Junior golfers are the game's next generation, so it's important that your club is welcoming them in the right way... By Ben Evans
10 Things Clubs Can Do To Encourage More Junior Golfers
Clothing rules, being fair in competitions and creating leaders, clubs should see young players as one of their greatest opportunities to succeed as a business.
Here are 10 things golf clubs can do to encourage junior golfers.
Appeal to youngsters and your customer base will grow
Families are a gateway into a club’s customer community.
Parents, their friends, the schools: these are the fast-paced communication hubs of the here and now.
Clubs should reconsider how they reach all these people and set clear new goals for marketing, including everything around social media.
Rethink how a good junior programme can affect revenue, when you add in parents supporting their kids during a whole year.
Consideration should also include that more paying family players may not want membership at all, and just pay and play. How will you keep them happy?
Research by Sports Marketing Surveys found that “the ‘Ultimate Junior Facility’ needs to offer a safe and positive environment, variety, opportunity, progression, integration, encouragement/support, affordability and enjoyment for all.”
A good path to follow.
Ensure your club offers the warmest welcome
The golf club driveway is intimidating for new juniors.
The eerie silence on opening the front door can be surreal, as can that lone cry from the mixed bar upstairs. So don’t be ‘that club’.
Put heart, soul and imagination into the best possible welcome.
Prepare to be a very tolerant and fully inclusive club that truly reflects the community around you and welcomes everyone.
I remember driving along and seeing a club sign saying: “Non-members welcome here, coffee + a free bacon roll today. Come and say hello to our team.”
I answered the call, and the coffee was good!
Clear communication is priceless
Cut out division, be united.
Clear communication from the start relaxes both juniors and adults.
You can have a simple written policy, but it should also be crystal clear with all adult members: avoid embarrassing misunderstandings.
Introduce a buddy system where an older junior can look after a newcomer.
Juniors will make plenty of mistakes, it’s our job as adults to help them, not trip them up with Rule 22B!
Detail is everything
Try to offer something special in membership, through flexibility (academy systems can help here), added value, tie-ins with the pro shop or discounted lessons.
When the subs are paid, an excellent ‘goody-bag’ with golf balls, markers, and caps or other accessories can be really valued by a younger junior. Everything matters at that age.
When I was a kid I remember an austere looking Captain Catlow, who I knew had been a POW in Colditz, suddenly giving me a couple of golf balls with a smile on the putting green. I felt ten feet tall!
The game needs more girl players
It’s in everyone’s interest to grow the game for girls.
Girls Golf Rocks is attracting many newcomers, while ‘retention’ is an important area of current thinking.
Stacey Mitchell of the Golf Foundation has created two documents to help clubs: ‘How to Keep Girls Loving Golf’ and ‘8 Principles for Success’ can both be found here.
A relaxed dress code…
Hoodies don’t really belong in Room 101 do they?
Clean trainers can look ‘nicer’ than beaten up brogues.
However you see the rules, the secret is to not make it an ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ issue.
Give juniors a voice in this process.
I know at least one county has introduced hoodies in their training gear, and we see lots of girls playing in leggings now, following The Jazzy Golfer.
After a year where we have all worn masks, surely it’s time to relax a bit and just enjoy golf?
Good volunteers work with good PGA coaches
The PGA Professional and their team can enjoy special standing with the kids.
Good PGA coaches often create good volunteers of all ages and this joint effort can work wonders.
PGA pros are at the heart of national charity the Golf Foundation’s HSBC Golf Roots programme which aims to reach 7,500 schools and two million youngsters over the next five years.
This all helps create that closer bond with the communities around us.
Technology and fresh air shots
Many PGA Professionals are embracing technology in their coaching, using the assistance of TrackMan and simulators etc and this can be a great draw for youngsters.
PGA coach Dan Leins believes after the year of Covid, families also need no need excuse to embrace all the physical and mental health benefits of being in the fresh air.
This mix of technology and the healthy outdoors feels like a superb opportunity to attract the next generation.
Investing in the future
One PGA Professional has told us of the importance she attaches to local scholarships but also investing coaching time for those prepared to work, taking them as far as they can go, whether into PGA training or elite level golf.
This industry now has many pathways into a mix of great careers.
These conversations can really help your juniors and gradually bring on young leaders to be ambassadors for your club.
Fun, fun, fun after a difficult year
Fair access to competitions is vital.
Don’t be that club who snatches the trophy out of a junior’s hands because of an entry mix-up.
Work on a list from the Easter Egg putting competition, a BBQ bunker challenge, mixed comps, team events like GolfSixes League, a local Open, right up to the best medal to suit older juniors.
In recent research 71% of youngsters liked the idea of competitions with or against parents ‘a lot’!
So bring back family formats and make this a summer of fun that can transform the way we think about junior golf.