Embracing the youth (on course) movement

By |  September 17, 2018 0 Comments

Last month in this space I heralded the unification of the First Green and the GCSAA. Let’s keep this youth golf movement rolling this issue and show some love to our new friends at Youth on Course.

It was T.A. Barker, CGCS, the subject of this month’s cover story — he’s our 2018 Herb Graffis Businessperson of the Year Award winner — who first told me about the positive impact on his facility from Youth on Course. Fore Lakes Golf Course in Taylorsville, Utah, is a big proponent of the program, which now has expanded to more than 900 courses across 26 states and 30,000 members.

“It’s a win-win — a win for the kids, a win for us,” Barker tells me. “I’m reimbursed the normal junior rate by the Utah Golf Foundation, and at the same time we’re hopefully growing the next generation of golfers… at a dollar per nine holes.”

Youth on Course allows golfers ages 7 to 19 to play a round of golf for $5 (or, in some cases, like T.A. mentioned, only $1 to get on the par-3 course at Fore Lakes.) By paying an annual fee, varying around the country from $5 to $30, young golfers can tee it up during slow-play periods on the course at deeply discounted prices while the course recoups much of the greens fee from the local golf foundation. Youth on Course, founded by the Northern California Golf Association in 2006, has subsidized more than 650,000 rounds to date. The organization also boasts caddie programs, internships and scholarships.

Youth on Course recently celebrated a victory when they announced a partnership with the golf mecca known as Pinehurst Resort. Now Pinehurst No. 1, 3 and 5 are on the list of courses offering $5 greens fees for kids. An interactive map of courses offering Youth on Course rounds is available on the organization’s website. A few names that stand out to me include Poppy Hills GC in Pebble Beach, Calif., (where the program is based), 2015 U.S. Open host course Chambers Bay in Washington, and a fine Michael Hurdzan design near me, Drumm Farm in Kansas City. Click around youthoncourse.org to see all the courses involved.

“Pinehurst Resort is a name that makes people take notice,” Adam Heieck, executive director of Youth on Course, tells me. “These announcements really move the needle. When you tell superintendents some of the places that are already involved, it makes the conversation so much easier.”

Heieck and his team currently are experiencing rapid growth with Youth on Course. Heieck predicts 2019 is going to be the biggest year yet for the program, with eyes on being in all 50 states soon.

“From a golf course standpoint, we’re taking unused inventory — not Saturday morning tee times — and letting the golf course decide if they would rather have an empty course or would they rather have a kid bring his mom and dad out,” Heieck says. “I recently got a letter from a parent in San Francisco and they said they can’t afford dinner and a movie — that’s $100-plus. But with Youth on Course, for closer to $60 they’re spending time with their kids, teaching them soft skills.”

Any successful course makes a special effort to please its members. In today’s golf world, that even includes those card-carrying members who are under the age of 19 and pay no more than $5 a round.

“I think the kids are the best golfers you can get out here because they don’t know anything different. Take the ball, hit it. Go find it, hit it. Go find it, hit it… those kids play quick,” Barker says. “As long as their parents teach them the basic rules, we’re happy to babysit their kids for a day while they play… getting those kids to play golf is my livelihood.”

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