YOC MICHIGAN MILESTONES: Courses Like Indian HIlls Make it Possible

Written By: Greg Johnson

Indian Hills Golf Course is a nine-hole course in the heart of Okemos that promises inexpensive golf for players of all ages and has become a shining example of Youth on Course Michigan.

Owner JC Petersen said for years he didn’t see the need for many of the services provided by the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM). Then five years ago Youth on Course Michigan, a national grow-the-game business model/initiative embraced and customized to work in Michigan by the GAM Foundation, was presented to him.

Youth golfers ages 6-18 who are YOC Michigan members pay as little as $5 per round, and in turn the participating courses receive per round subsidies from the donor-driven GAM Foundation for making the program work.

“Let’s face it, we have been here 45 years, we are what we are at the bottom of the food chain, a 2,500-yard nine-hole course and nobody who plays here is really interested in handicaps or tournaments or anything besides having a place to play,” Petersen said. “Then came Youth on Course, a program that really does what it says it will do. It helps everyone in the golf business actually grow the game. We think it’s fabulous and we will continue to support it.”

Indian Hills had almost 900 rounds played and will net $4,400 in subsidies in 2023. Petersen not only offers Youth on Course to youth but also gives back to YOC Michigan as a donor, $2,400 since 2020.

“More or less I feel the GAM puts their money where their mouth is so we need to put our money where our mouth is and give some back,” he said. “We know the program works on donations. It works for us, so it’s important to give back and keep it going.”

Indian Hills is among the GAM’s participating courses that produced the most rounds in 2023 and has played a role in some of the milestone numbers achieved by YOC Michigan this year. Those milestones include:

  • 1,100+ – The number of donors that have given to the GAM Foundation this year.
  • 9,010 – The record-setting 2023 YOC membership total.
  • 40,000+ – The number of YOC members that have joined since YOC Michigan started.
  • 120,000+ – The number of rounds played and buckets of balls hit since YOC Michigan started.
  • $737,000+ – The total number of subsidies paid to participating clubs since YOC Michigan started.

        Petersen said he has been surprised by the growth in numbers at his course using the program.

        “I think all golf courses had growth coming out of COVID, but this has continued to grow all five years we have been involved,” he said. “At first I thought we couldn’t afford to do it because we had a lot of junior play already. But this works with the subsidies and it brings more junior golfers out. It says it will grow the game and that is what is happening.”

        Laura Bavaird, GAM Foundation director, said 87 Michigan courses participated in 2023 and that Indian Hills is a gold standard among those that offer YOC Michigan rounds.

        “Indian Hills makes their availability as open as possible for youth, and then at the end of the year they are also giving back to the GAM foundation to help continue the program for the future,” she said. “They understand the importance of giving back that really makes it all possible.”

        The GAM Foundation was developed in 2016 and supports other efforts in addition to maintain a focus on Youth on Course. Others that receive funding include Golf in Schools, which provides a curriculum with SNAG golf equipment that introduces the game of golf to elementary and middle school students, PGA H.O.P.E, the GAM Foundation Education Scholarship at Ferris State University and GAM Junior Tournament Player grants. A full list of groups and initiatives that the GAM Foundation supports can be found at the GAM Foundation website page.

        Bavaird believes word of mouth is a primary driver of Youth on Course and she expects the program to continue growing in Michigan.

        “I think we might be going to the moon with it,” she said. “I expect within two or three years we could be up to 15,000 members. We had 2,100 new members in the last year and I think that pace will continue. More kids get involved and they tell their friends. It just works.”

        Bavaird said her primary challenge is keeping pace with the number of participating courses.

        “We want to make sure we are spread across the state and Michigan is a pretty big state,” she said. “We want to tackle more in the Upper Peninsula and get more on the west side of the state. We really want to help every kid, regardless of their family’s financial situation. There is equal opportunity, access and affordability, and that is the part that is so great about Youth on Course.”

        To lend your support to the GAM Foundation CLICK HERE.

        To join Youth on Course Michigan click here. CLICK HERE.

        Contact Laura Bavaird at [email protected]  or 248-417-0428.