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Eight shots that deserve a mulligan

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Let’s start by clarifying that we are not here to debate the use of mulligans. This article, much like science fiction movies that force you to accept certain realities as part of the plot (don’t get me started on any movie about guys going up in space to stop asteroids), is based around the notion that mulligans do exist and are used by many around the globe. Got that?

I’m not here to argue for or against the use of mulligans. On that topic, I will be standing over there in the corner, with my fingers in ear humming loud noises and pretending I don’t see anything. So let’s accept the premise that mulligans exist, shall we? What shots deserve them the most? What shots make you want to walk up, grab the ball and put it right back down where it was before you ruined your round and four hours of your day?

There really is nothing worse then coasting along around par and then making an octal bogey because you, well you….you probably did one of the below things. Should you really shoot an 80 instead of a 76 because of one swing? Oh crap, don’t answer that, we are not here to discuss that. We are here to discuss why you ended up with that 80. And here are some guesses:

1) The OB first drive

A classic staple of any terrible round. You get to the course early, you sink every putt on the practice green, you hit pure shot after pure shot on the range. It’s 8:15am and the sun is up, not a cloud in the sky, not super windy — going to be a great day. Maybe you make a little small talk on the first tee, “Hey Jim, what did you get up to last night?” followed by a few obviously predictable quips about your married friend being forced to do something by his wife, your single friend having a few too many and your workaholic friend already answering texts and emails on his Blackberry. Life is good. Oh it’s your turn to tee off now, no problem. Just stick that tee in and take a couple of practice swings from good measure. Start your nice smooth backswing and smack! Oh crap. It started a little left but might be OK, might be OK….oh god, please let it be OK. Aaaaaand, it’s not OK. Here’s some advice: just put the 80 on the card and save yourself four hours.

2) The 2-foot lip out early in the round

On the surface, it’s just one shot. But we all know that’s not true right? Usually the dreaded 2-foot lip out is either for birdie or par on one of the first three holes. Still, at that time you’re still optimistic. Maybe you  started par-bogey and then hit it tight on the third hole — let’s say it’s a par 3. Walking up to the ball you’re thinking,

“No problem. Tap this in and get back to even and I’m golden. I’ve got the rest of the round ahead of me.”

You probably take for granted that you are going to make it. Maybe don’t give it a full read, I mean, it’s just a tap in right? You are not going to miss this. You might even say, “Guys do you mind if I just tap this one in to get out of your way?” As soon as the ball leaves the putter face you know something is wrong. It starts too far right. You want to reach out and stop it but you know you can’t. You sheepishly look at your playing partners who give you the “Hey that’s golf” look. In the end, it’s just one shot. Yeah right. What are the odds of you making par on the next hole? The smart money is not on yes.

 3) The disastrous second — going for a par 5 in two

This shot has been frustrating golfers for years. The par 5 is the hole golfers of all skills and abilities have visions of making birdie on. It’s usually the first hole you birdie when you take up golf, and it’s the hole that stabilizes your round as you get better, either by getting you back into your round, or just ending a ride on the bogey train. Golfers of all abilities step up to the tee on par 5’s expecting good things. And that feeling only gets stronger and stronger after you knock one down the fairway and begin your walk to the ball with visions of making a 4, or god willing, a 3. But then something happens, the group on the green seems to be taking way too long.

Why are they lining up that putt from a foot? Why doesn’t he just pick it up? How many guys are still in this hole?

It seems like they’ve been on that green for 10 minutes now. Putting the ball and marking, putting and marking — they look like they’re passing a hockey puck around up there. FINALLY, the green clears and it’s go time. Except you rush it a bit don’t you? Your adrenaline was flowing, and the pressure of hitting a good shot built up when your group was forced to wait. There were trees on the right but no big deal, only a snap hook could…Oh boy, that swing felt a little quick.

4) The stubbed chip

I like to think of the stubbed chip as a subtle killer, because you never really expect it to happen, at least not once you’ve gotten to be a better player. Let’s say you miss the green on an approach, so you walk up to the ball still expecting to have at least a semi-makeable putt for par. Worst case scenario, you’re walking off with bogey and that’s no big deal, because people make bogeys all the time, even on easier holes — they’re certainly not round killers. That changes with the stubbed chip.

