11th December in Golfnews by
High school golf may be one of the best-kept secrets in Big Sky Country.
The reason is simple: spectators are not allowed to watch high school golf throughout nearly the entire state – thanks to a rule in Montana State High School Association rule book.
The rule reads: “No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”
Those “designated areas” include the 1st tee box and 18th green. A handful of courses used by high schools can accommodate spectators at those spots, but most courses do not offer any set-off space for those limited options.
This arcane rule continues to upset coaches and parents, reports KTVQ.com, So you can spend thousands to for a ticket to the Masters, but no amount of money will gain you admittance to most high school golf matches in Montana.
“The understanding is they don’t allow any spectators on the course. They just don’t allow any spectators out on the course,” Belgrade athletic director Rick Phillips told KTVQ.
“I mean, it’s crazy but even you say, ‘Hey, get your head up’ or ‘Nice shot,’ that can be construed as coaching. It can be construed as contact,” said Phillips. “I don’t necessarily see that, but that can be seen as coaching.”
There are no other high school sports in the state that put a limit on spectators.
While parents and fans can be unruly and disrupt play, not allowing them to watch cures one problem while creating another. Officials cite the sheer size of the golf courses in trying to control crowds, compared to a stadium surrounding a football field or baseball diamond, in supporting the rule. They also say it would cost prohibitive to hire marshals during play.
Parents aren’t impressed.
“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a parent whose son plays golf told KTVQ.
“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher, I can make hand signals,” added Montana State head golf coach Brittany Basye. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”
An attempt to repeal the rule during the summer received “virtually no support.” Changing the rule requires support from the state’s public schools. In addition, the golf courses themselves would have to support the idea.
“We don’t care about the politics,” said Kelley. “We just want to watch our kids.”
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