GILFORD, N.H. - In my ongoing quest to develop a private junior golf program, I think I have found the right place. Now, if we only had more of them.
Welcome to Bolduc Park Par-3 Golf Course just south of Laconia, a welcoming, down-to-earth little nine-hole tract in the Lake District of New Hampshire. It proved the perfect place to take our two grandkids during a recent weeklong vacation. For years, I have been taking them to various golf ranges and courses in an effort to develop their interest. It’s as much a chance for us to spend fun time together as for them to learn a sport that could last a lifetime. I don’t press them; I merely offer them the opportunity. After our latest venture together, I can see their interest has reached a new level.
The hard thing all along has been finding a place on a golf course where they could relax long enough to play in their own incipient manner. There’s no chance they could fit into the routine of a slotted tee time on a regulation golf course. Too much time pressure, and too high a level of expectations that they keep up the pace with their games.
I’ve been to dozens of ranges with them. We enrolled them one summer in a Connecticut First Tee program and that worked – for a while. Even snuck them out to a par three at my beloved local Wintonbury Hills Golf Course in Bloomfield, CT, to play their first golf hole. But they weren’t getting a lot of use out of the U.S. Kids Golf sets I bought for them. I was being optimistic when we packed the car and included their sets with the carry bag and six clubs that I reserve for casual golf.
Bolduc, tucked into a suburban neighborhood, was perfect. Green fee was $8 per for the par-27 layout, with tees totaling 960 (blue), 895 (white) and 845 (red). There were no restrictions on parents (or grandparents) accompanying on the walk, so my wife could tag along and watch.
They played the white tees, whose holes ranged from 50 to 125 yards. It was just enough for them to be able to tee up with drivers and hit wedges into the greens.
It was their first real, full round ever, and they had a blast. The tees were fully-formed platforms with proper markings and yardage posts. And the greens, averaging 1,500 to 2,500 square feet, had enough contour, shape and grooming to keep things interesting and fair. And they were on their own; a 30-kid junior golf camp had just come off the course, so we had the place to ourselves. Just as we were finishing, a group of disc golfers headed off the first tee. In other words, here was a facility that was being well used to cultivate junior golf.
Credit for all of this goes to owner/founder Bob Bolduc, whose idea it was 40 years ago “to give kids a place to play and learn the game,” as he says. Now 73 years old, he had the vision to convert an old pari-mutuel horse racetrack that doubled as a winter cross-country ski park.
Back in 1985, he set out to build himself a simple golf course and managed, miraculously, to secure permits from the two towns, Gilford and Laconia, which the property straddled. He then created a non-profit foundation to run the property, which today serves the community as a golf course, ski trail, nature preserve and recreational park.
Nobody gets paid to run the place. A group of 50 volunteers, each working four hours a week, keeps it going. Bolduc figures the course hosts 12,000 rounds per year, and if a kid doesn't have the money to pay the green fee, he or she pays whatever is affordable, or nothing at all. Donations help cover the cost of running the course.
If only more places in the country ran like that, the future of golf would be more secure than it is now.
Not that our grandkids worried about such things. They were too concerned with more immediate matters, like whether to carry the pond fronting the green of the 105-yard seventh hole or play safely around it. They each tried to go over and fell short, then played their way around.
As for me, I’m hooked on a place like Bolduc Par-3. Anyone know of other family-friendly little courses like it? Kindly share them with me and your fellow readers below.