It’s an instantaneous feeling too — you feel the blade dig a bit too much and you know you’re in trouble. Even worse is if you’re chipping over a bunker and you stub it enough to leave it in the sand. Suddenly, your positive thinking about making par is suddenly a desperate grind to avoid making double bogey. And you tend to usually make that double bogey, don’t you? The second chip after the stubbed one is always good but not great. How can it be great? In your head you’re just hoping not to stub it again. So you knock it to 4.5 feet and then miss the putt. Golf is a stupid game.

5) The bladed bunker shot

The bladed bunker shot is worse then its cousin, the leave-it-in-the-bunker shot. If you leave it in the bunker you are usually no worse off except for the fact that you are in fact, one shot worse off. And usually your next lie is on an upslope, plus your frustration with your first bunker shot actually helps you with your next one. I can’t even count how many times I’ve left it in the bunker and then put my next shot to tap in range. When you are mad you tend to follow through better and finish your swing, which is exactly what you need to do to escape the sand. The bladed bunker shot is far worse though, because you usually end up in a terrible spot. Usually you’re waaaaay over the green in some serious cabbage — you generally aren’t going to get up and down.

The bladed bunker shot is almost an instant double bogey. That’s probably why guys leave shots in bunker more then they blade them out, because they are scared of this shot. Heck just knowing it can happen is scary. If you are in a bunker with OB on the other side of the green, you half consider swallowing that cyanide pill you keep in your pocket from your day job of being a spy. Oops, sorry that is my fantasy day job. But you get the idea.

6) The botched escape shot

This shot is always preceded by the following thought process:

“Hmmm, that opening in the trees looks mighty narrow. Probably should just punch out. But wait, it’s a Saturday round with my buddies, why would I punch out? Imagine if I hit that shot? We can talk about it after the round over beers, the great escape shot I hit on No. 8. Plus my lie isn’t too bad, so I bet i can do it. I’m sure I can do it. And who cares this round means nothing. I’m totally going for this.”

Let me put this pretty simply for you — yes that opening is narrow, and yes your ball is going to hit that tree and ricochet to an even worse spot where you will then make the smart decision you should have made to just punch out. Way to go man, you just turned probable bogey with a chance at par to an almost certain double with a chance for worse. The phrase “take your medicine” exists for a reason, and it’s not just so you literally take your medicine (which by the way you should also probably do). Next time just hit it back onto the fairway, OK Phil?

7) The uncommitted tee shot

You know the feeling, it’s a 360-yard par 4 and you could easily hit either 3 wood or driver. Which one do you go with?

You haven’t been hitting your driver straight today, eh big guy? Maybe it’s time to pull out the 3 wood and just pipe one down the fairway? You’ll still have a pitching wedge or 9 iron into the green. But you like hitting driver, of course, and if you hit driver you leave yourself a wedge in. Birdie time baby. No one plays this game to make pars. Pars are boring, plus you’re 2-over, so a birdie here gets you back close to par. Maybe you’ll shoot a great round. Reach for that driver, yup, we’re going with driver. Pull it out and take a couple of practice swings, just knock one down the fairway and stick it close. There isn’t even a lot of trouble on this hole so it’s all good. OK nice and easy backswing, wait a minute you don’t want to swing too hard here it’s still a short hole, just want to cozy it down there. Wait, should I be using 3 wood? Crap, I’m starting my downswing now, just steer it and …..arggggghhhh. You don’t finish your swing and your tee shot just hit someone doing garden work across the street. Aren’t 360-yard par 4’s supposed to be easy? Nice six my friend.

8) The hosel “fade”

Yes we know the shot I’m talking about. There are many words for it that cannot be repeated here, lest they be caught like a virus. It’s the most dreaded shot in golf. The one that imparts not just score damage, but psychological damage as well. I’m reminded of the match play tournament where Hunter Mahan hit a real beauty onto a peripheral fairway, looked somewhat sheepish, and then went over to that fairway and stuck a wedge close and walked off with par.

You know what though, you are not Hunter Mahan (unless you are literally Hunter Mahan and are reading this. If you are, hey, what’s up Hunter? Nice win at that tournament by the way, big fan and you know, thanks for taking the time to read this far). But where was I? Ah yes, you are probably not Hunter Mahan. So what are you going to do after the hosel fade? You are going to address the next shot so far out and close to the toe that you are either going to miss the ball completely, or hit a flat out terrible shot. You probably aren’t going to follow through either because you are so anxious to see if you hosel-rocketed it again. Basically, this shot is a disaster that torpedoes your round and stays in your head longer then the image of Henrik Stenson stripping down to his boxers to play a shot out of the water (wait, why exactly is that still in my head?). This shot requires not just an actual mulligan, but a mental one aswell. This shot requires the full out Ben-Affleck-in-Paycheck memory erasing treatment, which is also required for anyone who’s seen the movie “Paycheck”.

