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t’s said that a good golf lesson attends to one problem that automatically fixes three others. If that’s so, Youth on Course, the charitable arm of the Northern California Golf Association, is like


a perfect golf lesson. Golf has one big problem right


now—it needs golfers. It may be the greatest game, and does seem to have it all—natural beauty, physical and mental challenge, camaraderie, longevity. But the fact is, the game has been losing its most essential ingredient at an alarming rate. As a result of a decline in partici-


pation, courses are closing at a much faster rate than new ones are opening. Sure there was a golf bubble and an oversupply of courses, but there’s also data to suggest that golf is losing its long assumed grip among a populace that’s being shifted to and fro in a rapidly changing culture. Accordingly, golf has never needed


young people to play it more. The game needs seeds to the future. What to do? The NCGA, like


a wise golf pro, in 2006 made a little tweak. One that is simple, but


It’s the closest among all of golf’s youth


initiatives to being a game changer. –Joe Beditz, CEO of the National Golf Foundation


addresses and potentially cures so many ills. Five bucks a round. The concept is the foundation of


Youth on Course. Here’s how it works: Charitable donations (totaling


nearly $10 million over the last nine years) are used to subsidize otherwise unused starting times at public golf courses, allowing youth between 6 and 18 to play 9- or 18-hole rounds for $5 or less. Since 2007, the program has grown to 9,600 card- carrying members who have played more than 350,000 subsidized rounds on some 140 courses in Northern California alone. Due to this success, the program this year became opera- tional in six more western states, with members from any state eligible to play all participating courses. Youth


on Course has also funded more than $630,000 in college scholarships, 52 paid high school internships in the golf industry, and has some 100 caddies in training. There have been many initiatives—


local and larger—designed to get kids into golf. But all at some point have been stifled by the reality of expense— the average junior golf green fee of nearly $20—that is a real inhibitor to regular play in the formative years. Many participants in The First Tee, especially those that come from underprivileged backgrounds, have a difficult time affording the game or even having a place to play away from a First Tee facility. But five bucks a round gives so many


more kids the chance to be golfers, and in the process learn the life lessons the game teaches so well. The purchase of greens fees through charity also helps golf course operators in an era when they need it most. And seeing the contribu- tions work on so many levels—creating golfers, sending kids to college, revitaliz- ing the business of golf—is the satisfac- tion that philanthropists are looking for. “Youth on Course performs a hat trick—the kids win, the golf course wins, and the donors win,” says Joe Beditz, CEO of the National Golf Foundation. “It’s the clos- est among all of golf ’s youth initiatives to being a game changer. After seeing the data, I love all aspects of it. It’s a compelling enough program to be national.” While Youth on


Course may seem a brand new Swiss Army knife, it’s really just pulling from the


SUMMER 2015 / NCGA.ORG / 23


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