Getting Kids on Course

Association Guest Column: Golf Course Builders Association of America (GCBAA)

By Paul Foley

"One of the most fascinating things about golf is how it reflects the cycle of life. No matter what you shoot—the next day you have to go back to the first tee and begin all over again and make yourself into something."

—Peter Jacobsen, professional golfer

olf can provide a fun experience and teach positive values to kids of all ages, but it's generally considered accessible to very few. The Golf Course Builders Association of America's GCBAA Foundation aimed to change all of that when it introduced its Sticks for Kids program, in partnership with the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).

Founded in 1971, the GCBAA is a not-for-profit trade association representing the golf construction industry. It has grown to more than 420 members and plays a crucial role in representing the industry on behalf of its members, as well as providing members with programs and services to sustain and grow their business.

In 1991, the GCBAA formed a charitable foundation to give back to the industry. The GCBAA Foundation provides golf clubs and bags to underprivileged children through its Sticks for Kids program.

In February 2007, 1,000 sets of clubs and bags were shipped to 100 municipalities to start new programs. These programs will provide the opportunity for children who would not have had the opportunity to learn to play the game of golf to attend a program to teach them the game. The program also provides these kids access to clubs at those facilities.

The program starts in the classroom. Kids get instructions on safety, etiquette, rules and the integrity of the game. These are very important life skills that can be applied far beyond simply learning to play golf. They teach kids important values that can be used throughout their lives.

Once these basics are nailed down, the children are then taught how to play the game. Lessons are given in each of the following areas:

  • Grip
  • Chip Shots
  • Playing from the Rough
  • Reading the Green
  • Stance
  • Swing
  • Club Selection
  • Hill Lies
  • Sand Shots
  • Short Swing
  • Pitch Shots
  • Putting

In addition to these essentials, the students learn to keep score, as well as the vocabulary of golf.

Once students complete these lessons, they are taken onto the course to practice.

Beyond the initial workshop, children are encouraged to continue learning and playing golf. The clubs and bags are left at the course for their free use when practicing or playing. The GCBAA Foundation also provides consulting services if any program questions or support needs arise.

All materials to support the program are provided free. This includes lesson plans, skill set cards, press releases to support and publicize the program, signage, certificates of participation for the children who take part, as well as the golf clubs and bags.

The program has been implemented in park and recreation agencies across the country, from Portland, Maine, to Sacramento, Calif., and from Redwood Falls, Minn., to Fort Worth, Texas. Through this program, GCBAA and NRPA are making a difference in these communities, while growing the game of golf.

The program has been so successful that over 250 municipalities are on the waiting list. In 2008 and 2009, Sticks for Kids is committed to starting a minimum of 100 new programs.

Through Sticks for Kids, tens of thousands of children are being taught basic lessons of life, are learning the game of golf, and are being given the opportunity to use the clubs for free.

Play Golf America also has a listing of many additional programs that are designed to increase participation in the game of golf. To learn more about these programs, visit


Paul Foley is the executive director of the Golf Course Builders Association of America. If you would like your local municipality to have a Sticks for Kids program, contact the GCBAA at 402-476-4444 or the NRPA at 703-858-2162. For more information, visit

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