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“All I learned at summer golf camp when I was a kid was a proper grip and how to stay out of the way of the grownups.” – Chambers President & CEO Rick Snellinger
We’ve made our clubs kid-friendly. In some ways, kid-centric, even, with elaborate swimming complexes, dedicated programming and more versatile menus. But are we fully engaging our youngest members in what, for many clubs, is our most valuable and impressive asset…our golf course?
No longer are children merely tolerated, placated in private clubs — they’re recognized as not only the key to “grownup” members’ satisfaction with their club experience, but also as members in their own right. And, not incidentally, ones that will grow up to hopefully become members of their own.
Today, many clubs are taking a broader view of the golf experience for children and youth.
Greenville Country Club in South Carolina takes junior golf pretty seriously. Two years ago, General Manager Greg Hobbs brought in a full-time junior golf coordinator, intent on reaching his younger members and “planting the golf seed earlier.”
“Junior golf programming shifted from being a seasonal sport to an all year-round offering,” says Hobbs. “And participation jumped five-fold,” he says. The move was a strategic one for Greenville, as the club recognized that a significant portion of its membership wasn’t taking advantage of the club’s award-winning golf courses.
It has also been a very successful recruiting tool for the club, enticing members with a more robust program for children and enabling golfers to share their love of the game with their kids. Greenville has added age-appropriate putting and chipping complexes in recent years, and a junior clubhouse to further heighten the experience.
A teen traveling team and interclub tournaments have added to the excitement at Greenville, and helped fuel dramatic growth in participation.
Joe Plecker, Director of Instruction at Baltimore Country Club credits educational offerings for increasing its appeal to a variety of different “member pockets.” His overriding philosophy when it comes to golf: “If you really want to get them, get ‘em early and get ‘em lessons.” His golf academy creates what he considers “lifelong golfers,” teaching the entire golf experience, including golf etiquette, club traditions, protocols and scoring. “Being a golfer goes way beyond the mechanics of the game,” says Plecker.
And the club experience clearly now embodies much more than simply teaching kids to “stay out of the way!”
Update 12/2016: This article was originally published in November 2012. The Club’s current Director of Instruction is Pat Coyner.