By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA
Jennifer Hudson, a three-time GRAA Growth of the Game Teaching Professional, is the PGA Director of Instruction at Sankaty Head Golf Club in Siasconset, Massachusetts. She was the 2019 New England PGA Section Teacher of the Year and was recently named Golf Digest Best Young Teachers in America.
She is the founder of LifeLong Golf, offering player development programming that engages students with the goal of long-term relationships and a lifetime in the game of golf. Her business hosts instruction-based golf events across the country that create connections between golfers through custom golf schools and special group instruction. She has also created a platform that offers networking opportunities for aspiring women golf professionals to foster valuable relationships that can lead to career growth in the game. Hudson recently shared some time to discuss these topics and the state of the game, as well.
1) How has COVID-19 affected your business?
COVID provided opportunities to connect with many new young adults who, due to the pandemic last summer, were at their family’s homes on Nantucket Island. These individuals, mostly between 20 and 50 years of age, may have taken golf lessons as kids but moved on to other things in life – school, business, family, etc. The effects of COVID on our time, work environment and entertainment options put golf in the forefront as a safe, socially-distanced activity that people could share with friends and family. The barriers that usually exclude individuals from playing the game were eliminated. There were fewer time constraints and they had more discretionary funds available, with less travel and fewer recreational activities at their fingertips. They were a captive audience that sought instruction, engagement and the social benefits that the game provides.
2) Can you discuss any programming that you implemented to address this Under-50 group?
The demographic that we welcomed last summer was athletic and often experienced in other sports. We implemented a fitness component into these socially-distanced group clinics that incorporated ropes and chains and other tools to help them understand the motion of the golf swing. Understanding that the topics covered are key to adequately engaging any group, I’ve always felt that how and what you teach often depend upon who you’re teaching. I engaged this dynamic group in general fitness concepts and activities that would promote balance, flexibility and movement, all vital aspects of the golf swing, especially for this young group who may associate how far you hit the ball with how well you play the game. Getting them to increase their frequency on the course was a big part of this program. In fact, I created an email list of this Under-50 group so they could connect with each other and develop friendships around the game of golf. I’d send them an article or tip, but it was really about fostering relationships. I believe that golfers who have others to play with will play more.
3) Are there any additional programs you put in place that promote on-course play?
I implemented a series of socially-distanced group lessons that offered three weekly clinics, covering a variety of pertinent golf-specific topics. We utilized our practice facilities at Sankaty Head to introduce new concepts and develop their skills. To gain the most out of this instruction, I emphasized the importance of practicing with a purpose between lessons, really applying the ideas and information discussed to their own individual golf swing. During the fourth lesson, we transitioned from the comfort of the range to the obstacles and adventures of the golf course. We included different skills challenges and created a fun and exciting on-course experience. This laid-back session covered etiquette, pace of play, knowing where to place your bag and where to stand when others are hitting. Many golfers sought additional coaching and mentoring to further hone their skills, while others simply gained confidence in hitting a golf ball and comfort in being on the course, ideally leading to long-term enjoyment of the game.
4) What are the keys to retaining these new golfers?
The keys to retention are all represented in our discussion here. Instruction and helping golfers play better is a huge aspect of retention. You don’t have to play well to enjoy the game, as there are other benefits; but it’s definitely more fun to hit good golf shots. Another key to retention is getting them on the course. Don’t relegate them exclusively to your practice facilities. The game, after all, is played on the golf course, and they should gain exposure to that side of it, as well. Anyone in a new environment wants to feel like he or she belongs. That acclimation to one’s new surroundings is generally based in education and experience. Teach them how to play and give them opportunities to do just that. They’ll be more comfortable doing it on their own after the instruction has concluded. Finally, never underestimate the social aspect of the game. As mentioned above, if golfers have people to play with, they’ll play more golf.
5) I understand you started your own company. What’s it all about?
LifeLong Golf schools are designed for every level of adult player, men and women. Each school is geared toward a different level of player, and is hosted at exceptional properties throughout the country. We select facilities that complement the range of our students’ playing abilities. Whether at a renowned resort course or a hidden gem, we craft the experience to match the goals of our golfers. We offer custom golf schools with top PGA and LPGA Teaching Professionals. We work with corporations and charities to engage in golf instruction, as well as tournaments and outings. Finally, we provide a unique networking feature for young women golf professionals to develop connections with seasoned professionals who can guide and mentor them. As a new business, we have seen early success and have room for growth through a clear message of communication, relationships, education and growth of the game initiatives.
For more information on LifeLong Golf, log on to https://lifelonggolf.com/.