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Youth on Course Works to Expand Kids' Access to Golf

Image: Youth on Course Works to Expand Kids' Access to Golf
(Youth on Course)

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Wednesday, 07 Oct 2015 10:28 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Editor's Note: In an effort to bring a diverse array of opinions and perspectives to Newsmax's A Golfer's Life, we are actively seeking contributions from industry leaders and newsmakers from the world of golf.

The following Q&A is with
Adam Heieck, the executive director of Youth on Course, a Northern California-born non-profit that is quickly expanding nationwide to provide access to golf for children and teens. Established in 2006, Youth on Course has more than 10,000 members that are afforded the benefits of rounds for $5 or less, paid internships, caddie programs, and eligibility for college scholarships. The organization is now operating in six western states with widespread industry support to continue growing across North America.

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What separates Youth on Course from other programs geared toward the next generation of golfers, like First Tee or Drive, Chip & Putt?

In a word: access. We’re trying to break the stereotype that golf is too expensive and intimidating. Other organizations do a great job of introducing kids to the game, but the next step is empowering them to reap it’s benefits. We want our members to recognize golf as more than just a game; it’s full of challenges and opportunities to be realized.

Growing the game is an essential focus for the industry right now. Do Youth on Course members go on to be lifetime golfers?

Based on what we’ve seen from the first group of kids to develop their game through Youth on Course, we definitely see that trend. We’ve had dozens of former members go on to play golf in college, or remain in the industry as instructors, caddies, or club employees. Just as important as providing access to golf is putting an emphasis on education and leadership training. If we can put someone on the path to success and have them maintain golf as a lifelong activity, we consider that a win.

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One of the key initiatives for Youth on Course is affordable golf — no member pays more than $5 at any of the partner courses. What’s the benefit for those properties?

We’ve partnered with more than 400 courses to provide that rate for all members. It’s a win-win for both parties. Young golfers can play all the golf they want without breaking the bank. For the course, the difference between $5 and their lowest junior fee is subsidized by the program — they don’t lose a dime. The course also fills their tee sheets with talented young golfers who bring their friends, parents, and mentors. These groups contribute to F&B and merchandise sales and help sustain a healthy golf course.

You’ve also experimented with mentorship programs in Northern California. Is that a scalable model?

It goes back to guiding kids toward the mental and social benefits of golf. We’ve helped courses hire 115 caddies and 52 paid interns to date. Those kids gain valuable professional experience, learn to communicate better, and keep any income they earn. For many, it’s a launching point for career development. We believe the model is scalable on a national level because of the feedback we’ve received from the courses who employ such programs.

The program is currently available to young golfers in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Idaho. Is the plan for expansion to move state-by-state eastward?

We’ve spoken to multiple industry leaders — from Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation, to Joe Beditz of the National Golf Foundation — about expansion strategies. Our goal right now is to target the metropolitan golf associations that have the staff and infrastructure to start instituting YOC programs and let it grow organically from there. We advise throughout the entire process and fund as necessary until the region gets its footing. Our goal is to be as flexible as possible to get these programs going nationwide.

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The following Q&A is with Adam Heieck, the executive director of Youth on Course, a Northern California-born non-profit that is quickly expanding nationwide to provide access to golf for children and teens.
youth on course, golf, kids, access
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2015-28-07
Wednesday, 07 Oct 2015 10:28 AM
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