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October 14, 2016

Dave Thompson: Be Ambitious With Your Youth Golf Programs

dave-thompsonDave Thompson, a 2012 and 2013 Top 50 U.S. Kids Instructor Honorable Mention winner, is a PGA assistant professional at Forest Hills Country Club in Rockford, Illinois.

Dave Thompson on the importance of being ambitious with your youth golf programs:
In 2012, looking for a way to grow the game, expand my reach as a PGA teaching professional, and help increase my club’s membership, I decided to take on an ambitious plan to help increase junior golf participation in my area. So with the assistance of my PGA head professional, we decided to launch a grassroots effort in our local schools as an attempt to reach kids who had never played golf. In February of that year, I started a six-week-long, once-a-week after-school program in five middle schools. We used real clubs and mats along with almostGOLF balls. We got 60 kids to participate, with 85 percent having never played golf before. That parlayed itself into a once-a-week summer program at my club that ran for six weeks, which garnered 70 kids, including many of the middle school program students. In February of 2013 the middle school program resumed, growing to 80 kids. Interest there led to a late spring program every Monday in May at Crystal Lake that got 37 kids. The summer program at Crystal Lake returned that summer with a whopping 120 participants. After parents requested a program that would take the kids out on the course, 30 participated in a September program that did just that: an on-course junior academy. This spring, we took our program to the local YMCA, expanded it to kids ranging from ages four and up, and got 60 kids to participate with very little prep time or promotion. The totality of that success across multiple ages and locations has been encouraging and speaks to the interest in golf among today’s youth if the opportunity is presented to them.

Dave Thompson on the business impact of being ambitious with your youth golf programs:
The impacts of these programs have been wide-ranging. I charge students a relatively inexpensive flat rate for each program. Everything, including clubs are provided, with my only expenses being the various other pieces of equipment we use (footballs, Frisbees, fitness balls, etc.), the fee I pay the schools or the YMCA for the space and to the fitness instructor we employ to help teach healthy habits. We also offer scholarships to any students that can’t afford the cost. With relatively small overhead and the success of the program, it’s been successful financially for everyone involved. That’s my biggest piece of advice for anyone who feels the urge to expand outside of their club’s grounds: expand your horizons and realize that you can take your brand to multiple locales. We also excited the parents, who were thrilled to see their kids taking up a game they can play for life and seeing them so excited and engaged. That has led to 11 new members for Crystal Lake, made up solely of families whose kids participated in the program, along with Get Golf Ready sessions that I host at the club on Mondays for both parents and faculty. Getting golf into schools, even on an after-school basis, is by no means easy, but the payoffs can be far-ranging, including additional income for the professionals and exposure for children who would have never gotten to play golf otherwise.

If you would like to email the author of this Best Practice directly, please email Dthompson@clcountryclub.com