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Controversial spectator high school golf rule to remain unchanged

Posted at 5:07 PM, Jan 25, 2018

BOZEMAN – The Montana High School Association announced Thursday that the golf rule that bars spectators from watching high school golf matches will remain in place. The Association sent a survey to athletic directors of the 179 member schools. Of those schools, approximately two-thirds responded. Of those responses, 75 percent of ADs were against any repeal.

However, members schools work with courses to decide these spectator areas and the MHSA also surveyed 34 club professionals in Montana. In an opposite response, 31 of the PGA pros voted to grant full access to spectators on their courses.

Outcry from around the country — from parents, college coaches, PGA pros, and high school golfers themselves — has poured in to repeal the rule in response to a petition started by golf parent Chris Kelley. Montana is one of only a few states, a short list which also includes New Jersey, to still have such a rule in place. The rule will stand for the foreseeable future, as no member schools submitted a proposal to adjust the rule at the MHSA’s January meetings.

The MHSA sent out this media release on Thursday regarding its decision to continue to enforce the rule:

“Thank you for your interest in Montana High School Association golf.

“MHSA member schools have consistently supported the following rule:

“(12) No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.

“Over the years, there have been proposals submitted to change the rule (a member school proposal with a vote of the 179 member schools) to increase spectator access and those proposals have failed. Past surveys have had golf course professionals and member school administrators not in support of full access for spectators.

“Recently, I directed that another survey be conducted of course professionals and member school administrators. I shared the results with our Executive Board during their recent meeting. The survey question was, ‘Would you be in favor of allowing spectators full access to the course during regular and post season meets?’ 34 course professionals responded and 31 were in favor of allowing spectators full access. Administrators were surveyed from schools who offer golf with roughly two-thirds responding; over 75% of those responses were against allowing spectators full access to the golf course.

“After reviewing the results, the MHSA Executive Board directed to continue to enforce the current rule however to also contact courses that host regular season and post season events to work with them to explore expanding those spectator viewing areas on each course without allowing total access. The staff will work to have those spectator viewing areas expanded at those courses that are open to designating additional viewing areas for spectators.

“The MHSA Annual Meeting of our schools was held recently held and there wasn’t a proposal submitted by a member school for consideration regarding this issue. Any of our 179 member schools can submit for consideration a proposal to change the above rule.”