The Michigan Golf Course Alliance has endorsed Youth on Course, a national program that is new to Michigan this year and allows young golfers to play for $5 or less.
“Youth on Course fits with what golf needs right now,” says Carey Mitchelson, President of the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation and General Manager of College Fields. “We need to get youth out there. And the kids that do come out and play learn that they like golf. You just have to let them come out and experience it a little bit.”
Youth on Course started in Northern California and is meant to be a “next step” to programs like The First Tee and TGA of Southeast Michigan where youngsters are introduced to the game of golf. Many kids find the truly love the game but have financial challenges when it comes to actually getting out onto the links and playing. Registration for Youth on Course costs just $5 and kids pay $5 or less to play at participating courses around the state. Golf courses are reimbursed by Youth on Course for the difference between that $5 the golfer pays and the typical cost of the junior rate.
“Golf can be a challenging game so I think that the earlier that you start it, the more natural the game becomes,” says Tom Schwark, President of Sycamore Hills Golf Club and Michigan Golf Course Owners Association Board Member. “Youth on Course introduces the child to the game of golf and for us that is huge. You are getting a child outside, getting them out of the house so they are getting exercise and fresh air. Plus it is in a beautiful environment and it is a fun game! Those are all positive aspects.”
Adam Ikamas, Executive Director of the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association, says that if he had not had access to golf when he was growing up, he never would have considered a career as a superintendent.
“If my dad had not taken me out to the golf course so much as a kid, I don’t know what I would be doing now,” says Ikamas. “I am happy he did that and I think Youth on Course offers an opportunity for kids that isn’t there now. Golf is a great way to connect as a family in my opinion. It is a great way to spend time outdoors and support your local community as well.”
MGCOA Executive Director Kate Moore likes what Youth on Course does for the golf industry as well as Michigan families. Golf is something in which the whole family can participate which is not always true of other sports.
“So many times mom and dad are sitting on the sideline watching and this is an opportunity for those parents and grandparents to participate with the kids,” says Moore. “It is truly a family event.”
Kevin Helm, Executive Director of the Michigan PGA agrees: “You introduce kids to the game but you want them to have the chance to go out and play and develop an excitement for golf. With Youth on Course, it is such an available resource for them and for parents to be able to take their kids out on the course and continue playing.”
In addition to golf skills, Youth on Course can help young people develop social skills, integrity, and life skills. For parents, those life lessons can be even more important than learning how to get out of a bunker.
“Get your kids involved because all of the things that come back to you as a parent are going to be positive,” says Moore. “Your kids are going to learn social skills, they will be learning relationship skills; it isn’t just about playing golf. Golf is the great equator. It is a great way to get kids to relate with both adults and their peers. It is all a win-win!”