Golf issue: Swing of things

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Legendary teaching pro Harvey Penick, who instructed tour greats and first-time players during a six-decade career, once insisted, "Go out and have fun. Golf is a game for everyone, not just for the talented few."

Penick knew as well as anyone that golf is difficult and will, if you're not careful, empty your wallet and destroy your soul. He simply wanted everyone - young and old, rich and poor, hobbyist and professional - to have a chance to experience the joy and pain of playing 18 holes.

Around Central Ohio, his egalitarian dream is becoming a reality.

A wealth of great courses, discount packages, education outlets and fresh marketing ideas are attracting new converts once turned off by the sport's stodgy image and high price. Golf may never get easier, but it's become more affordable, accessible and enjoyable throughout the area.

"There are so many good deals going on right now, because of the economy," said Matt McCarty, who teaches at Willow Run, an 18-hole public course in Pataskala. "You can start off easy and work your way into it."

McCarty's home course, for example, offers a daily special: as many holes as you can play for $20 after 1 p.m. Competitors have followed suit, getting creative to battle tough times and meet the needs of players coming to golf in different ways, for different reasons.

"There's a lot of diversity as far as who's coming out [to lessons]," said Fran Kocsis, head pro at Walnut Hill, one of seven courses operated by the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks. "What's nice about golf is that any level of skill can enjoy it. Even those who aren't really good like to be outside on the course with their friends."

Check the links at right for some things to consider before teeing up.