My first introduction to the USGTF was in the fall of 2009. I met a gentleman on the practice range at Sapelo Hammock Golf Course in Shellman Bluff, Georgia, where I worked part time in the pro shop. After a few exchanges on the art of the golf swing, he explained that he was a teaching professional at a country club in Vermont. His name is Alan Jeffery and he received his Master Golf Teaching Professional certification from the USGTF. Alan convinced me to consider learning more about the USGTF.
The certification course at Jones Creek Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia, was led by Mark Harman. During the five days of the course, I be-came confident that my knowledge of the Golfswing was good until Mark asked me, in the verbal final, what would I do with a student with a chicken wing. My answer will remain unpublished but a passing grade was received.
Once back at Sapelo Hammock, the owners of the club at that time gave me the go ahead to establish a golf academy. Along with one-on-one instruction, my first priority was starting a junior camp program during the summer months. The first junior camp had six kids ranging in ages from 8 to 13. Instruction was provided by me, the only instructor at the time. During the four half-days of the camp, each junior received instruction in all aspects of the game, with emphasis on the four basic fundamentals: grip, posture, alignment and ball position.
All instruction was confined to the putting green, chipping green and practice range, and clubhouse question-and-answer sessions were held during the only water break of the three-hour session. The only training aid used was an alignment rod. Each junior was given a three-ring binder which included pictures and explanations on every part of the game. My sources were Golf Magazine, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf and the USGTF’s first edition of How To Teach Golf.
At the close of camp, each junior proudly demonstrated their knowledge of the basic fundamentals and received a camp picture and a certificate.
Since that first camp, attendance has grown to between 25 and 30 kids for each camp in June and July. Additional instructors have been added, and the range of ages has expanded to 5 to 16. Juniors are divided into three groups based on age. One group will be on the putting green, while another is on the chipping green and another on the practice range. Each group changes location every45 minutes after a water break in the clubhouse, where prizes are given during question-and-answer sessions. The highlight of the camp is the last day, when everyone plays a nine-hole scramble with their parents and grandparents driving the carts. A lot has been learned these past eight years on how to run a successful camp.
In summary, the changes to the original camp of 2012 are:
- To satisfy demand, the range of ages has increased to 5-16.
- With the increase in camp sizes, we now have three groups of juniors based on age.
- Each camp now has a higher percentage of girls participating.
- Parents and grandparents are encouraged to watch.
- The kids are given two water breaks instead of one.
- Question-and-answer sessions have been expanded to include more questions from the kids rather than just from the instructors.
- Playing a scramble with parents and grandparents driving the carts. Early camps had younger kids playing with older kids. We now try to have teams divided by age and ability.
- Numerous training aids have been added, and target signs have been used at close range on the practice area (similar to the TV show “Big Break,” where they broke the glass).
- Volunteers for control and safety have been added, especially for the younger kids.
- I have become more open to new ideas. The three-ring binder has been replaced by the Bob Dimpleton book Golf 101. This cartoon version of learning how to play golf is a great hit with the younger kids. Another example is when I expressed skepticism at a suggestion to include a short-course layout using foam balls and a hula hoop for a hole. At first I considered it to be too “Mickey Mouse,” but then I remembered at 16 years of age I learned to play in my backyard with a wiffle ball and soup can for a hole. My only instruction came from Hogan’s Five Lessons book and a mirror. The short course is a big hit.
Mark and I have become good friends ever since he explained to me what a chicken wing was.
The one thing that has remained constant from the first camp and every one since is that safety, fun, and instruction, in that order, remain the priority.