The Youth on Course program saw considerable growth in 2018, with membership increasing by 55 percent and 374 new courses being added to the organization’s roster, which now totals 992 courses across 26 states. Officials in Ocean City, Md., however, convened a special briefing to address concern over the trend seen there of declining youth play.
While the Youth on Course program continues growth with significant increases to its development of new junior golf participants in 2018, the numbers are quite different in Ocean City, Md., according to a report by The Ocean City Dispatch.
A briefing by the Ocean City Recreation and Parks Committee included an apparent trend in fewer young people participating in golf. The broad overview, which included the town-owned Eagle’s Landing Golf Course, was largely for the benefit of new committee member and Councilman Mark Paddack.
With the apparent trend of fewer young people taking up golf and its potential impact on the future of the sport in Ocean City, which promotes golf heavily as part of its tourism marketing, council president and committee member Lloyd Martin broached the subject with Eagle’s Landing PGA pro Bob Croll.
“Are you seeing a trend of a lot [fewer] young people playing golf?” Martin asked. “Is there any way to back that up statistically?”
Croll confirmed that fewer young people playing golf is a concerning trend nationally that has carried over locally, The Dispatch reported.
“I think the drawback for many young people is the time element,” he said. “We’re exploring a way to allow them to play maybe six holes in about an hour-and-a-half at a reasonable price. That’s something we’re working on.”
Martin added that many young people are seeking out other hobbies that are not as time consuming as golf, The Dispatch reported.
“Their attention span isn’t what it used to be,” he said. “If you can find a way to keep it around one and a half hours, that might encourage more young people to come out.”
Those numbers are not indicative of what the Youth on Course program is seeing nationally, however. National membership grew by 55 percent and 374 new courses were added to the organization’s roster, which now totals 992 courses across 26 states, according to the organization.
Fueling the golf economy, nearly 150,000 rounds of golf were played in 2018 for $5 or less by younger players through the program, and $985,000 was reimbursed back to participating courses. To date, 765,390 rounds have been subsidized, and Youth on Course has reimbursed $5.2 million back to partner courses.
“With nearly 50,000 members, we exceeded our year’s-end goal of serving 40,000 young men and women,” said Adam Heieck, Youth on Course CEO. “As the demand for affordable access to golf continues to grow exponentially, we’re happy to play a key role in making that a reality in local communities nationwide.”
Eight additional state associations added throughout the year included the Golf Association of Philadelphia, Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado, Iowa Golf Association, Maryland State Golf Association, Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association, North Dakota Golf Association, Rochester District Golf Association and South Dakota Golf Association.
To service and support partner associations, Youth on Course, a 501(c)3 organization that began as the charitable arm of the Northern California Golf Association, has expanded its internal staff, promoting Jeff Clark to Chief Development Officer and Michael Lowe to Vice President of Programs.
In addition to subsidized rounds, Youth on Course also facilitates paid internships, a caddie program and nationwide scholarships. The program has awarded 223 students with college scholarships totaling more than $1.4 million in financial support.
The current Youth on Course scholarship retention rate is ninety-eight percent, with 53 students already graduated.