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August 2019

Attracting Gen-Z Golfers to the Game Through Club Initiatives

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By Mike Schuchart
 
Making up 25 percent of the U.S. population, Gen Z is the biggest and most diverse generation in American history. The golf industry is taking note of this age group, and developing programs and club initiatives to incentivize them to play golf.

KemperSports-managed Wilderness Ridge in Lincoln, Nebraska, has developed year-round initiatives to keep our junior golfers interested and involved in the sport through summer camps, leagues and various programming. Below are a few strategies any golf course could adapt to attract and entertain youth golfers:

Summer Camps – The summer is an excellent time to introduce juniors to the game of golf. When juniors step out of the classroom, it allows them more time to step onto the green. The summer camps at Wilderness Ridge are very successful because they keep the game fun, but also teach them basic techniques. The club hosts two camps for youth ages 6-14 and two peewee camps for ages 3-5 years old. In all, the summer camps have about 80 campers per session and typically fill up by January or February. There are four stations: swing, putting, hitting a target and chipping/pitching. To keep this event fun and engaging for the juniors, the team offers each participant a prize, chooses select golfers to win an award and even has a mascot to cheer them on. Overall, these summer camps are a great way to engage junior golfers in the game at a young age in a fun and relaxing environment.
 
Leagues – Leagues are another great way to engage juniors and encourage them to play shorter courses in a friendly environment. At Wilderness Ridge, the club hosts leagues for juniors where they will play a 9-hole, par-32 course. These leagues kick-off early in the morning and begin with an hour-long practice beforehand. They last for about eight weeks and divide kids up by age, so the skill levels remain competitive. Overall, it’s a great opportunity for juniors to practice in a competitive and controlled environment with shorter courses.
 
Programming – Wilderness Ridge uses a variety of programming beyond the camps and leagues to encourage juniors, specifically girls, to play golf. For example, the club offers team golf, which is similar to PGA Junior League, where teams compete against each other throughout the section. These teams are for golfers ages 4-13 and teach kids golf course etiquette such as, keeping score, pace and playing with others. The team at Wilderness Ridge won the league last year and has been to the finals for the past five years. Another example is a girls-only program in early August for young women entering high school or in high school. This timing is to prepare them for the upcoming fall golf season at their school. Additionally, the club hosts after school programs, encouraging kids to visit the club after school, enjoy a snack and do their homework with assistance from the pros. This new programming is a good way to engage new audiences and incentivize juniors and girls to play the game.
 
Junior initiatives are vital to keep the younger generation interested in the game of golf. Wilderness Ridge offers junior an opportunity to learn the game in a comfortable setting among their peers. Many of these programs offer a low-key, fun and interactive atmosphere that keeps participants coming back year after year. If your property can incorporate these initiatives into your programming it will continue to be beneficial for years to come, you may even be creating lifelong customers.

Mike Schuchart is director of instruction at KemperSports-managed Wilderness Ridge.

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