With Youth On Course Program Kids Play For Five Bucks

By Jim Claggett

What can you get for five bucks these days? A famous pizza outlet used to promote their five-dollar pies.

Five bucks will get you a lotto ticket with no extra. A fin would get you quite a lot of draft beer back in the day but now that blue bit of currency with Sir Wilfred Laurier on the front doesn’t go as far these days.

Well, how about a round of golf? That is the premise of Youth on Course, a program which got its origins in Northern California back in 2006. One golf course signed on that year and fifty kids took part. Fast forward to 2018 and 115,000 rounds have been subsidized with more than 40,000 kids in the program at 915 golf courses (99% public tracks) across 43 states.

“It’s about access to opportunities and those opportunities can be educational, they can be the opportunity to spend more time on the golf course,” said Adam Heieck, Executive Director of Youth on Course. “But really Youth on Course is going to remove cost as a barrier to golf.”

The nuts and bolts of the program are quite simple. Kids pay five dollars (or less) for a green fee. Period.

Youth on Course then subsidizes the golf course for a large majority of the green fee. For example, a course charges $15 dollars for a junior green fee and maybe they drop it to $12. The course gets $7 dollars and the junior coughs up the five bucks.

“Roughly 50 per cent of the time they(juniors) are bringing an adult so they are getting food and a beverage, they are getting an adult paying the twilight rate. It makes financial sense for the golf course,” said Heieck.

It might be an attractive proposal for courses which may have a dead zone on their tee sheet at certain times of the day so filling it with something like this seems logical.
The juniors need to be a Youth on Course member to take advantage of the $5 green fee and courses must be participants as well. It is something Alberta Golf is giving some attention to advance the game.

“We’re talking with Golf Canada, we’re talking with both of our boards (foundation and board of directors) and we have to find what that looks like in the future before we jump in with both feet,” said Phil Berube, Alberta Golf Executive Director.

The idea raises some interesting thoughts about how junior golf can advance but things are still in the research stage as far as Alberta Golf is concerned. Berube says it has plenty of merit but he adds Alberta Golf doesn’t want to be the lone wolf on getting involved as the first Canadian branch of Youth on Course.

“Does Golf Canada or other organizations we partner with, whether it’s the owner’s association or the PGA, do they have things that we can also be exploring? Youth on Course, that almost brings everyone together as well.”
A basic equation was behind the push to get this off the ground. Heieck says the feeling was there were three things which made up a barrier to golf for many juniors: cost, transportation and equipment. This program takes care of the cost factor.

Fundraising is a key aspect of Youth on Course but Heieck says it’s a bit of a moving target. There isn’t a- one- formula- fits- all- template. A group can raise anywhere between $25 thousand to $75 thousand dollars to subsidize green fees, depending on how much kids are playing.

“The fund-raising number should be manageable because it gives potential donors something else. It gives them another way to look at golf and support the growing of the game,” he said.

Berube agrees, adding it seems to be a plan which may resonate with a lot of golfers, older golfers, looking to see that game continue, see their legacy continue.
“I mean they love seeing when there’s little kids on the golf courses. They seem to have packaged that golfer’s appetite into a giving strategy that takes fundraising and subsidies for junior golf to a level that can be well understood.”

Berube says Alberta Golf will do some homework on sustainability and governance to make sure all the questions about Youth on Course are answered before it goes before the boards. It will take some time to reach that stage but for the time being, think of the numbers. Especially this one: Five bucks for a round of golf for a junior under 18 years old.

It’s worth a look.