From new, fun formats to dress codes, Bryson and technology, Ben Evans details what junior golfers are talking about right now...
10 Things Junior Golfers Are Talking About
Popular GolfSixes League is back
The other day it was refreshing and poignant to see teams of smiling youngsters playing golf again, at Seacroft Golf Club on the Lincolnshire coast. They were enjoying the Golf Foundation’s GolfSixes League – six-a-side mixed teams, over six holes, in their team shirts (400 clubs and 5,000 kids in 2021). Nobody minded the rain as teams from Seacroft, Louth GC, Kenwick Park and Woodhall Spa all did battle together.
After a year of Covid, a season to remember?
One PGA coach says his youngsters intend to spend all day on the golf course every day. It reminds him of his younger self, playing 54 holes a day and still on the putting green in fading light when Mum picked him up. He has seen a surge of youngsters wanting to play more, so if adults don’t trample on them in the scramble for tee times, the next Rory or Yuka Saso (the exciting teenager who won the US Women’s Open) may well be teeing off for their very first rounds today.
‘I am (still) Tiger Woods…’
There are thousands of clips online about golf. Tiger and Rory compete for attention with Ronaldo and Messi on YouTube, and it’s a fairish fight. Floyd Mayweather v Logan Paul in the ring was the latest sensation but ‘Brooks v Bryson’ was a funny scrap too just before. Golf is everywhere but one iconic name prevails. Those who are playing the brand new Fortnite Alien Invasion are schooled by misty-eyed older siblings who recall the classic EA Sport’s Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Talking to a group of young people we wondered where golf would stand in this online world without Tiger Woods. He is 45 years old but for the kids, and most golfers, he is still the one.
“De-Cham-beau!” comes a yell and a bang from a youngster in a driving range bay. Dan Leins, PGA Professional at Cayman Golf in Devon, rolls his eyes but can’t help smiling. “We used to be told not to try and hit every shot as hard as Tiger Woods but now Bryson with his max power game gives licence for youngsters to just smash it. It’s a real talking point and gets them discussing power versus technique; it has got them thinking.”
Splash of colour after the dark days
“Coloured golf balls, definitely, they’ve gone crazy,” says my local PGA pro. One young player says she wants some Titleist Velocity in matte green next (available in four colours), not pink, as it looks great on the green grass! Kids are very brand loyal now, and like the tour pro’s, the kit, the gear, it’s all got to work together. Not much M&S Blue Harbour for Generation Z.
Girls Golf Rocks is back for 2021
Run by England Golf and the Golf Foundation and led by some inspirational PGA-qualified coaches, Girls Golf Rocks promotes the good things about golf. . It works well with dedicated group coaching, while older, confident girls act as ‘ambassadors’ to mentor younger girls feeling their way into the sport.
What juniors expect from a good golf club…
A warm welcome is paramount. A relaxed dress code for beginners is sensible; secretaries shouldn’t spill their coffee if youngsters wear hoodies or leggings from then on, surely? Other needs include transparent club rules; fair access to competitions; a tolerant environment; team events; the chance to play at other clubs; fun social opportunities, and buddy systems are great for new players. Girls in particular will thrive in a less judgemental atmosphere where they feel accepted and able to enjoy golf with their friends.
…And having a voice at the club
This is written just after Lily Walker won the England Golf Young Ambassador of the Year, sponsored by the Golf Foundation. One of Lily’s many achievements is setting up the junior committee at North Hants Golf Club. More clubs are giving young people a voice on committees, or through junior captains, and this is a very welcome, newish trend.
Follow influencers, but should you follow in their footsteps?
Do you follow Rick Shiels or maybe The Jazzy Golfer? Plenty of young girls and boys now wonder whether they could earn serious money as a YouTuber. Should they already be thinking about their future profile and have a specific golf theme promoting themselves? Parents may well worry, but didn’t they want to be a footballer or a pop star? One PGA coach said: “Whatever you do in golf and life, you have to put in the performance first and be true to yourself.” Fair enough.
Digital and physical can be music to our ears
Many youngsters who have grown up with on-screen technology are excited by TrackMan and Toptracer (some will have had fun at a Topgolf centre). PGA pro Iain Seath (from Malkins Bank GC, Cheshire) and his young golfers love to play on the course and non-playing parents are welcomed along. He’ll also get the juniors together in the coaching suite and have them hitting shots at St Andrews on the simulator. They can share favourite music on Spotify while playing the Old Course (music while you practise sounds fun?). They ask good questions and Iain knows they’ll remember the undulations and signature holes come next July for The Open on TV. Technology and tradition in balance… a different way of learning as the world keeps turning.