By Imogen Reed, Contributing Writer, United States Golf Managers Association As a golf club manager, you will be aware of the boom in junior golf memberships, and while some children are wielding clubs at the age of three (Tiger Woods was allegedly only nine months old when his father cut a golf club down to size, allowing him to swing the ball into the net, http://www.gardenofpraise.com/ibdtiger.htm), it is probably only from age five onwards when lessons will be able to add real value (http://www.todaysgolfer.co.uk/Golf/Forums/Forums/Categories/Topic/?&topic-id=11614).   Golf provides juniors with a grounding and understanding that it is a social game with solid rules of conduct and proper etiquette. Being part of an established club, mixing with adults, and learning how to respect other people is a fundamental challenge in today’s society, where anti-social behavior and lack of discipline is prevalent. As the club manager, you are directly playing a key part in the child’s development, and there are a few areas which should be considered in providing them with the tools they need to excel in the sport.   Attire – Perhaps consider if it’s best for juniors to follow a strict dress code. If they need to be outfitted in a uniform from a leading brand name and socks which must be of a particular color, this can exclude children from less well-off families. For the long-term sustainability of membership and development of the game, consider if you can do a deal with a local supplier to provide outfits for your youth members. Similarly, with membership fees (which usually cost less for juniors), sponsorship or a financial support program will be a welcomed inclusive approach. For parents with increasing living costs and growing demands of children, this initiative could make the game of golf far more accessible to a wider junior audience.   Development – It is only through practice that a child will become better at the game. It goes without saying that lessons should be readily available, possibly at a reduced rate for the younger player.   Golf clubs are responsible for providing a variety of tournaments, lesson programs, and competitions to their members. A junior committee will provide the young members with a sense of responsibility and inclusion. It will also indicate if and how their requirements are being facilitated by the current activities offered by the club. Possible areas for consideration include local area or interstate club competitions, tournaments, and overseas tours. Affiliations with local schools and colleges will introduce new members to the club and also drive recognition in community involvement.   Considering that most juniors will be in school on a Monday to Friday basis, this leaves just evenings and weekends in which to play, so ensuring the course is reserved for certain periods during these times would be useful for the junior section. Four-ball competitions, with each couple comprising a senior and junior golfer, is a good way to provide mentor support to the juniors while also keeping the seniors feeling youthful!   Diversity – Continuing along the lines of being an inclusive club, providing individuals with a disability the opportunity to participate in the game of golf will set your club aside from the rest. Club managers should review their facilities to ensure that all individuals can have access to the sport without exception.   Golf for Autistic Children in America (www.gfaca.org) supports autistic children to develop their life and social skills in order to achieve a higher level of independence. Golf is a vehicle for facilitating their journey and provides parents with an outlet for their child to show achievement, acquire social skills, and feel an integral part of society.   Technology – The juniors will probably be more technically savvy than most, and therefore it is imperative that your club’s IT offering is up-to-date and ahead of the game. Include a junior section on the website, be up-to-date with social media, create a club blog to post latest news about the sport, perhaps develop an online swap-shop, provide discount vouchers from affiliate golfing retailers, and establish live on-line chats with local teaching professionals. With this fast emerging growth segment being the future for the sport, it is considered imperative that junior golf is encouraged, as it will provide a lucrative source of revenue for the golf club for years to come. Therefore, all golf club managers should be making sure that their golf club is truly child-friendly.
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