Junior Golf is FUN! – by Michael Keogh

As PGA Professionals, we all have memories, feelings, or just a sense of enjoyment when we look back to our early days as young junior golfers. At our facility, my responsibility as Player Development Director is to try and create that experience daily.

When looking at Player Development programs at our facilities, many of us run programs for a variety of age groups. When specifically looking at Junior Development, I have always enjoyed the coaching model that PGA Coach or USA Hockey use to help build participation, retention, and development within their respective sports. I believe the goal should be to help create a culture that cultivates a lifelong love for the game.

Not all juniors in our camps or clinics share the same passion for golf, that’s no secret. But, when targeting the age ranges of roughly 6-13 years, I find it vital that we, the coaches, put an emphasis on having fun! This age group is so important to the future of our sport. It’s during that age range where most juniors either begin to love the sport or step away. We want them to continue their golf development into high school, college, and beyond! So, let’s start by providing maximum enjoyment!

When creating lesson plans for our camps and clinics, it’s important to be creative with our instruction. We can enhance our clinics by getting away from the mundane chipping and pitching stations that last for 45 minutes and then the camp ends. At the risk of sounding cliché’, it should be fun! The more laughter there is, the better! When they go home and their parents ask, “How was Junior Golf?”, I do my best for the answer to be, “It was so much fun!”

Each session is unique. We design a specific lesson plan for golf instruction and practice. However, with younger groups we incorporate goofy activities such as: interviewing the kids, playing athletic hand-eye coordination games, golf trivia, relay races, team competitions, telling jokes, quizzing them on their favorite hobbies, giving each of them nicknames that they are fond of, hitting water balloons, spray-painting obstacle courses on the zoysia, hitting balls through hula-hoops, playing for smoothies or prizes, and anything else that pops into my mind! In a way, a bit of a golf circus! I find that in this approach, hopefully, juniors with varying passion levels walk away with memories and enjoyment. And as they age, if they are interested in continuing their development, that’s a win for me!

From a business standpoint, a fun and strong Junior Golf program has numerous benefits both short and long term.  In the short term, when the kids are happy, the parents are happy. Word of mouth about their satisfaction spreads and leads to growth of your programs, individual lesson referrals, and sales at your facilities!  Retention at this 6-13 year age bracket is key to helping the Junior develop as they age… which will only lead to growth financially to the PGA Member and the organization.

I believe associating happiness with the game of golf early on is the first step to fostering their development down the road as they get into the next age bracket (14-18)! When the junior has desire to come to our facilities on their own – because that’s where they have the most joy, laughter, and friendship – we are cultivating the next generation!

Remember, this is your program, and you can create a culture that promotes their love and passion for the game!