What would be better than bragging that the next Paula Creamer or Anthony Kim swung a golf club for the first time at your camp? OK, so you might not turn out the next PGA superstar, but camps are a great place to introduce the fundamentals and values of golf, such as sportsmanship, honesty and integrity.
Camp directors who want to incorporate golf into their programs typically do not know where to start; usual concerns include space, safety and cost. The good news is that there are resources and products to help address these concerns. Since camps are able to use existing fields or open spaces to create a driving range for basic instruction and practice, there is no need to put kids on a bus and take them to a local facility to practice.
Here are some tips to create a driving range that is appropriate for kids ages 6 to 15:
• Use limited-flight golf balls, which are kid-safe. Although they have similar characteristics to regular golf balls, they only fly a third of the distance. These golf balls enable you to use an existing football, soccer, lacrosse or baseball field.
• Determine the construction of hitting stalls. These can be assembled using PVC pipe bought at a local home-improvement store, or inexpensive range tee dividers can be purchased. Another inexpensive option is to use rope to section off the stalls. Do not create too many stalls, in order to allow for sufficient supervision. Also, only one golfer should be in a stall at a time. Strict adherence to safety rules will reduce the chance of injury with a golf club.
• Create range banners or distance pins to mark the yardage on the range. These can be purchased or assembled using PVC pipe.
• Provide baskets to hold and store balls in each stall. Inexpensive plastic baskets are available online, or a local driving range may be willing to donate used baskets.
• Seek out used mats with tees from local golf courses and driving ranges. They may be willing to donate them. Otherwise, mats can be purchased at a local sports store or online.
• Full sets of clubs are not necessary for a driving range; instead, you just need drivers and some irons. In order to accommodate both right-handed and left-handed golfers, use the 4-to-1 rule. That is, for every four right-handed clubs, you should have one left-handed club. Seek out donated equipment from parents, local golf courses and driving ranges.
Involve A Pro
The Professional Golfers’ Association and the United States Golf Association have numerous initiatives focused on junior golfers and growing the game of golf. On the PGA Web site is a list of golf instructors searchable by ZIP code. Contact a local instructor and incorporate him or her into your program. The instructor can teach campers about the equipment, the rules of the game and golf etiquette. Additionally, the professional can teach the proper method of gripping a golf club and can demonstrate the proper swing and stance. As a special treat for older campers who develop a passion for the sport, the instructor can take them to play at a local course.
Another great resource for golf instruction is to hire a college-age individual looking for a summer job. Look for individuals who are on a college golf team or plan on pursuing a career in golf.
Use Golf For Fundraising
If you are looking for a fun way to raise money for the camp or a favorite charity, consider hosting an Off-Course Golfathon. Players sign up donors for 25 cents to $1 a hole. This charity event is simple to produce and inexpensive.
Besides helping to attract and retain kids for camp, adding golf to a program allows campers to learn a new skill while improving hand/eye coordination. It is also a great choice for a Parents Day activity. Even better, kids are able to continue to practice at home with their families after they leave for the season.
If you are interested in starting a golf program, do not let safety, cost or space concerns stop you. Once you’ve experienced the look on a kid’s face when he or she first makes contact with a golf ball, you’ll be glad you followed through.
Junior Golf Facts
• 3.4 million junior golfers played golf in 2007.
• There are almost 4 million people interested in golf who have never played the game.
• Juniors who begin playing golf regularly between ages 8 and 10 play the most rounds as an adult.
• 60 percent of juniors introduced to golf in a structured program become active golfers, but only 10 percent of all juniors are brought into the game in this fashion.
Source: “Junior Golf and the PGA,”PGA Magazine July 2009.