When golf industry leaders announced they were “growing the game of golf” – they meant it. Kids now enjoy a field of opportunities, both new and old, made even more popular as other sports take a timeout. Several junior programs are up and running to teach the game or simply provide an affordable way to play.
Youth on Course unveiled a new look today to amplify the same purpose – providing affordable golf for kids. New look. Same purpose. The national organization, which subsidizes rounds of golf for kids 6-18, is celebrating the popularity of this money-saving program through a weeklong (Aug. 10-14, #YOCWeek) re-branding launch featuring daily messages such as values, community, learning and relationships. Follow @yocgolf to stay tuned for celebrity messages, giveaways and more!
“Youth on Course has been steadily growing since it began, and really picked up momentum over the past several months,” said Scott McNevin, executive director of the Junior Golf Association of Arizona (JGAA), the local Arizona affiliate for Youth on Course. “It’s a safe, easy and inexpensive way for JGAA members, and any other junior golfers for that matter, to get outside and play more golf. It’s popular with our top-ranked JGAA players and new members just trying to get more rounds under their belts. The cost makes it realistic to play more often.”
Youth on Course partners with local golf courses and allied golf associations, like the JGAA, to subsidize access to the game of golf through $5 (or less) green fees for its 90,000 members across 1,400 golf courses nationwide.
To date, 26 Arizona facilities – primarily in Phoenix and Tucson – participate in the program, and so far this year, local members played 6,919 rounds, an incredible number considering 3,927 total rounds were logged last year.
JGAA Competition Memberships, $90 annually, automatically enrolls juniors into the Youth on Course program in addition to eligibility to register for JGAA competitive tournaments and other events. Those who do not wish to compete in JGAA events may choose the Youth on Course-only membership option for a $15 annual fee. Exact rates and tee times vary from course to course, but the program is a money-saver no matter how you “slice” it.
The JGAA caters to kids 8-18, and they also provide little ones, ages 3-5 years old, with a chance to discover golf – for free – at the Itty Bitty Open. Kids receive a free set of plastic clubs before joining the golf fun hosted by PGA and LPGA professionals. In its 33rd year, the event is held early January at 20 Valley-wide parks.
Although the JGAA features both boys’ and girls’ divisions, its sister organization – USGA*LPGA Girls Golf of Phoenix – provides girls ages 3-18 with a “purple and pink” way to learn, play and compete. Youth on Course enrollment is included, and members build lifelong friendships through clinics, tournaments, family events and team competitions. Skill levels ranging from 3-hole events to 18-hole competitions are available along with special events such as the popular Girls Golf Day to be held this October 3.
“It’s the largest-attended event we host all year,” said Cori Matheson, director of LPGA*USGA Girls Golf of Phoenix. “Families can dip their toes in the water with daylong activities like a tournament, women’s golf expo, Game Changer session and Girl Power Panel. It’s just a fun way for girls to get involved in an empowering, social and athletic lifestyle they can enjoy all their lives.”
The First Tee of Phoenix is another popular option, with 2021 memberships already available. Plus, those who join now may begin participating as early as August 17 at 17 Valley locations. The opposite of “If you ain’t cheating; you ain’t trying,” students also learn The First Tee’s 9 Core Values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. To be fair, other sports build character, too, but a classic Bobby Jones anecdote versus the shenanigans of the 2018-2019 Astros provides a stark comparison.
Jones matter-of-factly called a penalty on himself, nobody else saw, that eventually cost him the 1929 U.S. Open. He then batted away praise for his honesty by saying, “You might as well praise me for not robbing banks.” The Astros, by contrast, carried out an elaborate, premeditated scheme to steal signs from opposing teams to gain an unfair advantage.
Another proponent of fair play, PGA Southwest, of course, offers a number of junior programs. The Antigua Junior Prep Tour offers one-day tournaments for ages 5-18. The PGA Jr. League, with the championship held at Grayhawk Golf Club, features an inclusive team scramble format.
Drive, Chip & Putt is golf’s version of Punt, Pass & Kick, and the Firebird Club offers divisions based on 1-, 3-, 6- and 9-hole competitions at monthly events throughout the Phoenix area. Not to mention, just about every golf course in the country is staffed by PGA teaching professionals who offer junior instruction, camps and clinics.
All of the above programs (and many others not listed) are for kids, but they don’t have to go it alone. Golf is a unique sport with plenty of space for mom, dad, sisters, brothers, uncles, cousins and social distancing. Just as allied golf organizations rallied around growing the game, they also drew up Back2Golf guidelines to keep everyone safe. The next time “I’m bored” rings out: Go Play Golf.