What can a golf course do to fill tee times with golfers who leave the course in need of only routine grooming instead of extensive repairs? In Winter Haven, Fla., the Lake Bess Golf Course started the Junior Program to educate multiple generations on how to care for a golf course.
The program allows kids 16 and under to play for free during the summer with a paying adult, says Jeff Vose, President of the golf course. Once the junior golfers and their supervising adults review the golf course rules and sign a form agreeing they will abide by them, they are given a green card that allows the pair access to the course whenever they want during the summer.
“Not only does the course get more use in the slow, summer months, but it is in much better shape … because the golfers have taken better care of the course,” Vose explains.
Since public courses have to accommodate players who may only play the game once or twice a year, they may not be aware of what is and is not acceptable activity. Vose says this is where the children’s golf clinic is especially helpful--it provides a fresh perspective to other golfers of updated etiquette.
And that's not the only benefit. Voss says the supervising, paying adults inevitably are brought back by the kids more often.
Perfecting A Skillful Swing
Meanwhile, another facet of the program assists junior golfers in improving their skills. The golf pro offers classes on improving swing, distance and angle. Guides are used to demonstrate how the ball needs to stay straight to remain on target; additional lessons show children how to use their own body mechanics to find the best position for the farthest swing or how to turn a horrible slice into a beautiful chip. Vose says the experience teaches patience and listening skills that will come in handy in other aspects of learning.
What happens when school resumes and the junior golfers are busy with other things?
“We have managed to keep the Junior Program going. A local golf pro, Greg Coffin of Peak Performance Golf Junior Academy, heard about our summer program and approached us about running Junior Clinics on Saturdays,” Vose explains. “Kids learn course management, golfing skills, etiquette and the rules. The first clinic is free and if the kids opt into the paying classes; they are issued a blue-colored card and can play free any time during the year when they are with a paying, supervising adult.”
And since the “snowbirds” usually play earlier in the day, how has the Junior Program been working for filling the available tee times?
“Better call ahead if you want to play,” Vose says. We're pretty busy.”