Every magazine/article/video/blog by the PGA or any other golf-related organization on how to increase the number of golfers says our focus should be on promoting women’s programs and junior golf. I agree with this assessment, and the answers may be in your own backyard. Every facility should research three basic inquiries. First: Do you have a thriving junior program, but a stale ladies program? Second: Do you have a thriving women’s instruction program, but the junior program needs a lot of help? Third: Are they BOTH in need of some serious revamping?
1. If your junior program is successful, chances are it’s because you are making it fun for the kids. Pay particularly close attention to the youngest group and see if they are enjoying the program and going home (you’ll hear it from the parents) saying they love golf now. Then look at the girls and boys in their early teens, who are susceptible to peer pressure and want to be accepted. If they enjoy golf because it’s fun, most likely it’s because their friends have joined them, or they have made friends in the program.
Why is this important? Because you may have just discovered why your women’s programs are empty. Take what you have done with the junior programs and transfer them to the adults, MAKE IT FUN. An example: I play a skills game with the kids called, “The Balance Game.” All of the kids line up in a row on the range. I count, “1-2-3-Fire!” and they all swing at the sametime. The idea is to hold a balanced finish, weight completely shifted to the front foot, back foot up on the toe, club swung around the shoulders or neck. If a child loses balance in ANY way or remains flatfooted, they’re out. Even if they miss the ball or hit a bad shot, they are still in the game if they hold a balanced finish. The last one standing gets a prize. I did this with my Friday “Fore Ladies Only” clinics, and I cannot get the women to go home! Nothing but laughter and good times.
2. Now, if your ladies programs are a hit, but your junior program attracts nothing but crickets and grasshoppers, I believe you’ve done the samething, with the age groups reversed. You have succeeded in making your ladies programs attractive and fun to participate in. However, have you treated your junior program like it’s glorified babysitting? Your BEST instructors should be teaching the kids, not the first year, entry level assistants (unless their specialty IS junior golf). Instead of just beating balls on the range, come up with a few challenge competitions or skills games for the kids, with prizes to be awarded to the winners. And be more creative than “Longest Drive” and “Closest to the Pin.”
3. If BOTH programs are in disarray, the answer is already written: NEITHER ONE OF THEM IS FUN. The best thing you can do is find out who DOES run a great junior and/or ladies program, and ask if you can go and observe how they do things. The TPI junior certification is all about making the game fun for kids, as well as creating long term athletic development for multi-sport althletes. Another resource is the U.S. Kids Golf website, www.uskidsgolf.com, where they list their annual “Top 50 Kids Teachers,” as well as a list of “Honorable Mentions.” See if there is anyone there you know, or nearby your facility, and go check them out.
If you are a public facility, adults and juniors will come from miles around if you offer something that noone else does: LEARNING THROUGH FUN. If you are a private facility, these are two programs that your membership will truly appreciate.