So, I’m not saying it’s OK to use mulligans. That’s for another story. But if you’ve hit any of the eight shots above, i just want to tell you, I understand. We all understand.

Click here for discussion in the “Golf Talk” forum. 

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Jeff Singer was born and still resides in Montreal, Canada. Though it is a passion for him today, he wasn't a golfer until fairly recently in life. In his younger years Jeff played collegiate basketball and football and grew up hoping to play the latter professionally. Upon joining the workforce, Jeff picked up golf and currently plays at a private course in the Montreal area while working in marketing. He has been a member of GolfWRX since 2008

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. mike

    Jan 15, 2013 at 2:37 am

    awesome read. i was rolling the whole way. the hunter mahan thing killed me.
    golfwrx has a great writer on there hands. Jeff, you have a great talent and sense of humor. great job.

  2. mike skinner

    Dec 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    This is great!! We have all been in these spots once or a thousand times. We should just take the John Daly approach, when things go wrong just drink them away

  3. Dan

    Dec 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Fantastic. Are 8 mulligans too many?

  4. Mike

    Dec 12, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Nice job!! I was laughing the whole way threw at some of the refrences :] especially the one about phil haha loved the dreded hozel rocket.

  5. Dave

    Dec 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Great article!

    However, I must say… no mulligan is going to save a round from the dreaded hosel fade. You’ll just do the same thing twice in a row… after which you’re better off just quitting golf for a few months.

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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Opinion & Analysis

Oh, To Be An (Oregon) Duck

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A few weeks ago I flew into Eugene, Oregon on a mission. I’d come to work with one my students who is a member of the Duck’s varsity golf team. I had never been further south than Seattle or further north than Monterey, so this part of the world was new to me.

What I did know was that the Bandon Dunes area had become a destination for some of the greatest golf in the world, rivaling other famed resorts around the country. The resort is just outside the quaint town of Bandon, which is a good two-hour drive from Eugene. The resort’s four courses — Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes, and Old McDonald — each have their own personality, but at the same time they have one thing in common: the four architects that designed them took full advantage of the natural topography, deftly weaving holes in and out along the Oregon coastline.

I was looking forward to playing two of the courses before leaving: Pacific Dunes and Old McDonald. You may find this hard to believe, but those two rounds would be my first and second of the year after a busy summer season on the lesson tee. And for that very reason, I had no expectations other than to make a few pars and enjoy the scenery.

After retrieving my luggage from the turnstile, I made my way toward the exit with luggage in tow. My rental car was just across the street in an open-air lot and as I pushed through the airport doors, I was greeted by a gust of wind and a spray of rain. “Welcome to Eugene,” I thought to myself.

The sudden burst reminded me of playing in Scotland, where the rain gives way to sun only on occasion. I surmised that the weather in the Eugene would be similar. “Don’t forget your rain suit,” a fellow professional reminded me when I told him about my trip. As it turned out, that was good advice. He had been there before around the same time of year. “You’ll be lucky if you get one good day out of three,” he said.

As I drove through the area to my hotel, what struck me the most were the large hills that commanded the landscape and the thick white clouds that seemed to cling to them like giant cotton balls.  I found a comfortable hotel just outside Eugene in the small but quaint town of Cottage Grove. In charitable terms, you could characterize my hotel as “a tribute to the past.”

I woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning, dressed and made my way downstairs to the lobby. The rain had continued through the night and as I prepared to leave the hotel,  it started to come down even harder. I stood in the lobby, waiting, while listening to the rain drops pounding on the roof,  a steady beat at first, then rising and falling like a conga drum.

I’d agreed to meet my student at 10 a.m. for a practice session and then he was slated to play nine holes with the team later in the afternoon. Based on the weather, I was concerned that the day might be a total rain-out. What I didn’t know at the time was that the school has a portable canopy that allowed the team, rain or shine, to practice on natural grass. I ran to my car ducking rain drops. The forecast called for a chance of sun in the afternoon. And this time the weather man was  right.

That afternoon I was invited to watch my student and the rest of Casey Martin’s boys play a quick nine holes at Eugene Country Club, the team’s home course. The layout is one of the most unusual that I’ve ever seen with giant trees bordering every fairway. The tips seemed to stretch up and up into the sky, piecing the low-hanging clouds above, as if they were marshmallows on a stick.

