I’m a big fan of social media. It not only lets me stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues wherever my crazy schedule takes me, but it also lets me have some great conversations with my ever-growing gang of Twitter pals. A few years ago, someone might have recognized me out on the course or while I was going about my day-to-day business down here in Florida and we’d be able to talk about golf, fitness, whatever. Today, though, anyone – anywhere! – can start a Twitter conversation with me 24/7. It’s a little bit mind-boggling.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve tweeted a couple of times asking what needs to be done in order to continue to grow the game of golf – especially among junior players.
The response was interesting. Three major points kept popping up: the game is too expensive; the game takes too long; and there has to be something to make play more accessible to kids.
Yes, it’s an expensive game, but there are workarounds. Used clubs are a lot less pricey than a new set and many munis offer discount rounds at various times. And, yes, 18 holes on a 7,500-yard course can make for a long day, but playing a par-3-heavy, 9-hole executive course can let you get your game on without too much of a time commitment.
That brings us to the last point. Unlike other sports, golf doesn’t have an “easy” version.
Kids can get the feel for the basics of baseball by joining a t-ball league. Young running backs can learn to cut and juke without the risk of contact injury by playing flag football. And future Steph Currys can begin to develop their shooting touch by using an eight-foot rim. I’ve heard plenty of tweaks that could make the game more accessible to kids and juniors – a larger ball or larger holes being the main two – but even if these were feasible, would they actually do the job of making the game more attractive for younger players?
Up until recently, I was of the belief that something drastic may need to be done in order to get more kids onto the course, but the work I’ve begun to do with the American Junior Golf Association has made me rethink that.
The goal of the AJGA is the growth and development of talented junior golfers trying to earn collegiate scholarships. I recently did a seminar at the Amino Vital/Joey D Golf-sponsored AJGA tournament at The Seagate Country Club in Delray Beach and I was truly surprised and impressed by the young players I got a chance to work with. If I had been contemplating the idea of a larger ball, larger hole, let’s-just-play-disc-golf approach to growing the game, I now believe that an if-it ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it strategy might be the best plan.
The level of passion and athleticism of the juniors I saw at Seagate blew me away. Years ago, the best young athletes were wooed away by other sports – baseball, football, tennis. The juniors that were playing were good golfers, but it almost seemed like they learned the game of golf and then had to learn how to be athletes.
Today, many of the kids getting into the game are already athletes. They’re strong, coordinated, and they understand concepts like energy transfer and the importance of balance, mobility, and stability. They embrace the idea of sport-specific conditioning. Types of training and conditioning that was previously thought to make athletes slower and less mobile are now being used to take young golfers from “good” to “great.” They understand the process.
In a way, it’s a “perfect storm” for developing possibly the best young golfers this country has ever seen.
You’ve got already intelligent, body-aware athletes channeling their athleticism into sport-specific conditioning designed to optimize their bodies for golf. As the players become more athletic, the game becomes more athletic.
We’re already seeing a wave of young and athletic players making their mark on the PGA Tour. That’s what’s going to grow the game among younger players. The more that the game is seen as a sport for athletes, the more athletes will get involved – and they’ll be getting involved at younger and younger ages.
That’s good news for the golf industry in this country, but it might be bad news for future Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup opponents!
© 2016 joeydgolf.com