Teaching kids to become lifelong golfers is not about winning. Golf is hard and takes time to develop one’s skills. If a child advances to a level that is appropriate to take their development to a more serious, competitive one, that’s a bonus and should be developed. But having fun and enjoying the game makes for true, lifelong golfers.
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It is important to understand why kids specifically play any sport, regardless of the level they play at, and that is to have fun. Plain and simple. The race to nowhere that we find ourselves in, with the idea of kids having to be accomplished, the best or get a golf scholarship is not growing the game. In many cases, it causes kids to get burned out and leave the game. Fun is always the most important thing and should always be at the center of growth programs as well as programming for the elite player.
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So, whether it be a five-year-old junior golfer, a twenty-something young tech professional, a middle-aged African American woman or a sixty-year-old male veteran with a prosthetic leg, here are suggestions for course operators and owners, PGA Professionals, and Instructors as well as anyone else vested in growing the game.
- Listen to the needs and wants of those interested in golf but don’t yet play. Reach out to the community and perhaps survey them on what they are looking for. Maybe ask them what their apprehensions are. Accommodate these individuals and do not think about what is traditional but rather be open minded.
- Build programming that is fun. Plain and simple. No matter the age or ability.
- Respect tradition, but embrace change. If you are not progressing, you’re dying.
- Rethink what golf is. The game is no longer middle-aged men playing 18 holes on a Saturday with the boys at the club and spending the entire day there. Nine holes, three holes, short-tee option, night golf, footgolf, big holes on the green, cosmic driving range, speed golf, Topgolf range, different leagues, the list goes on and on.
- Make your facility the hub of the community. Expose non-golfers in your area to your non-golf offerings, and then they will become more comfortable with exploring the game.
- Embrace the youth.
- Embrace the Millennials.
- Celebrate and embrace diversity.
- Remember that the average golfer at best averages around 95-100 for 18 holes, so make the course set up easy, fun and scorable.
- New player programming should include course time, non-mechanical basics such as making a tee time, pace of play, what is expected of a golfer on the course and other items that typically shy people away from our game.
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Course operators that are more tolerant of golfers in development will surely see increases in play and revenue. Welcome golfers. Educate rather than ridicule and be open and welcoming. Then and only then will we see true growth within our game. It is easy to forget but so important to try and remember if we truly want to grow the game, we were all beginners once.