Editor’s note: The original story suggested that Montana was the only state forbidding spectators from watching high school golf. New Jersey also restricts spectators to designated areas.
Of the 49 states that offer golf as a high school sport, just a small percentage forbid spectators from watching the action.
A KBZK Bozeman report dives into the one line in the Montana State High School Association handbook that has wide-ranging ramifications for the state’s golfers: “No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”
The report points out that besides Montana, the only other state known to forbid high school golf spectators is New Jersey (and Alaska — where there is no high school golf).
The justifications behind the spectator ban include “parents being unruly and disrupting play, spectator safety, and illegally coaching players on the course.”
Several parents quoted in the report believe that golf is singled out in this way. “If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” said Chris Kelley, whose son plays golf.
The Montana High School Association, however, suggested that allowing parents onto the course would require adding marshals to monitor spectator-player activity, which Brian Michelotti, an assistant director with the MHSA, called “a challenge.”
In addition to preventing parents from watching their kids play golf, the rule inhibits college coaches from being able to evaluate players. “If I’m not allowed to go on the golf course and actually physically watch those kids, I’m going to have a really hard time recruiting them,” said Brittany Basye, the Montana State head golf coach.
Although the MHSA and its member schools have looked toward new solutions, the schools themselves would need to vote to repeal the rule — a vote that has gained little momentum thus far.
“After we had long discussions a lot of those were maybe not as much for opening up the entire course, but moving more toward spectator areas,” Michelotti said.
At the time of publication, a petition on change.org to repeal the rule had just over 2,000 signatures.