Peter Lee grew up a tennis player outside Seattle, his aversion to golf the same as many kids’. The game took too long, was too expensive and not many of his friends were playing. Looking back years later, as someone who picked up golf as an adult and whose three kids are now golfers, he recognizes what might have hooked him sooner.
“If something like Youth on Course existed, I would have started earlier and more kids would have been playing,” Lee says.
The idea behind Youth on Course is simple but remarkably effective, partnering with more than 1,000 courses around the country to provide junior golfers between the ages of 6 and 18 green fees at $5 or less (you can get more information here). It means more kids playing golf and gives golf courses a way to fill tee times that would otherwise go unused. For the Lee family, it also meant a vacation that could be a model for budget-conscious families who still want to play quality courses.
When planning a mid-winter vacation, Peter Lee decided to plot out participating Youth on Course facilities along the West Coast, starting in Washington and venturing as far south as Arizona. It allowed him and his three kids—a 17-year-old son and 15- and 13-year-old daughters—to play some name brand-name courses at a fraction of the price. For instance, Spanish Bay on California’s Monterey Peninsula is normally a $290 green fee. For the three Lee kids it was $15 combined (not counting an annual YOC membership at $35 per person). Add it all up and Lee says he saved more than $1,000 on the vacation thanks to Youth on Course alone.
“It’s obviously an expensive sport if you are thinking about going out and paying regular rates, but many of these courses are becoming more family friendly and open to the idea that they need more junior golfers.” Lee said.
A course’s involvement in Youth on Course comes with tangible rewards beyond just more young faces. Courses are subsidized for their participation monthly, with Youth on Course reimbursing courses more than $5.2 million to date. But the model is working. In 2018, 150,000 rounds were played by Youth on Course members, and the organization continues to expand, adding 374 courses just last year.
With that as a foundation, it means more opportunities for families like the Lees to map out a robust golf vacation without mortgaging the future in the process. According to Youth on Course CEO Adam Heieck, the organization has discussed formalizing vacation packages, perhaps by including hotel partners as well.
“It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s something we have on our radar,” Heieck said. “Stories like the Lee family's keep us thinking about ways to improve the opportunities we’re providing young men and women.”