Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Junior golfers, how we got players...

13th June 2012 Update; 2011 total Club Junior Golf Members - 4. 2012 (June) Club Junior Golf Members  - 23

Six months have passed since we took action and started a dedicated Junior Golf Program of sorts at the club, as is described below this is not some special super plan. The general apathy of  some members has not altered and that is not a problem. It is fair enough, most people are members to play golf, being a rural club they all work behind the bar or on the course as well. The appreciation of the huge increase in Junior Golfer numbers definitely absolves any perceived apathy.

I modestly (not a trait of mine at all) set a target of 20 junior members as being acceptable for the year, from a town of 1100 people that was a fair enough goal. The responce from parents and obviously people from 8 to 18 years that have became junior members has been great. FACT No. 1 Kids want to play Golf! FACT No. 2 All you have to do is make the effort and they will come and join your club. 

Now the big news, we have got this number before reaching the July School Holiday Junior Come and Try Golf day and tournament  that has been the annual Junior promo period for the past 3-4 years. To know that coming into this period there are 20 juniors who will be joining in plus their friends is a huge result! Thats right kids love playing sport with their mates and the gender break up is approx 80% male 20% female juniors.

Does the work load stop? No, it is time for the match committee now that they have to get out of the comfort zone of having done the usual golf program and organising for the season.

The one hour Sunday morning clinics that have continued since school returned after January were designed to getting the Juniors out on the course playing golf. How simple it was to get the juniors doing chipping and putting then hitting the drivers to start way back in the begining. Then talking about playing golf and the rules while on the practice areas, not lectures but conversations while the juniors were hitting balls. The support of Golf SE with supplying the My Golf Junior kits and outside coaching were all vital to the success at the minute. If anything is as valuable as the involvement of the club members in running  the clinics, the need for qualified coaching is a must. If a club gets a regular junior program up and running they must include an organised professional coaching component.

Importantly this has all happened before the July school Holidays Come and Try Golf day and Robe Junior tournament that has been the annual junior promotion held at the club in the past 4 years. This year we have a large number of kids at the local school who are already playing golf to build upon with the letter that has just gone out to promote the coming Junior event. I would really like to be able to post a report in November that has 30 to 40 Junior Golfers at the club. At the minute we are still taking it slowly as it also requires some changes to how the club usually operates. Next up is for the club match committee to establish a regular Junior competition which has been discussed already among members and I envisage can be seriously looked at after the July events.

19/12/11 We have started a series of FREE 1 hour Junior Golf Clinics on the Sundays of School Holidays in January.

This is an evolution of 3 years of unrelated Junior Golf events at the club in that there was no set plan. The beginning was a “come and try golf day” each year on a long weekend also the running of a Junior Golf Tournament in a season. Each of these had varying success in getting kids playing. Come and Try Golf first was a winner every time with 12-20 kids having a hit.

The Tournaments were harder as they clash with other regional and state events and being country based that makes it difficult by location alone. That said in 2011 two juniors came from the SA Riverland to the Limestone coast to play. A long trip to play golf but country golfers are used to that.

This was done purely as a must do activity initiated by the club captain, what it did was give the club a base to develop more from. Next came the regional Golf SE school coaching clinics which another golfer has volunteered to do after getting involved at his home club and seeing the number of juniors who do want to play golf coming out on the course. Hence we have the Primary School students doing golf activities at the school and then have a class trip to the course to do the same activities on a golf course plus play a few modified holes.

Hence at our club which has 2-4 junior golfers who occaisionally have a hit with parents, and play a few rounds of club golf and no junior golf competition at the club we were aware that there was an interest in golf among the juniors in the town and region. The next step was for another club member to see this interest and see the “market” which was there and develop an action plan. Then put the information to another member (Club Captain) who then contacted the regional golf assoc. who supplied a junior golfing kit. Then two members who are parents volunteered to help out and a letter was sent to the local school to be sent to parents before the end of year and on Sunday we have 10 kids turn up for an hour on a Sunday morning to hit golf balls for fun. Following the easy golf exercises supplied with the kit, starting inside with putting and the rubber balls. Then outside with the 7 irons, the kids had fun several were very good at basic golf skills in fact.

