Pro golfers aren’t born, but made.
With the addition of junior golf clinics, clubs can take pride in cultivating a new generation of golfers, while ensuring the future of their overall business.
When the Sunset Whitney Golf Club decided to turn its seasonal junior golf clinic into a year-round program, it was time to hire a full-time instructor specifically for this offering. After careful consideration, General Manager Jerrel Grow appointed PGA Mike Huetter to the aptly named position Director of Fun and Instruction for the Rocklin, Calif.-based public golf course.
“He has built a multitude of programs specifically for young players,” says Grow of Huetter’s nearly two decades of experience.
|Summing It Up• Dedicate appropriate staffing—with experience working with kids—to enable sufficient coverage of junior programming.•Utilize all forms of promotion when possible: word-of-mouth, print marketing and social networking.
•Update programming as necessary to accommodate flexible scheduling.
Working with kids vs. adults involves a different tactic, explains Huetter. “They are just starting out and they have not developed any bad habits yet,” he notes. “That’s why I always stress the basics like grip, balance and posture when teaching juniors.”
To supplement his instruction, Huetter uses workbooks from The U.S. Kids Golf Program, which he credits for “making advancing through the levels fun and challenging, because junior golfers must pass each chapter along the way…I love to watch the progress of each golfer,” he notes.
While Grow says he was initially concerned about participation, word-of-mouth has helped Sunset Whitney’s junior golf program flourish. “We are also lucky that we have a few sister clubs here in Sacramento,” he notes. “Both [Morgan Creek Golf Club in Roseville, Calif.] and [Wildhorse Golf Club in Davis, Calif.] help promote our programs.
“We love seeing activity and junior golf programs definitely expose the club to new members,” adds Grow.
Sold on Summer
For clubs without the luxury of year-round warm weather, summer programming efforts are critical. This season, Plymouth, Mich.-based Brae Burn Golf Club is enhancing its Junior Golf Academy with an additional week, offering young players a seven-week instructional program, followed by a tournament.
“Prior to me being at the club, there was no such program in place,” explains General Manager Trent J. Smith, who joined Brae Burn in 2009. With his work cut out for him, Smith spread the news of Brae Burn’s Junior Golf Academy via a multi-level marketing strategy of printed fliers, web site promotion and local educational efforts. He also paid a nominal fee to feature the program in a community activities brochure.
Since last year, Brae Burn has seen a 10% increase in its membership, thanks in large part to its junior programming. “I consider junior golfers to be the future of my business,” says Smith. “I try to get the children interested and give them the skills to be able to play the rest of their lives.”
|Social Networking Speaks to Junior GolfersIn an attempt to attract new members to its junior golf programs, clubs are learning to speak the language that younger players already embrace: social media.
Because summer can be an especially busy time for active kids, one club found that being flexible with its junior offerings proved most beneficial for its membership.
“We have to be very attentive to times when children are ‘tracked out’ and leverage what we offer against all the other activities scheduled around periods of time they are not in school,” explains Pat Mastandrea, General Manager for The Hasentree Club in Wake Forest, N.C.
Rather than scheduling traditional week-long programs, Hasentree, a Toll Golf property, now offers instructional clinics on Saturday afternoons—a time when families are more likely to play golf together. Putting this philosophy into practice has not only fostered multi-generational golfing, but has helped to drive overall membership.
“By creating a welcoming family atmosphere, our junior golf program has helped retain current members who are now utilizing the club more often,” says Mastandrea. “In addition, we have seen success in attracting young families as prospective members.”
Time on Their Sides
There’s nothing like an upcoming tournament to inspire a golf club to focus on its younger members. For Ocala (Fla.) Golf Club’s Director of Golf Kandace Clatterbaugh, the opportunity to serve as the designated home course for the First Tee of Greater Ocala has allowed the club to broaden its family-friendly offerings.
“If there’s a challenge to junior golf, I’d say it’s having enough time and people to do everything that can be done,” says Clatterbaugh, an LPGA professional who also serves on the Board of Directors for the Marion County Junior Golf, Inc.
Because the First Tee competition will replace this year’s summer camp program, Clatterbaugh and her staff will have the ability to enhance the club’s “kids play free with a paid adult” weekend offering.
“This summer, we’re going to have fun outings and socials scheduled for families to go along with that program,” she says. “I think that the strong roots of the junior program we’ve had, along with the recognition of the national First Tee program, is going to allow junior golf to continue to grow in Ocala and Marion County.”
This junior initiative is something Clatterbaugh counts on to sustain the club’s future. “As far as the impact on membership and daily-fee play, junior golf is key,” she notes. “Almost every day, you can hear a customer telling a story about growing up in junior golf at this course, and I look forward to hearing our current juniors telling those stories as adults.”