s PGA professional, Brett Horton.
Kids learn the basics of the game, elements of the course, go through putting stations and hit balls on the range each week. The highlight is the final week, when all the campers get to show off their skills on the course and play a few holes.
Considering most of my golf lessons boil down to “Don’t do what I do,” this has been a great resource. Brett even gave Aiden a tip on stopping his slice that Aiden then showed me, and it paid immediate dividends for both of us. I didn’t get charged for the lesson, thankfully.
Bunker Links family golf
Galesburg is lucky to have a great public course at its disposal in Bunker Links. It’s even luckier that it offers a discounted rate designed for those learning the game.
After 5 p.m., children can be joined by their parents or grandparents and play to their heart’s desire for just $2.50 per person. If you want to play with a cart, just add another 5 bucks per person, which is still a price you just can’t beat.
This is how we’ve enjoyed most of our rounds, and during the summer you can get a full 18 holes in while having minimal traffic on the course. And if you don’t have clubs for your kid or grandkid, the clubhouse has some youth sets that are available to use.
Golf Learning Center and Academy in Peoria
Located across from Kellogg Golf Course, this year-round facility is great for golfers of any age and includes a driving range, chipping green, putting green and indoor hitting nets. It also features an enjoyable nine-hole par-3 skills course that ranges from 39-90 yards.
We spent an afternoon on the skills course, which costs just $5 for adults and $3 for juniors (Bonus: Juniors are free when with a paying adult) and had such a great experience that we decided to play it one more time before heading home. When we went inside to pay again, we discovered you can play the course as many times as you want that day for the one-time charge.
Now that’s my kind of price.
Aaron Frey is a public relations specialist at Carl Sandburg College. The Bradley University graduate is the former assistant sports editor for The Register-Mail and former sports reporter at the Journal Star. You can follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Frey