December 15, 2016
by Adam Woodard , USA TODAY Sports, originally posted 11:48 p.m. EST December 14, 2016
Youth on Course is changing the way kids play golf
Golf has always been viewed as a luxury activity that most parents, especially their kids, just can’t afford.
Youth on Course is changing the game, and the idea is simple — kids never pay more than $5 for a round of golf. With the financial barrier removed, more kids have access to the game.
“(The program) drives competition and makes kids play more. It’s good for the game,” said Youth on Course’s Executive Director Adam Heieck. “We’re trying to provide access to opportunities and that’s what Youth on Course is all about.”
Youth on Course members, ages 7-18, receive an official membership card in the mail and can begin playing at identified courses for $5 or less. Youth can play in any participating state/region, regardless of where their membership is based. The program is currently active in 330 courses spanning 12 states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
The program got its start under the Northern California Golf Association Foundation, which was founded in 1989 to fund turf-grass research and local junior golf programs. In 2005, the foundation was re-imagined as a way to grow the game, creating the Youth on Course program. In 2009, Youth on Course expanded to add the Caddie Academy, high school internships and college scholarships available to Northern California members.
The still-growing program has received national attention, including high praise from Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella, who says, “Youth on Course is the program that will change golf.”
Even two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry is encouraging young players to get involved.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids to enjoy the game, regardless of their background or what means they have,” said Curry, an avid golfer.
Looking forward, Heieck envisions the program’s expansion into the southeast and northeast in the next year or so, hoping that by 2020 Youth on Course is a household name.
“We see this as a logical extension of The First Tee and something that the entire (golf) industry can get behind.”
You might be wondering how a course doesn’t lose money by offering a round of for just $5. Youth on Course subsidizes the remaining balance through regional and local fundraising efforts, just like any other non-profit.
Rounds are tracked through an online system. When a Youth on Course member comes in, the operator types their card number into the system, and at the end of the month the course receives a reimbursement check for every round played that month. Simple as that, no catch.
Golf perks aside, Heieck wants people to know that Youth on Course’s benefits transcend the course.
“(Youth on Course) is impacting kids more than just on the golf course. We get a lot of calls from parents who have said it has changed their family dynamic or their kids and their behavior. It’s bringing people together through the game of golf.”
For more information on the Youth on Course program, visit youthoncourse.org.
–NCGA Staff w/ USGA