Juniors are the future of golf, and a commitment to quality junior programs must be a large part of your Player Development Program.
If we have learned anything over the past year, it is that remaining flexible and open-minded is the key to long-term success in any business. It is no different in the golf world. Your golf professionals need to be willing to try and test new ideas, and know when and how to pivot if necessary.
For any club’s Player Development Program, that now means having a qualified PGA Professional who is experienced, energetic and excited about building a junior program.
Juniors are the future of golf, and a commitment to quality junior programs must be a large part of your Player Development Program. The more that children are exposed to the game through programs, the more vibrant your club will be. Investing time and energy in juniors is not only the right thing to do for the longevity of the game, it also serves as a great profit center.
In my experience, the best approach to creating a solid foundation for juniors is to begin with the following programs:
Junior summer camps are wildly popular and a big driver of revenue. Camps should be fun and with just enough content to allow kids to fall in love with the game without pressure, because it may be their first exposure to golf. The focus should be on the very basics of the game, with the end goal being to arm juniors with the necessary tools to enjoy time on the course with their parents and friends in a fun and respectable manner.
The driving principles behind Operation 36 is to get kids on the golf course, expose them to the game, give them playing time, and provide them with the programming that can help them achieve their golfing goals. The ultimate objective is to strike the right balance of fun and challenge to keep them engaged in this great game for a lifetime.
Starting from 25 yards, students learn how to play the game from the green back to the tee box. The student must shoot 36 or better before moving back to the next challenge yardage. Operation 36 equips parents and coaches with the multiple development models and tracking and reporting systems that assist in the child’s golf skill development every step of the way.
PGA Junior League
The league is designed to bring family and friends together, teaching children to compete in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. It is open to boys and girls ages 17 and under of all skill levels and abilities, with or without golf experience. The program focuses on learning to play as a team, making new friends, and having fun.
It is played year-round and split into two seasons—summer and fall. Teams play four 9-hole matches in a two-person scramble format. This teaches the principles of teamwork, encourages mentorship, builds confidence, and supports the development of sportsmanlike conduct in a nurturing environment.
Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD)
This program is designed to create an athlete first and a competitive golfer second. Juniors learn fundamental movement skills, followed by sports skills. The TPI model uses physical and mental activities that are appropriate for each golfer’s biological age.
There are windows of trainability when it comes to maximizing speed and power. Tracking one’s biological age (growth pattern) allows professionals to appropriately time training. If a child is a multi-sport athlete, they will typically hit each window at the proper time, which is critical for maximizing development and injury prevention. Juniors should be encouraged to participate in a wide variety of sports, because early specialization has the potential to lead to burnout and possible injury.
Playing the game for more than 30 years myself, I have found that one of the best parts of golf is the lifelong relationships I have gained that all began with the foundation that was built for me as a junior. Good luck in taking the first steps to creating the best junior player development program for your club or resort.
Matt Kilgariff, PGA professional, spent much of his career working for Butch Harmon & the Harmon Family. He is currently the Director of Player Development at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, CA. Prior to joining The Bridges, Kilgariff was Director of Player Development at The Olympic Club, in San Francisco, CA. Matt has also been part of TaylorMade’s National Advisory Staff since 2012.