The Ducks have fielded a strong team the past two years, winning the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2016 and then finishing second this year. A good deal of credit for that accomplishment goes to Casey Martin, who has coached the Ducks since 2006. For those who are too young to remember, Casey Martian was a teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford University. He later competed on the Nike Tour. Casey earned his PGA Tour card in 1999 by finishing 14th on the Nike Tour, but his earnings through the 2000 season were not enough for him to retain his card, relegating him to once again to playing on the development tour. He played sporadically up through 2006. The following year, Casey assumed the job of Head Coach, which brought him back to his native Eugene.

In earlier years, Martin’s play career as a professional was hindered by the fact that he could not play 18 holes without a golf cart due to a birth defect in his right leg. The PGA Tour Board ruled against his use of a cart, maintaining that the physical act of walking was considered an integral part of the competition. Believing that he was in the right, Casey filed a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. His case made its way to the Supreme Court where he won. As for his competitive record, by his own admonition, he is disappointed that he didn’t play better as a professional. A primary focus of his coaching then, as he conceded, is to teach his players not to make the same mistakes he did in his own career. What struck me as unique was the passion and intensity with which he coached. I would venture that it’s the same level of intensity that he brought to the golf course when he competed.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a closed-door, defensive-team practice at Duke University with Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) on the floor. He had divided the team into two groups with one at either end of the court competing against each other. His legs straddled the center line as if he were Colossus with his head swiveling back and forth as if on a stick. The impression was that he saw everything and be never missed anything. And then when he saw a player make a mistake, he would blow his whistle sharply. The players would immediately stop moving as if they were frozen in place. And then, in peg-leg style, he would hobble across the floor favoring one leg over the other. He was clearly in need of a hip replacement at the time.

I’ve had both of my hips replaced, so I could easily imagine the pain that he was experiencing as he peg-legged it from the center of the court to either end. I suspected that he had decided that surgery would have to wait. The season was just a few weeks away, and given that his team was largely composed of freshman, he could not afford to miss a day. Casey Martin doesn’t blow a whistle, nor does he run a defense practice, but as he climbs out of his cart, deftly working his way to a vantage point where he can see his players from every angle, I’m reminded of the halting walk of Coach K.

There is something else that these two man share in common — an intense desire to win. They settle for nothing less than great. And when you look into their eyes, you can see that there is an intensity that burns from within that is vastly different from the man on the street.

As you might remember, I was scheduled to play a round on Pacific Dunes and another on Old McDonald. The two courses are both spectacular layouts with ocean views. And the weather… I drew two perfect days, defying the odds my friend had laid down. It was sunny and 65 degrees with just a hint of wind. How did I play? Let’s just say that I made a few pars. What I found was that striking the ball well is no guarantee that you will score low on these courses. The green complexes are diabolical. The best advice I can give you is to throw you scorecard away. You’ll enjoy yourself more.

The next morning, I was on an early morning flight back to Minneapolis only to discover that we were experiencing Indian Summer with temperatures 20 degrees warmer than usual. But as Minnesotans, we all know what is waiting for us just around the corner.

I’ll leave you with this thought. After watching Casey Martin and the players on his team play and practice, I’m sure of one thing. And that’s when next year’s NCAA Championship comes around, Casey Martin will have all of his Ducks in a row.

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The Kids Are Alright: Spike in Junior Golf Participation a Good Sign for Game’s Future

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This week, eight 10-player All-Star teams representing regions from across the country will converge upon Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., to compete in the 6th PGA Junior League Championship.

The teams – New Hampshire (Northeast), California (West), Georgia (Southeast), Ohio (Mideast), Illinois (Midwest), New Jersey (Mid-Atlantic), Arkansas (Mississippi Valley), and Texas (Southwest) – will be divided into two divisions where they will face off in round-robin, 9-hole matches using a two-person, scramble format of play. Teams are captained by PGA/LPGA Professionals.

Since the PGA of America launched PGA Junior League in 2012, participation has skyrocketed from about 1,800 players the first year to a record-setting 42,000 boys and girls age 13 and under participating on 3,400 teams across the country this year.

“Junior golf is a key priority of the PGA of America and we recognize that increasing youth participation in the game is essential to the future of our industry and sport,” said Suzy Whaley, PGA of America Vice President and PGA Director of Instruction at Suzy Whaley Golf in Connecticut.

