General Manager David Bennett, PGA, and Jay Cooke, the Waterbury Center, Vt. club’s Director of Instruction, want to use the new Vermont Junior Golf Academy to take a number of different instructional approaches, all geared to bridging existing gaps and breaking down current barriers to youth player development.
A new golf academy at the Country Club of Vermont (CCV) in Waterbury Center, Vt. aims to get kids into the swing of things, the Waterbury Record of Stowe, Vt. reported, by trying something unique: letting them actually play.
Typical youth golf instruction involves a series of disconnected rudiments, CCV General Manager David Bennett, PGA, told the Record. “It’s often like having all the ingredients, but no meal,” Bennett said.
But the new Vermont Junior Golf Academy at CCV, he said, puts all the right instructional components together.
Just as baseball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse and alpine skiing all of have robust feeder programs that teach those sports to kids at an early age. Bennett said the Vermont Junior Golf Academy will try to grow the game in much the same way.
“There are high-school golf teams, but there’s no path between a camp and high school and beyond,” Bennett told the Record. “[The Academy will give] them a pathway forward.”
CCV is also taking its instructional approach, the Record reported, beyond the usual routine of having players get a bucket of balls and swing clubs off of a bristly tee shoved into a green artificial turf mat, before then packing it all up and heading over to the putting green to tap balls at various random holes.
Too often, the Record noted, no actual golfing is involved with instruction until a player gets to the competition level. And some country clubs and their members don’t even like juveniles on the course.
But Jay Cooke, CCV’s Director of Instruction, who was something of a mentor to Bennett when he was a kid, told the Record that the best instruction comes from just playing.
“[CCV] allows kids to be, basically, part of a club,” Cooke said. “Here, we can let the golf course be the coach.”
CCV’s instructional philosophy also deemphasizes trying to achieve par for beginners, the Record reported. “Less than 1 percent of golfers average par,” Bennett said. It’s more important that beginning golfers ask, “What are the scores that they can achieve?”
And as part of that, Cooke takes a “backwards” approach to teaching the game, the Record reported. “We take kids from the greens back to the tee,” Cooke said. “Instead of learning how to bomb the driver all day, it’s more fun.”
The CCV Academy will also attempt to break down cost barriers, either through subsidies or scholarships, or by providing opportunities to work as a caddy, that often hinder youths who want to take up the game, the Record reported.
“We don’t want financial hurdles,” Bennett said. “If any kid wants to learn, and play the game, we’re gonna make that happen.”
The Vermont Junior Golf Academy has also been certified as the first “Girls Golf” facility in the state, according to Bennett. It’s a certification close to his heart—he and wife Amy have three daughters between the ages of 10 and 15. “As a dad, I see a need for girls to be able to play golf,” he said.
Bennett and Cooke want CCV’s program to gain enough momentum that the PGA and LPGA might take notice—“They’re dying to give money to juniors,” Bennett said—and so that more and more locals join the club, the Record reported. They’d also like to host to top-shelf tournaments over the summer.
While CCV’s revenues are good, Bennett said, it’s time for the next phase. “Now we’ve got to get to the point where we’re rebuilding the game,” he said.
“I always say everything I’ve done in my life is because I can move a little white ball across the grass better than most,” Bennett, who once competed on professional tours, told the Record. “Jay [Cooke] and I are doing this for a reason, and that’s to help kids.”