Golf Industry: Course Behavior Factor in Youth Involvement

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 24: Tiger Woods prepares to tee off on the South Course during the first round of the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course on January 24, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 24: Tiger Woods prepares to tee off on the South Course during the first round of the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course on January 24, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) /

Every sport should be trying to grow their game. The golf industry and golf in general has been doing a good job in simplifying a lot of the rules, and making the game a little easier to understand. There is one area that can be make or break for continuing the game. Course Accommodations.

This isn’t to say that all courses need to work on this. There are plenty of them out there that are constantly improving to grow the game. Many in the golf industry put in the work, and it shows across multiple areas.

Youth clinics, deals for young golfers, outside-the-box events, and setting up the course in general to be more comfortable for all ages and sexes. All of these not only help grow the game and get more people interested, but the snowball effect is incredible.

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Let’s start with youth clinics or deals for young golfers. The disparity and difference in how courses treat kids is astounding. If your course has a youth program, has junior memberships, and youth tees on the course, then whoever comes their to play is going to feel very comfortable.

If the course has none of this? The kid isn’t going to want to keep golfing. Compound this with some courses not letting kids come out and ride around with their parents while they play, and all they are doing is losing money.

For the course that is being accommodating, they are gaining multiple golfers for every kid that feels comfortable. As those kids grow up and continue to play, they are going to bring out friends and family to play with them. They will remember which courses treat them right, and those that don’t.

It’s not just kids either. The way courses treat women is important as well, just as important as getting the youth out there. Everyone has heard the phrase “happy wife, happy life”. You want to go out and share the things you enjoy with those you love. If your wife (or mom, sister, daughter, whoever is important in your life) feels comfortable on the course, you get to golf more.

Golf isn’t just a sport for rich white guys anymore. At least to the profitable courses, and those that are making strides to improve the game. Take, for example, the course that my high school team plays at. Homestead Farms Golf Club in Lynden, Washington.

They are incredibly accommodating. They host three high school teams, boys and girls. This means there might be 60-70 golfers there at anytime in the afternoon taking away tee times from the public, or at least taking up practice space. Does this bother the course? NO. In fact, it’s the opposite. It makes them ecstatic.

Each of those kids that is out there enjoying the course? They are going to go play there in the offseason, and go out there after they graduate. So the little money that the course was losing from giving us practice space, they more than make up for. Those kids come out with parents and friends, paying for carts and tee times and food, bringing in money to the course.

It’s not just high schoolers during season that our course is helpful to. They have a couple different junior programs to get them out there during the offseason. Once again, they aren’t going to be going out by themselves, and will be bringing in other golfers who are paying.

They are also growing the game with women as well. A four to five episode women’s clinic, with different focuses each round, along with swag. It’s a few weeks away from starting, and there is only one spot left open. Golf takes a while for a round. For all the husbands out there, you get to play more if your wife is out there playing with you.

They do outside-the-box events for the public as well. Homestead understands what it takes to be a successful golf industry. They just had a wedge clinic open to any adult. You got a wedge lesson, some range balls, a brand new wedge… and a BEER!

All of these things have been helping bring people in, and the effect is obvious. The course has been packed the last couple weeks as the weather warms up, so much so that it is hard to organize practice around it.

Guess what though… they are still accommodating to us, helping us find openings and getting us out on the course to play. Taking a small step back to take an enormous leap forward in the golf industry.

All courses should be acting like this. They’re growing the game across every sector, taking small hits here and there for much larger windfalls later on. It’s a win-win, and everyone ends up happy.

The flip-side is sad. The courses that are trying to bleed dry those that are coming out there, without accommodating anyone else. The following course, who it may or may not be fair to name, doesn’t understand today’s golf industry. It hurts, because the course is beautiful.

We just had a match there recently that is the brainchild for this article. I thought they were turning over a leaf, as this is the first time in nearly ten years that they have allowed any type of high school event for golf on their course.

That was where the positive stopped. You would think that hosting a high school event with 40 golfers, 10 coaches, and hundreds of spectators, that you would want to help them be comfortable, right? Wrong!

This course is very difficult to walk. Even the kids are tired before their round is over. There are multiple steep hills, and it turns into quite the workout. Carts make it much easier.

Or, they would have, if they were available. Our match doesn’t start until 3:00 PM. The course did two things that seem counter-intuitive to making money and enticing people to come back (A lot of whom said that they won’t be).

The first was that they wouldn’t sell carts to spectators. For a course that hadn’t had more than 20 tee times that day, they were worried they wouldn’t have enough carts for the public. They have 70 carts. This means they legitimately thought they were going to sell 35 four person tee times from 3:30 until closing.

Let’s do some math real quick… and even make it more in their favor by saying they would get 70 singles, who each wanted their own cart, put into foursomes. Four carts per tee time. So we still need to get to 18 tee times.

A tee time every 7-8 minutes. 18 tee times. Starting at 3:30, that means they thought they would get a run of walk-ins, full slate, until 5:37PM. There’s unreasonable, then there is insane. A bunch of parents and spectators had to leave, as they were unable to watch their kids play.

The second was closing the snack bar. You have a ton of people at your course, walking around for five hours. They are going to get hungry. Too bad. No food for you.

This course has been struggling to get tee times regularly, is much more expensive than other courses, and doesn’t cater to women or kids. Can you see why they always have openings? I heard from multiple kids during the round, and parents as well, that they would NOT be going back. They would be taking their kids elsewhere.

The differences are mind-blowing. One course is all about growing the game, increasing visibility and love for the game. Getting families out there, teaching, and even building stronger relationships.

The other is the polar-opposite. Not trying to be crass, but their attitude is pretty much “Go #### yourself and the entire golf industry”.

This hits home with me, as my son is three-and-a-half. We are going to start golfing soon, and a lot of the time, my dad is going to be with us as well. If these backwards/stuck in the past courses are going to charge us three riders for a cart, and three full prices, why would we go? That is, if they even let us on the course.

I’ll be taking my son to Homestead. They have an accommodating staff, an open range, and junior tees everywhere, to go along with deals for kids. I won’t step foot near the other course with him. There’s no reason to, and they make it seem like they don’t want us there anyway.

With National golf day on May 1st, the game should be growing and expanding. Heck, Top Golf was offering free lessons. We should be doing all that we can to help the game. It’s why I coach and write about golf. I love the game, and I want to share that with others, helping them to understand more and feel the way that I do about the game.

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Hopefully, those that are behind the ball start to figure it out. The youth needs it. I need it. The Golf world and golf industry needs it. It would be better for all of us.