“We invest a lot into Junior Golf, because our Junior section are the golfers of tomorrow” says every club secretary, manager and director – ever. In response I say BULLSHIT.
“Here at Shady Acres Country Club our team of pros value the junior section by hosting a wonderful Junior Golf program, because potentially these are the pro golfers of tomorrow” Joe Schmoe, Head Pro SACC. Joe, in response I say BULLSHIT, your program maybe good but I’d bet money that your motives are flawed.
If I had a dollar for every time I’d heard or read this type of crap I’d have $1000s of dollars, which the golf industry hopes that I, as a parent of three sporty kids, would spend on helping my kids develop a love for the game of golf. If I didn’t already love the game myself, why the heck would I?
Many clubs give kids cheap memberships, and good on them for doing so. Even at these clubs, a lot of the time, The Golfers of Tomorrow (I’m just gonna refer to them as the Juniors or kids from now on) are given the worst tee times, limited access to club facilities and get grief from a decent percentage of the adult members simply for existing. That was my experience of junior golf in 2 out of the 3 clubs I was a junior member at and I’ll talk some more about the one positive experience another time.
I know from my parents that they moved my membership from one place to another simply because they realised that I’d get treated “less badly” at a new golf club. Not better just less badly, that’s how low their standards were! In my final year in the worst club I only used the practice ground and barely spoke to anyone and nobody spoke to me either.
I wasn’t ever part of a good junior program as a kid but now as a pro I see the inner workings of many and I’m also in the process of developing my own. Of course I deliver and charge for coaching as part of that program. I’m lucky to work with a GM at a very supportive club, so our pricing structure was simply based around how little we could charge and equally as importantly, what was the best time slot for the kids to run the weekly coaching sessions.
This junior coaching program (for new golfers) is not a cash-cow me or the club, they give up their practice facility at a busy time, just as I give up one of my core teaching windows. We do make some money but not any more than when I give a 1-2-1 private lesson at their place at an off-peak time. We have both made this pledge to the kids because we have chosen to put them ahead of us, we also have to tell the members (who’ve paid more than the cost of a new car to be members) that for a little time once a week we let the new juniors take priority because it’s the right thing to do. This helps create a positive culture and I’m making that process sound way easier than it actually is.
Moving forward with my juniors I want to see them have their own space, which is cleaned and maintained to the same high standard as the rest of the club. I want to see them have allocated tee slots at peak times, relative to the amount kids that are playing. I hope to see the barriers to membership or playing rights relaxed even if that is just for a limited number of kids. I appreciate playing rights at the most exclusive club in an entire country must not be treated lightly, but I also implore all of the clubs I work with to do the right thing and so I share my expectations in the same way.
These wonderful Junior Golfers are being valued as the GOLFERS OF TODAY and not as prospects for future sales or profile or even worse as a useful way to help your coaches make some money. As adults involved in golf we must make sacrifices to make the kids feel as valued as the club champion or captain does, because it’s the right thing to do. Not because a governing body asked us to tick a box or to keep some pointless certification.
Children are as much golfers as adults. Calling them the golfers of tomorrow doesn’t put them on a pedalstool it demotes them to the same status as a marketing project. Kid golfers are the golfers of today, not tomorrow!