Poor practice

This is behaviour that falls short of abuse but is nevertheless unacceptable. For example, disciplinary action taken against a child for seemingly insignificant reasons may, in certain circumstances, be misinterpreted as poor practice.

Anyone involved with children in golf should avoid putting themselves in situations where their conduct is questionable.

The following definitions are adapted from guidelines issued by the Department of Health (2010), Working Together to Safeguard Children – A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.


Individuals should determine what behaviour is acceptable to them and what they regard as offensive. It is the unwanted nature of the conduct that distinguishes harassment from acceptable behaviour.


Bullying is deliberately hurtful behaviour, usually repeated over a period of time, in situations where it’s difficult for those being bullied to defend themselves. It can take many forms, including:

  • physical, e.g. hitting, kicking, theft.
  • verbal, e.g. racist or homophobic remarks, threats, name-calling.
  • emotional, e.g. isolating an individual from the activities and social acceptance of the peer group; vindictive emails and texts, etc.

Bullying can occur between an adult and child, and between children. In either case it is not acceptable within golf. The competitive nature of golf can provide opportunities for bullying. The bully may be:

  • a parent who pushes too hard;
  • a coach who adopts a win-at-all costs philosophy;
  • another child who intimidates inappropriately;
  • an older player who intimidates inappropriately;
  • an official who places unfair pressure on a person.

For advice on how to respond to this behaviour and how to develop an anti-bullying policy, see our Bullying page.

It’s not the responsibility of those working in golf to decide that bullying or harassment is occurring, but it is their responsibility to act on any concerns.


Abuse or neglect of a young person may be caused by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family, institutional or community setting by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. Some children also abuse other children and there is evidence to suggest that peer abuse is an increasing concern.

There are four main forms of abuse.

Neglect – this is when adults persistently fail to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, which will likely result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may involve failing to:

  • provide adequate food, clothing and shelter;
  • protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
  • ensure adequate supervision;
  • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

Neglect that is happening within golf could include a PGA professional, staff, volunteer or coach not ensuring that children in their care are safe, exposing them to undue conditions of heat or cold, or unnecessarily risking injury.

Physical abuse – where someone physically hurts or injures a child.

Examples of physical abuse in golf may be when the nature and intensity of training and competition exceed the capacity of the young person’s immature and growing body, or when drugs are used to enhance performance.

Sexual abuse – involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. This may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Emotional abuse –the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child, such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on their emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as their self-worth is dependent upon sporting success. It may involve age- or developmentally-inappropriate expectations being imposed upon children. It may involve causing children to feel frightened, nervous, withdrawn, or in danger by being constantly shouted at, threatened or taunted. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of children.

Emotional abuse in golf may occur if children are subjected to constant criticism, name-calling, sarcasm, bullying, racism or unrealistic pressure to perform to high expectations consistently.


These may be difficult to recognise, but there are signs that could alert you. These include:

  • unexplained or suspicious injuries, such as bruising, cuts or burns, particularly if situated on a part of the body not normally prone to such injuries;
  • an injury for which the explanation seems inconsistent;
  • the child describes what appears to be an abusive act involving him/her;
  • someone else (a child or adult) expresses concern about the welfare of another child;
  • unexplained changes in behaviour (e.g. becoming very quiet, withdrawn or displaying sudden outbursts of temper);
  • inappropriate sexual awareness;
  • engaging in sexually explicit behaviour;
  • distrust of adults, particularly those with whom a close relationship would normally be expected;
  • difficulty in making friends;
  • being prevented from socialising with other children;
  • displaying variations in eating patterns including overeating or loss of appetite;
  • loss of weight for no apparent reason;
  • the child becoming increasingly dirty or unkempt.

This list is not exhaustive and the presence of one or more of the indicators is not proof that abuse is actually taking place.  Some changes in behaviour can be caused by changes at home – bereavement, for example – and parents are encouraged to inform appropriate adults within the club about any such circumstances.