19th Hole

Jared Danford
Palm Valley Golf Club
Goodyear, AZ

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Is the PGA Failing Junior Golfers?

Today there are 3 million junior golfers in America. That might not seem all that bad, but when you look at the numbers of other junior sports programs you realize how low that number actually is. Youth swimming is leading the way with nearly 16.1 million juniors, next is soccer, followed by football and baseball. In past years, junior golf had more juniors playing than tennis, but now tennis has grown to 3.6 million junior tennis players. The big questions needing answered are, “Why is junior golf failing?”, “Where are all the junior golfers?” and “How do we grow junior golf?”

Where are the juniors? The simple answer is that they are playing other sports. Other sports understand and focus on juniors and realize who the future of their sports are. They understand that without a strong junior participation their sport will become an afterthought. They focus their marketing around juniors! Being in a tech savvy world, most millennials find programs for their juniors through the internet or from other technology outlets. For example, if you go to the United States Tennis Association (USTA) site you will see at least 4 topics/links on junior tennis in your area; simple to find and hard to miss. Now visit the PGA site! You may see a small blip in a corner of the screen about junior related programs like the Drive, Chip and Putt (DCP) contest. Marketing for juniors is the key to growth and the future of golf. So where is the PGA?

Why is junior golf failing? I feel the PGA doesn’t put a premium on junior golf. Although they have started to push programs like the Drive, Chip and Putt contest, which is great for those more advanced juniors who are already hooked on the game, or the First Tee program, which has helped introduce inner city kids to the game but that’s not enough. Golf has 13 million fewer juniors than swimming! That number alone should wake up the PGA. I’m not sure if the PGA feels that junior golf is not a “money maker” but after all, Walt Disney movies often top the box office because they focus on the junior audience.

There are some companies like US Kids Golf who are leading the way in the junior golf, but they seem to be doing it without much help from the PGA. USKG have junior golf tournaments and certified junior instructors. These instructors have been trained to make the game fun and competitive. Most importantly, they are completely focused on junior golf and junior golf equipment. Without companies like this, junior golf numbers might be next to junior bowling statistics.

The final and most important question being, “How do we grow the game?” It’s great that the PGA wants to push adult programs like Play it Forward, and Play Ready Golf, but the PGA needs to wake up and truly support and advance junior golf if it cares about growing the game. The PGA needs to team up with companies like US Kids Golf, The First Tee and other local programs who know junior golf and can create successful programs. In the end, if you get juniors into golf, statistics show that 60 percent of the family will join in and participate. The time has come for a new game plan, “For the future of the game, look to the future golfer, The Kids!”