“PGA Jr. League is a fun and welcoming opportunity for boys and girls of all backgrounds and skill levels to learn, play, and love golf under the expert instruction and guidance of PGA and LPGA Professionals. It’s team-oriented and kids wear numbered jerseys. It’s transforming traditional junior golf and the numbers prove it.”

Whaley believes the team concept and scramble format are major factors in PGA Jr. League’s rapid growth over the last five years. In fact, she says, the program is re-shaping the golf industry’s view of the way junior golf is typically learned and played.

“Other youth sports have been utilizing the team format for years and it’s a natural fit for golf,” said Whaley, who has taken three teams to the Jr. League Championships. “The scramble format provides for a low-pressure environment. We’ve created a team atmosphere that has broad appeal. Parents and kids enjoy being a part of the community that PGA/LPGA Professional Captains create. In this team setting, older, more experienced players mentor the younger, beginner golfers. There’s no pressure on any one player, and it’s great to see kids pull for one another versus the individual focus generally associated with golf.”

“It is a program that creates a family-centered atmosphere that encourages mom, dad, brothers, sisters, and grandparents to become involved, as well. During PGA Jr. League matches, the parents are part of the match keeping score, posting photos on social media and encouraging all players. PGA Jr. League grows lifetime interest in the game across multiple generations.”

Matthew Doyle of the Connecticut team gathers for a photo with team captain, Suzy Whaley during session three for the 2016 PGA jr. League Golf Championship presented by National Rental Car held at Grayhawk Golf Club on November 20, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Traci Edwards/PGA of America)

Fourteen-year-old Cullen Laberge from Farmington, Conn., is a student in the Suzy Whaley Golf program and has competed at the PGA Jr. League Championships for Team Connecticut. Laberge has been playing for four years and says his Jr. League experience really sparked his interest in the game and his desire to become a better player and ultimately a golf teacher one day.

“It has taught me so much about golf, while keeping it fun and interesting,” Laberge said. “The thing I enjoy the most is playing competitive golf without the stress that tournament golf can sometimes bring. No matter age or skill level, Jr. League keeps it fun and no matter how a player is playing there is another player to pick them up. That national championship was the best experience of my life. It was like I was playing on the PGA Tour. I loved the amazing competition; those players were good.”

And it’s not just golf’s executives and Jr. League participants who have taken notice of the program’s growth and the ultimate importance that growth represents for the future of the game. PGA and LPGA professionals including Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie have all joined as ambassadors for the program.

“I want to do everything I can to be a positive influence on kids who are interested in the game and serving as an ambassador for PGA Jr. League is a great fit,” said Wie. “There are so many lessons that kids can learn and that adults can reinforce through the game of golf – good sportsmanship, honesty, integrity, work ethic. Golf can help you learn how to react when things don’t go your way which I think is a really important skill to have in life.”

“Golf can definitely mirror life. You can work incredibly hard and still fall short, but how do you bounce back? How do you overcome a mistake or a bad break and still succeed? It’s important for kids to grow up with a good work ethic and the right attitude to face challenges. Golf is a great game to teach those lessons.”

Copyright Picture : Mark Pain / IMG (www.markpain.com)

Wie says the more inclusive and welcoming the golf community in general can be, the better.

“Especially as a young female, I have experienced plenty of times where I did not feel welcome or felt like I had to prove myself more than the guys did,” Wie said. “Golf is a game that should be available to everyone and I think it’s important to make it accessible to kids whether they are a future tour pro or a future 20-handicapper.”

The folks over at the USGA know a thing or two about growing the game and making it more accessible and they should, they’ve been doing it since the association’s founding in 1894.

The inaugural three USGA championships – the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1895 – did not have age limits, each simply aiming to identify the champion golfer. In 1948, the USGA held the first United States Junior Amateur solely open to players under the age of 18 and just one year later the association conducted the first United States Girls’ Junior Championship.

In addition to helping fund The First Tee, LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championships, the USGA recently introduced its “For the Good of the Game” grant program to promote a more welcoming and accessible game at the local level with millions of dollars offered to local communities to build programs.

“The greatest misperception is accessibility,” says Beth Major, Director of Community Outreach at the USGA. “Two-thirds of all golf courses in America are open to the public. Kids and parents still believe it is a country club sport and we need to change that.”

