Planting Seeds of Engagement – “Junior League Golf”

March 5, 2014 Jeff Overholt

Can you recall your first introduction to the game of golf?

Did this introduction inspire you to come back?

Chances are your mom or dad took you to a driving range to hit a bucket of golf balls. Although, this may have been a cool experience – whacking balls as hard as you can into a big field can be pretty cool – chances are you did not experience much success, and perhaps more importantly, your first experience with the game had very little to do with the game itself.

The game of golf has many elements which are very different than what you would encounter at a typical driving range experience.   This raises the question about whether we should even be creating this distinction between the place we play the game and that place where we practice the game.  There aren’t many sports or games out there where we practice in a completely detached setting from where we play:

 When we actually play the game of golf:

  1. You only play with one ball
  2. You hit a shot every 5 – 7 minutes  – It’s been estimated that about 4-5 minutes of your entire round is actually spent hitting shots.  That leaves many hours of “between shot” space.
  3. You hit shots to a very specific target (fairway or green) and are penalized if your ball wanders too far away from the target.
  4. You play with other people.
  5. Multiple different skills are tested on a given hole (Tee shot, iron play, chipping, putting ect.)

But then, when we’re on a typical range:

  1. You can hit as many shots as you like – there’s no real consequence to each shot
  2. You can hit a shot every 30 seconds – depending on how fast you are
  3. There are multiple targets with no constraints on direction (other than a fenced area which is typically about 200 yards wide)
  4. The experience is solitary  – it could be done with a friend, but often very little time to interact.
  5. Only able to train certain skills (full swing – maybe the odd pitch shot)

In any other sport, a child’s first experience is done in a “game-like” environment which properly represents the challenges / demands of the sport. In many youth games, children learn to play the sport through enrollment on a team where they experience the up and downs of the game in the company of other children (typically friends) under the supervision of an experienced coach.

We may be unique in our opinion, but we feel that the typical introduction to the game of golf (which takes place on a driving range) runs the risk of not creating a love and passion for the inherent joys of the game.

Imagine taking your child to their first soccer experience, but only bringing them to a line-up of people who are repeatedly kicking balls into a field.  Imagine if your child’s first hockey experience was simply lining up on the blue line and trying to slap pucks.  It’s actually pretty crazy that the game of golf has created this disjunction between where we practice and where we play, and it’s a pattern we don’t see in any other sports.

The driving range environment even violates almost every principle of why kids play sports, because research clearly shows that kids play games and sports because they:

  1. Are Fun
  2. Can do it with their friends
  3. Like to do things they are good at
  4. Fit in – feel like they belong
  5. Feel good

And in reality if you picture the experience of a child on a range it is rarely any of the bullets listed above.

Luckily there is a great solution to this dilemma we face when introducing our youth to the great game of golf.

For the first time in Ontario, families will now be able to enroll their child in a golf program which exposes kids to the game of golf in an age-appropriate manner – and which actually takes place in the environment which the game is played.

What is Junior League Golf?

Borrowing from other sports, the league is designed to bring a “Little League” atmosphere to the game of golf. With teams of boys and girls, age 13 and under, the league provides a structured learning environment for young golfers to compete and have fun. This program allows juniors of any skill level to be exposed to the inherent joys of the game in a collaborative and fun environment.

If you ask the children, the team jerseys and great camaraderie were some of the highlights from last season.  Parents added to this by pointing to the great spirit of competition and valuable learning opportunities for their children.  By combining team practices with friendly competition, the junior leagues offer a unique environment for young players to appreciate the joys of the game.

What is the format of the games?

Each team in the league will play 5 games with each game comprised of 4 matches. Players will compete in a two person team scramble format with the opportunity to be involved in either one, two, or three of the three hole matches in which a “flag” is played for. The 2 person scramble allows beginner players to experience success when paired with another stronger team member. As long the player can putt and chip they can contribute to the team!!

Where are the League’s taking place?

Golf Performance Coaches will be running two leagues this coming spring. One league will take place in Uxbridge at Coppinwood Golf Club, and another league will run in Markham at a location to be determined..

Is there a coach designated for each team?

Most recreational sport programs are coached by parents who have a passion for the sport and enjoy helping young people learn games. The PGA Jr. League is no different, and as such parents coach the teams with support from GPC staff. The GPC staff will be responsible for overseeing the league, provide coaching and instruction at all the practices, and will help support the parent-coaches during games.

How do I register my child or find out more information?

If you are interested in learning more about the format and other FAQ about the league please follow the links below or feel free to contact GPC Team staff.

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