- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2002

A spring afternoon, a bucket of golf balls, a driving range, and anyone can pretend to be Tiger Woods. Well, at least anyone can pretend to be Lenny, the club pro.

The Washington area abounds with public and relatively inexpensive places to learn to play golf. A visit to a driving range is a great way to introduce the game to everyone in the family, says Kelly Murray, president of Kelly's Power Driving School, which operates out of Fair Oaks Golf Park in Chantilly.

Hitting a bucket of balls is quick enough to keep the attention of a novice golfer. It also is quicker than a round of golf and you don't have to be concerned about slowing down the foursome behind you.

"Going to the driving range is self-contained, so it is a good place to bring kids," Mr. Murray says. "It is similar to taking them to the bowling alley. Small children aren't ready to take on a golf course, and the driving range is inexpensive compared to greens fees for a whole round."

Mr. Murray and his son, Sean, age 5, spend time at the range nearly every weekend. Mr. Murray says he began teaching his son the physics of a golf swing early by having the tot toss his own diaper into the pail.

Sean now has his own set of clubs as well as a formidable swing. He even had his fourth birthday party at Fair Oaks Golf Park.

Mr. Murray, a member of the Canadian PGA who holds the Guinness world record for the longest drive (684 yards), says exposing children to golf early is key if you want an eventual playing partner.

"Children are capable of a very pure swing action if taught early," he says, noting that professionals such as Mr. Woods and Ernie Els have long, fluid swings because they started the game early.

On any weekend, Sean is not the only child at the driving range. Bob Steiner of Burke and his 5-year-old son, Justin, recently spent an afternoon at Fair Oaks.

"We go almost every weekend," Mr. Steiner says. He also has taken his son on the course at Burke Lake Golf Course. "He likes driving the cart," Mr. Steiner says.

A visit to the driving range has the quick pace and instant gratification necessary for entertaining children.

"This is a nice one," Mr. Steiner says about Fair Oaks Golf Park. "We can come out all year. The tees are lighted, covered and heated."

Older children can attack the driving range with the same enthusiasm they have for team sports.

Tyler Snowdon, 9, of Vienna, got a set of clubs from his grandparents for Christmas. Now golf ranks up there with basketball, soccer and baseball.

"That's what I play," Tyler says. He adds that his favorite place to practice is Woody's Golf Range in Sterling, a driving range that has laser targets to measure distance.

Then Tyler heads back to the uncovered tee at Fair Oaks. It's time to be Tiger or at least the club pro again.

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