Tom Philion, president of the Northeastern New York PGA Section and 2007 NENY PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award winner and 2008 Horton Smith Award winner, is the PGM director at SUNY (Delhi), N.Y.
Tom Philion on the importance of creating a range that helps junior golfers transition to the course:
It is hard to keep junior golfers in the game if they are struggling out on the “big” course. They will find other sports to play and leave the game if they don’t feel they are having any fun or getting better. The range should be capable of offering a dual purpose. While working at a previous facility, we expanded and redesigned our range to incorporate actual short holes for juniors. We closed the range on designated junior days so that young “pee wee” golfers could begin to learn the game. I had my juniors play two holes on the range; at that young of an age, the emphasis is more on playing the game, etiquette and Rules and less about instruction. We wanted to achieve the same feel on the range that we have on the course so that juniors would be comfortable when moving to the “big” course. Bunkers and green complexes were added to resemble holes on the course. Flags that are used on the course were incorporated as well. You want your players to feel like they are hitting shots on the actual golf course. The transition from the range to the course should be seamless and consistent.
Tom Philion on the business impact of creating a range that helps junior golfers transition to the course:
As a result of enhancing our range, we were able to increase participation in our junior golf program and sustain a high level of participants moving forward. We could have 10-12 young juniors on the range playing golf at a time. Members were very happy to see multiple uses for the range, and now the junior program has a welcoming “pee wee course,” which transitions juniors at the appropriate age to the actual course. Learning the game in this less-intimidating setting encouraged more kids to remain in our junior program. The younger golfers used to be lost in the mix of older golfers in the past, but a true feeder program of “pee wee” golfers has now been created. The new range tee can hold upwards of 30 golfers, seven times more than previous, at a time. That’s plenty of space to handle a mix of junior golfers and adults.