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Next-Generation Golfers

Resorts Can Boost Additional Revenue, Future Guests With Junior Programs.

Thursday, May 04, 2017
Steve Pike
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Golf is a game for all age groups, but like most sports it’s best learned at a young age when good habits and good techniques can take hold before bad habits have a chance to win out.

As such, the next generation of golfers—and golf resort guests—must have quality instruction and quality facilities. Golf resorts that have top-level junior camps and academies not only are creating future golfers, but future customers.

“We have had many families become members because of our strong junior programs,” said Bobby Clampett, founder of Impact Zone Golf Junior Academy at Tiburón Golf Club at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, FL. “Most importantly, our camps develop new golfers to help grow the game of golf and better the future of our industry.”

Not only do junior camps have revenues associated with them, and often help initiate additional F&B and merchandise sales, said Matt Flory, general manager of the TPC San Antonio at The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, they are “initiating growth in the game that will result in further revenue potential down the line.”

“Most of our junior camps feature mostly local campers, though we certainly have campers that come from the resort as well,” Flory said. “In fact, there has been a junior camp we’ve hosted here in past summers, where campers stay in the resort for three to four nights for the duration of the camp. This camp featured approximately 50 percent local campers and 50 percent vacationers, or campers at the resort specifically for the golf instruction.”

To be sure, there is more to a junior golf camp and golf academy than simply lining up youngsters on a practice range and having them swing away. Successful junior camps and academies teach fundamentals, fun and life lessons.

“Make the camp entertaining and informative and be super organized,” said acclaimed instructor Jim McLean, who leads the Jim McLean Golf School at Trump National Doral in Miami. “We keep things moving on a schedule that is designed for each session, depending upon the number of juniors.”

Elite campers at his school, McLean said, are in the hotel for six nights, mostly with parents, and have an opening dinner reception and a closing luncheon. They also play four rounds on the golf courses over the slow summer months.

“We have Junior Elite Camps that are week-long camps over Christmas Break, Spring Break and for nine weeks over the summer months,” McLean said. “Most of the students come from afar for this camp. We get a lot of students from the Northeast and Latin and South America. Some of the students are local as well.

“Also during the summer months, we do local weekly junior programs, or commuter programs, for beginners to advanced players.”

Helping a young person gain an appreciation and enjoyment for golf, and advancing a child's understanding of the game, is a primary objective at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on Hilton Head, SC, which has a junior golf program for students eight to 18 years of age.

“Our Director of Instruction, Doug Weaver, is ranked among the best golf teachers in the country,” said Clark Sinclair, head professional at Palmetto Dunes. “A big reason why is because he is very knowledgeable and entertaining and fun to be around.

“The same goes for his assistants. They make learning the game fun and interesting. That means a lot to young people.”

A good junior camp, Flory said, customizes instruction based on the dynamic of the juniors in any given camp.

“If you are working with younger campers who are just beginners, it is essential to stick to fun ways to master the fundamentals of the game,” Flory said. “This must be done in a forum that does not outlast their attention span. Conversely, if you are working with a more advanced group, video analysis is critically important to help drive home fundamentals and instruction through tangible video feedback.

“Regardless of whom you are working with, an on-course component is key.”

The Impact Zone Junior Golf Academy is organized and divided based upon a junior’s skill level and developmental age.

“The age groups should be kept to within three years of each other, for example 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18 years old,” said Clampett, a former PGA Tour player and network TV analyst. “Keeping the age within three years is important for the social aspect. We place importance on training junior golfers in phases that align with their development, as we work to holistically train technical and mental skills, physical fitness, and on course strategy.”

Enforcing strict safety guidelines with junior friendly coaches, Clampett added, is optimal for running a successful junior camp.

“Our summer camps are unique in that we offer technical, mental, fitness and club-fitting,” he said. “We offer these elements to help our juniors develop a passion for the game of golf, grow their skill sets, and build friendships that last a lifetime.”

And on the resort side, build customers for a lifetime.
Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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