My buddy Paul and I played a round at Chaska Town Course last Thursday. We got paired up with a couple of rising high school sophomores named Sam and Davis.
Paul immediately dubbed them Sammy Davis, Juniors… and got completely blank looks from the 15 year-olds who clearly had no knowledge of the original Rat Pack… so Paul and I had more than just our normal aches and pains to make us feel old as we teed off.
Sam and Davis turned out to be nice young gentlemen and very competent golfers… potential personified. I managed to hold my own on the front nine and even hit the green and just missed a birdie on the brutal 11thhole before the wheels came completely off on #15 and I Tin Cupped 3 balls into the marsh.
As we approached the 16th tee, we encountered a father and son twosome who had just let a foursome play through and the elderly father was clearly in some distress. Over the next few holes, we watched his pace get slower and slower. The walk from the Town Course 18th green to the clubhouse is straight up a steep hill and the sight of that last climb was a bit too much for our new friend… all of a sudden he was flat on his back on the grass gasping for air. We piled him into one of our golf carts and got him up the hill and safely into the clubhouse air conditioning before heading back down to polish off our round.
While driving home, I couldn’t help but wonder how the future will play out for Sam and Davis. They’re in dreamland right now… playing golf four days a week and tooling around in their own golf cart. But in about four years, unless they’re playing on a college team, they’ll be in danger of falling into the “golf chasm”.
One of my pet peeves with the golf industry is that not enough is done to help young golfers stay in the game as they enter adulthood. All of the junior programs end around age 18 and golfers don’t get special treatment again until they become seniors. The chasm snagged me when I was 19 and I didn’t emerge until I was 52… I played just 1-5 times a year for that 30+ year period. Yeah, I was a little busy with a 60+ hour per week job and three kids, but I still could have managed to play 5-10 times more per year with just a little help.
What do you do at your course to help 18-25 year-olds get to the course more often? If we can keep those young adults in the habit of playing as they turn the page into adulthood, there’s a much greater chance that they’ll keep playing as time marches on.
If you’re aware of any effective ideas for keeping people young adults engaged in the game, feel free to share them below.