Founded in 2013 as a joint initiative between the USGA, the Masters Tournament, and the PGA of America, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior golf competition for boys and girls ages 7-15 aimed at growing the game. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted the Sunday before The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Drive, Chip and Putt qualifying is offered in all 50 states and participation in the event has increased each year.

“We have a great partnership with our friends at the PGA of America and the Masters Tournament,” Major said. “Our leaders realized that by pooling our resources at the national level while activating at the local level, we could quickly scale the program and get more kids involved.”

“Going into our sixth year, it is amazing to see how far the program has grown and the entry point we’ve created together to keep our youth engaged. We look forward to continuing to evolve the program to welcome more youth to the sport.”

The USGA, in partnership with the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, and the PGA TOUR, founded The First Tee in 1997 specifically to answer the call for diversity and inclusion. The program has welcomed millions of new players to the game in the past 20 years by focusing not only on teaching golf skills but life and social skills such as etiquette, honesty, respect, confidence and responsibility.

Founded in 1989, the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program is aimed at girls ages 6-17 and has played a critical role in not only welcoming girls and women to the game, but perhaps equally importantly keeping them in the game.

“Statistics continually show us that the social aspects of the game drive girls and women to play golf,” Major said. “That sense of camaraderie and building friends greatly outweighs their need to compete at the entry level. LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, quite simply, has made it fun and cool for girls to play – and play together. And the results are astounding. We have traced more than 100 girls who started in an LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program that played in a USGA championship last year. They have not only introduced the game to girls and young women, they kept them in the game, and that is very exciting and inspiring.”

One company is tackling growth of the game from another angle – the equipment side.

Since its very beginning back in 1997, U.S. Kids Golf has been focused on its mission, “To help kids have fun learning the lifelong game of golf and to encourage family interaction that builds lasting memories.

To that end, the company began developing youth clubs starting out with just three sizes and one product line initially.

“Over time, through watching youth golfers, we came to realize that we were not serving them as well as we would like,” said Dan Van Horn, U.S. Kids Golf founder. “Looking at how the best players in the world – LPGA and PGA Tour – are fit for clubs, we discovered the proportion of their drive length to height was from 60-70 percent. From that we created what we term the ‘2/3 solution.’ Simply put, for every 3 inches a player grows, we offer a set that has a driver that is 2 inches longer.”

Importantly, it is not just the length of the clubs that increase as the player grows but also the overall club weight, grip size and shaft stiffness. At the same time, the loft on woods decreases providing additional distance.

“One of the key benefits of correctly fit clubs that are lightweight is the ability for players to learn a correct and powerful swing at a young age,” Van Horn said. “Clubs that are too long and/or heavy slows the golf swing itself and creates bad habits that are difficult to change later in life.”

Beyond the importance of young golfers needing properly fit equipment, Van Horn believes strongly in the need for juniors to compete in tournament play to facilitate aspirational goals and to measure progress. Going hand in hand with this is proper instruction from coaches who understand how young players learn and develop.

“After a few years of producing equipment, we realized more needed to be done to serve our market so we formed a nonprofit foundation,” Van Horn said. “Immediately we created our World Championship in 2000 so that young golfers would have an aspirational goal, much like the Little League World Series is to baseball players. We also realized that golf professionals and coaches lacked an organized incentive-based learning program to truly engage players in the game so we created one that same year.”

A longtime proponent of having players play from appropriate yardages, U.S. Kids Golf developed the Longleaf Tee System which uses a mathematical formula to “scale” any golf course for up to eight different tee locations per hole so all players have options based upon how far they carry the ball with a driver. Yardages start at 3,200 yards for 18 holes and increase up to Tour distances of 7,400 yards.

“What we need is a focus by all golf facilities and coaches to provide quality, enjoyable experiences to our youth,” Van Horn said. “This means incorporating game-based learning with a measurable, learning program so that players and their parents know how they are progressing. And, of course, shorter tees need to be available so we can get kids on a ‘field’ that fits them like other sports. There’s no question it can be done.”

The National Golf Foundation’s annual report for 2016 revealed that participation in junior golf programs remained steady at 2.9 million likely due in part to the success of the programs mentioned above and others just like them. Importantly, the number of female junior golfers has increased to a third of all participants and the number of non-Caucasion players has risen to a quarter, four times what it was a couple of decades ago.

While time will ultimately judge whether these programs and offerings serve not only to retain current players but continue to attract new ones, the state of junior golf in the country appears strong and on the right track for now. 

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