A study by the Physical Activities Council found that parents who are concerned about their kids’ lack of socialization and potential for injury from high-contact sports are frequently open to getting kids involved in playing golf.
The National Golf Foundation (NGF) has discovered a new way to “sell” golf to the parents of juniors: presenting the sport as highly social and active, but significantly less likely to result in injuries for players.
According to a 2014 Physical Activities Council (PAC) study, more than a third of parents are concerned with the amount of time their children spend playing video games, and 30% are equally worried about their kids increased usage of social media. As one might expect, the prevalence of those two factors has 29% of parents frustrated with their kids’ lack of social interaction and time spent exercising outdoors.
Moreover, nearly a quarter of all parents are troubled by the injury potential of the sports their kids are playing, likely due to the increase in sports-related concussions that can have serious long-term negative effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 175,000 children are treated for sports-related concussions in U.S. emergency rooms every year.
Overall, 58% of parents have concerns with at least one of the above factors and 34% are worried about two or more. Considering the combined net effect of these concerns, and the answers golf provides to them, NGF asked parents how open they would be to their kids getting involved in the game.
According to that same PAC study, 84% of parents with at least one of the above concerns are supportive of getting their kids involved in golf and nearly a third of those are very supportive of the idea.
There are numerous national, regional and local programs in place that receive significant support from organizations such as the First Tee, PGA of America, United States Golf Association and others that are committed to growing the game of golf through junior participation.
One such endeavor is the First Tee National Schools Program, which began 10 years ago with a mission to introduce elementary-aged kids to the game. Since its inception, the initiative has activated 6,000 elementary schools across the country. Physical education teachers are given professional development training, junior golf lesson plans and the necessary equipment for effective implementation into their existing physical education programs.
PGA Junior League Golf is also gaining traction with children by capitalizing on the same affinity kids have for team competition that benefits so many other sports. The PGA of America program, which began several years ago in four states, establishes team competition in structured leagues and features a scramble format that gets kids ages 13 and under involved in the game in a stress-free environment.
In 2014, the league had more than 19,000 participants competing on 1,500 teams across the country, and the goal is to involve 50,000 children by 2016. The PGA has also established the PGA Sports Academy, which introduces golf to low income and minority communities through existing Boys and Girls Clubs.
The U.S. Kids Golf Foundation organizes 800 tournaments in 50 markets across the country where children ages 6 to 13 are exposed to golf competition in an appropriate setting. The foundation also certifies “Family Courses” where kids are welcomed at the facility, taught the game correctly and even have their own sets of tees to play from.
In only its second year, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is growing in popularity. A joint initiative by the USGA, the PGA of America and the Masters Tournament, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior competition focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf.
Winners of the 10 regional Drive, Chip and Putt competitions across multiple age groups earn a trip to Augusta National, where they compete for national titles the weekend before the first major championship of the year. The program taps into the competitive spirit of both boys and girls ages 7 to 15.
At the grassroots level, golf courses are being proactive in attracting kids to the course. This includes “kids play free with adult” programs, affordable group instruction or clinics and the implementation of junior leagues that promote teamwork and camaraderie.