One of the problems that the game of golf faces is attracting youngsters.
Tackling holes that measure hundreds of yards in length can be rather intimidating to those with no or very little experience with the sport.
Often times, that feeling is compounded by the lack of options for easing one's way into the game. This can produce little to no desire for younger players to attempt — much less foster a love for — golf.
However, a new, innovative local venture aims to eliminate the intimidation and provide a ground-level entry point for today's youth to grow with the game.
Stewartstown-based Genesis Golf Trips is starting Genesis Golf4Kids at the county's first indoor/outdoor golf training facility.
According to owner Kim Carl, the goal is to create a fun, non-intimidating atmosphere where players can pick up new skills and an appreciation for a game they'll hopefully continue to pursue for a lifetime.
"I have been wanting to do something for kids, it's in all our hearts," Carl said at a recent test run for the program. "We wanted to do something where we introduce golf in a fun way. There's this assumption that kids should know and have the confidence to walk on to the course and know what to do. We are tying to fill that void in the entry level, that starting place, in a fun way. Our tagline is 'putting fun and purpose back into the game of golf.'"
S.N.A.G. them early: Something that quickly separates Golf4Kids from other youth golf programs is that it utilizes PGA-endosred S.N.A.G. (Starting New At Golf) equipment. This equipment features oversized club faces, Velcro targets and safer tennis balls in lieu of real golf balls.
But make no mistake, the clubs feel as balanced and weighted as the real ones when in your hand — a far cry from the plastic novelty sets largely featured in stores.
And it's how Golf4Kids makes use of these items that really separates it from other youth golf programs.
Golf4Kids creates a more relaxed atmosphere by making use of this equipment through various games that resemble anything but your typical round of golf.
Chipping and putting are merged with other familiar sports such as bowling and baseball. Velcro and safer tennis balls are used in a way to create a number of targeting games. Moving away from the individualized nature of golf, a team element is sometimes added to help teach skills that can be utilized off the course as well, such as showing respect and working together.
Safety and etiquette are also part of the program.
"It's character building, we'll be talking about integrity, attitude, honesty, all of it," Carl said. "It's introducing them to a sport that we hope they gravitate to, and if nothing else, helps give them some family time with mom and dad who might play," Carl said. "And if it becomes something they really want to do and pursue, then we'll pass them off to other junior programs in York County that we have relationships with. "
Lots to offer: A number of different programs will be offered for youth aged 8 and over. Some of the offerings include weekly half-day camps, six-week clinics, family putt-and-play sessions, birthday parties and individual instruction.
The group also plans to offer programs for reaction councils, schools and day-care facilities.
The program will be led by assistant general manager Sydney Gasche, who brings strong local experience to the program. Gasche is PGA certified and spent some time as the assistant golf professional at Royal Manchester Golf Links, as well as having worked previously with the York County Junior Golf Association.
"The biggest thing in teaching youth, is how do you make it fun?" Gasche said. "You have to keep them engaged or they'll lose interest. In the past, I've made the mistake of making it too golf-oriented. But this stuff makes it so easy. We're not developing golfers, we're introducing kids to golf, that's the biggest difference."
The program's other instructors also have more than 30 combined years of experience in the golf industry and more than 40 years working with young athletes. Carl notes small class sizes, right now slated to cap at eight kids, will help participants. She also said that every employee, not just those who will work with the kids, has passed necessary clearances.
More info: Golf4Kids is an offshoot of parent company Genesis Golf Trips, which specializes in group and individual golf package trips throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
Those who might be interested, are encouraged to attend a free grand opening open house on Friday. The open house, with refreshments, will run from 4 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at Genesis Golf's Stewartstown location.
The first camp is scheduled to begin July 11 and run through July 15 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. No parental involvement is needed and all equipment is provided. For more information, call (717) 993-3028 or visit www.Genesis.Golf.
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.