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Should every golf facility offer beginner programs? We don't think so.

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Matt Reagan, PGA
Co-Founder and CEO, Operation 36 Golf

A Golfer’s First Lesson

Trying something new is a vulnerable and brave thing to do. Often it is our first experience with something that most dramatically shapes how we feel about it in the future. How did it make us feel?  This is why believe that if we are going to bring beginners to golf, we should take a better look at their introduction.

Which leads to the question: Should all golf courses offer an introductory experience for beginners?

Our belief is when a new golfer builds up the courage to try golf for the first time, the onboarding experience to the game should be UNBELIEVABLE. If Golf Professionals are not able to deliver an unbelievable introductory experience for the golfer, then we believe you should not offer any introductory programs for beginners at all.

Sounds a bit harsh, but hear me out...

When I meet someone new and share that I am a Golf Professional, I hear time after time again, "I tried golf but it just really didn’t click for me” or “Golf wasn’t my sport.” When I dig deeper and ask how did you learn it is always the same story, “I took a few private lessons on a driving range or attended clinics.”

When I ask them, did you ever go and play? Most of the time the answer is: “no.” However, if they say yes, it sounds something like this “Yeah I played one hole in the clinic and that pretty much showed me I wasn’t meant to be a golfer!”

When I hear this, I CRINGE.  

gif of Jimmy Fallon Cringing

The problem here was not the participant, the problem is the onboarding experience and program used to introduce that person to the game.

A good program, run by a staff who understands and cares about the needs of beginner golfers.  It is necessary to make sure that every golfer who tries the game for the first time walks away thinking, “I can’t wait to do that next week.”  Or if you are a parent, “That program is so well organized and our child loves it!”   

If your staff is not able to take the time to do a great job with beginner golf coaching programs, then we recommend that you don’t offer them at all. 

I have great respect for golf facilities that have told me, our club does not cater to beginners. I truly do. This sounds strange, but I respect this because the beginner isn’t going to show up to a poor experience and think “golf isn’t for me.”

How do you know if your Beginner Program will create an incredible experience? 

Here are some good questions to consider:

  1. Are you getting beginners to play at least 9 holes at your facility to identify as a golfer?
  2. Do you set achievable on-course goals with a clear measurable plan to improve?
  3. Do you plan out a curriculum with clear objectives to help them reach their goals?
  4. Do you have a way to have them report progress and their actions back to you?
  5. Is your staff all on the same page on how you onboard a beginner in the sport?

I hope that you are nodding your head “yes” to these questions!  

But if not, and your staff is not able to take the time to do a great job with beginner golf coaching programs, then we recommend that you don’t offer them at all.  It hurts your image and it hurts the industry's image.

We get one shot.

We get one shot to introduce and shape how a beginner perceives green-grass golf for the rest of their life.  That goes for an adult trying the sport. It also goes for parents and juniors who are trying golf for the first time. 

Topgolf and DriveShack are doing their job of getting people interested in golf, are you doing your job to connect them to play the game at your golf facility?  If you don’t feel confident in that your beginner programs are actually connecting your participants to the game, retaining them and turning them into life-long golfers, be sure to check out the Operation 36 Program.  

We have spent 10 Years researching and developing the best on-boarding experience and are looking for facilities and professionals who care.

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