There are more than 200,000 Little League teams in the United States at this time in 2012. There are more than 50,000 Little League Baseball fields that these teams and young people play on throughout the year. But how many publicly accessible, youth-dedicated short golf courses are there for young people to learn the game of golf on? Don’t know? Neither do I.
There so many fields for baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, and football, and tons of gymnasiums available for indoor sports. Yet there are very few areas dedicated for growing the game of golf amongst the youth.
One of the obvious reasons for this is that golf is too expensive. Or is it?
In Queens, NY, the Flushing Meadows Golf Center does nearly year-round business with very little upkeep. It’s publicly run and is crowded throughout the year with lights so they can stay open after the sun goes down. The idea is smart, yet this is the only place of its kind in the New York Metropolitan Area in which I reside.
If we are going to grow the game of golf, we need more people to play and we need more people to play it when they are YOUNG. When I was growing up in the Bronx, my options were to play baseball in the spring and summer and basketball in the fall and winter. I was never given the option to play golf because my family didn’t have the money to join a country club. But what if I was able to go to one of several pitch-and-putt courses with my dad or even better, be dropped off at a small six-hole course as they have at the PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla., where I could take instruction and learn the game at a facility built for a child-sized me?
Golf courses, in their current size and state, are an expensive business. Yes, people are still playing and yes, the game isn’t getting demolished. But it’s certainly not “growing” in the US, at the rate we would like. Why don’t some smart people, instead of buying up 10,000 yards of land, try to nab 350 and develop course with some 30-to-60-yard holes? They’re fun, they’re not hard to maintain and they can make money while still growing the game for people of all ages and all skill levels. Dedicate certain hours of the day for these courses to children between certain ages and boom, you’re not only growing the game but you’re also starting a successful business venture. Isn’t that what everyone wants in the golf business — financial success and to see the game develop?
The First Tee, as admirable as it is, is a catalyst to help children learn “life skills THROUGH the use of golf.” It is not “learn golf and then life skills.” If we are going to really grow the game with children, we need to provide them with facilities that are built with them in mind — think “Little League” golf courses. Why hasn’t someone thought of this? Why hasn’t it been done?
When I asked Met golf professional Ryan Ekey this question, he said:
“I have no idea. This is a very smart idea — but someone with the financial backing and love for the game would need to want to invest.”
Bingo, Ryan – you nailed it.
So, with this, a cry for help. Playing hip-hop in the background for Web.com Tour commercials isn’t going to attract young people to the game. Catering to those at all levels of the social stratosphere IS!
By Jonas Borra