The result is that by the end of January when school returns from 1 hour on Sundays I expect the club to have a core of 10 (at least) junior golfers who we can organise a comp for when before there was nothing. It was from a combination of Golf Assoc. support, club committee support and members doing things that they are good at, besides playing golf that is. IE Organisation, Networking, Coaching, Marketing, Promotion.

It did not happen overnight, it was three years in the making from a disparate group of individuals who all “Did Stuff” off their own back in club activity. The key word is “activity” it is a task that for volunteers relies upon good spirit and generosity as well as Association support. Volunteers are not employees, they do not have to do anything unless they want too. There is a “market” for want of a better word, out there for junior golf. All of the statistics, analysis, data correlation is good reading and valuable knowledge. Like all information it does nothing except feed minds and sit there being available. For clubs it has nothing to do with a money focus, that is for businesses. By encouraging the Junior Golf activity the flow on of new golfers, new members all can benefit the club professional and the general club environment. Importantly it has given the club a future. We want to develop and encourage golf, that is in our club constitution.

Any club can start to do it as well. All you have to do is stand up and say “I will do this…”

UPDATE on the school holiday Junior Golf ‘Clinics’.
At the first junior clinic on the Sunday before Xmas we had a turn up of 10 children from 7 to 12 years old. A quick breakdown of how we are running this follows, School Holidays free 1 hour ‘try golf clinics’ 9.30 to 10.30 am Sunday for local residents children. Using the Golf Kit supplied by Golf Aust. with the coaching handbook of activities.
Then a two weekend break before the next one yesterday, (Xmas day and New year day) Another turn up of 8 children and apologies from parents who are away on holidays and will have the kids back next week. We now have 13 plus children involved in Junior golf and 8 have joined as members. It is actually the tip of the iceberg as there are more interested. Run by volunteers it is a fine line between enjoying doing the development and it becoming a chore. Hence our club goal was always to get a group interested to begin with and fortunately it is not too large simply because we are not actively chasing more. That can wait until school starts again and we as a club have worked out a program.
Nothing special is being done in the clinics, 7 iron and putters in the kit with the various items give plenty of activity flexibility. It rained on Sunday so a quick setting up of the ‘kit rings’ and a 8 hole putt putt course was created inside the clubhouse, using the rubber balls in the kit. Which once a few rounds were played chairs were added as obstacles and this fun of doing the same thing was maintained. All the while we circulated among the kids putting helping with the swig etc.
At the same time the club professional is running separate coaching clinics for children. Lol probably correcting all of the errors we are teaching the kids. Most of the kids in the one hour clinics are getting proper coaching which is a benefit for what we are doing, simply providing a type of game activity. Hence next weekend it is time to play on the course for the juniors tee off at the 150m marker and play two or three holes. The whole point is to let them have fun enjoy having a hit and the use of loosely formed ‘games’ has established an interest in playing golf. By pure chance we have chosen not to keep scores or establish anything of that ilk. To bloody hard to have to count at that hour on a Sunday, hence no competitive base has evolved except the one each kid has to improve themselves against the last hit they had.
Tonight at our monthly committee meeting this will be reported on. The match committeee will be organising a meeting to arrange a Junior Competition in the coming season. It is going to be modified version of golf at this stage. We have no interest in encouraging the juniors to play full competition at the minute.This will evolve and when they ask to play the standard length course we will do that. Sticking to the “Have fun hitting the balls” approach with a basic form of game education is working.
As well as adding junior members to a club that had two previously both in their late teens. We are now going to involve a new input of parents to the club who appreciate a game that is relatively injury free to play, does not require travelling 100km to play each second week like local footy. The kids can go play at the club any time during the week outside walking and enjoying themselves with or without the parents coming along.

Robe Golf Club

Thankyou for your time and attention, Geoff

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