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Our Averee Dovsek explains how ‘growing the game’ is coming at a high price for families

There’s constant talk about “growing the game,” a convenient catchphrase, but few factor in the price of what it takes to get kids involved in golf and allow them the opportunity to be successful.

Young players are the ones who can indeed grow the sport and while there are some programs in place to help young golfers, the golf community needs to step up and makes this reality more feasible. As someone who funded a large amount of her junior golf and learned the majority of her golf skills from YouTube, I feel strongly about this issue.

I grew up in Southern California where buckets of balls often ran in the neighborhood of $20, and there were only a handful of junior course programs in the area. I worked at a local pizza shop, with every dime going toward tournament fees, green fees, clubs, balls and appropriate apparel.

Sure, it’s important for kids to learn the value of a dollar, but the average family could never afford to get their kid into golf and obtain a college scholarship. Unlike sports such as soccer and basketball, golf has a steep start-up cost before you even arrive at the range with equipment. If junior golfers have aspirations of playing at the collegiate level, college coaches want to see tournaments outside of their high school team as well.

I asked 17-year-old Florida golfer Reese Woodbury what he guesses his family spends on his golf expenses in a single month.

“I would estimate $1,800 to $3,500 a month. That’s with practice, expenses, tournament fees, and any extras, including golf balls, tees and gloves,” Woodbury said.

Yes, there are charitable programs around the country that encourage junior golf at little to no cost such as The First Tee and others, but these can only take kids so far.

Tournament fees in Florida. (HJGT)

Once the small hurdles of paying for balls and green fees are tackled, the tournament fees are another beast. Junior two-day tournaments are averaging $250 to $400 a player. When you add gas, hotel and food on top of that (often multiple times a month) it becomes close to impossible to reach the next level for most families.

“One of my good friends struggles to play in events because of financial backing issues. He’s a great golfer, but he doesn’t come from a strong financial household to help him support his love for the game and it is not allowing him to reach the next level,” said Woodbury. “I am extremely lucky and grateful for the family that I have that allows me to chase my dream.”

I understand that these junior tours are a business and trying to make money, but there has to be some flexibility. As a former junior player who tried to balance high school life and golf, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pull this off.

If companies and courses are claiming to become an inclusive space for younger generations, changes are in order. Promoting twilight junior rates is one way to encourage play. Discounts on buckets of balls can help immensely and the cost for driving ranges is little to nothing. It’s important to provide a memorable place where kids can feel safe and practice.

If golf is serious about grooming its high-paying customers of the future, small discounts can certainly help to net a big return.

(Editor’s note: Averee Dovsek is a former college golfer and contributor to Golfweek.)

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