During my countrywide travels around golf clubs this summer, it came to my attention that many golf clubs were struggling to fill a field for their respective Junior Opens. I was amazed at this news and the more clubs I asked the more disappointed I became.
Not only were clubs experiencing reduced entries, some even had to cancel scheduled events due to lack of numbers. Clubs were also battling to field enough players to make up a team for league matches.
The junior organizers at most clubs were at a loss as to explain why juniors had apparently given up playing competitive golf. A number of suggestions came up as possible reasons, such as cost, difficulties with transport, concerns about safety, parents too busy and so on.
All of these issues were around when I began playing as a junior in the mid 1970’s.The stark difference then was that I faced being balloted out of some events that had been over subscribed, because my handicap was too high.
Sports clubs today have to have a child welfare officer or volunteers who have sat Child Safety and Good Practice courses before they can even help out with junior programmes. Add to this being Checked by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to see if you are a fit and proper person to supervise children in your care makes it even more galling that all this effort is being made for and on behalf of junior golfers and then they don’t play.
The cost of a junior membership for twelve months golf, entertainment, fresh air and exercise would probably be less than £100 at most golf clubs. This, I believe, represents fantastic value and is demonstrated by the numbers of junior members in golf clubs throughout the country. But why do they not want to compete?
I know this sounds like a bit of a rant but I am astonished at this situation. Do we need to educate parents about the benefits of their children playing golf and competing? Do we need to take a look at the atmosphere created at some clubs with rules and traditions that may deter youngsters competing? Is there an over emphasis on getting the “right technique” before they enter competitions? Is this just happening in golf? My 13-year-old son plays cricket and football. Both those sports appear to be healthy with junior competitors so how do we turn around this worrying trend in junior golf?