Golfers tend to join clubs without ever being part of a team, but given the flood of new golfers’ interest in the wake of the pandemic, Centenary Park Golf Course in Frankston, southeast of Melbourne, tried to do things a little differently.
Led by PGA Professional Jack Donaldson (pictured), who runs Impact Golf Performance in Centenary Park, the group dynamics and the improved connection to the golf course create an excitement that, according to Donaldson, cannot help but be contagious.
“After team sports stopped, a lot of the men and women who would traditionally have played soccer and netball and those kinds of sports said, ‘You know what? I want to do something. And since I’ve been locked up for a year, I have to start a sport, ”says Donaldson.
“We have the Get Into Golf program and then development programs that allow people to feel part of a team.
“The women’s program is called Thrive. The logo for this is basically a flower with a golf ball in the middle and women really loved that, love to feel that inclusion in the program.
“The men’s program is called Wolfpack. It’s this pack mentality – a little more masculine than a flower – and it was really cool to see men embrace that and the camaraderie and camaraderie they develop in these programs.
“And then the junior program is called Centenary Park Sharks.”
The women’s Thrive program has proven extremely popular in Centenary Park.
Similar to martial arts disciplines that reward progression levels with ascending belt colors, Donaldson encourages development within his junior program with hats of different colors.
Based on the Titleist Performance Institute program, juniors start with red Centenary Park hats and progress to white, blue, green, and eventually black.
“Red is a lot of locomotive skills – running, jumping, and basic posture – and then we go into white, which is the basic level, and choose posture, grip, and athletic weight shift,” explains Donaldson.
“Blue is basically the play stage that brings children to the golf course, and then we go to green, this is the training stage for the older teenagers doing exercises and stations and the like.
“After all, black is the elite level for children who take the game very seriously and want to play at competitive level.
“The good thing about these caps is also the motivation to get the next one and we stick with our junior programs because they want to move up to the next level and get the cap that their boyfriend may already have earned.”
And it’s not just the juniors that Donaldson manages to make the transition from beginning to golf course.
A crucial element in his adult program comes towards the end, one that not only guides his newbies in the technique, but also provides a basis for how to feel comfortable on the golf course.
“I block times on a timesheet on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to create an environment where they know there are people with similar skills and they can just make their way into the game easier,” added Donaldson.
“It’s like a lot of traffic is coming through: ‘How do I add the traffic?’ It is our job to make this golfer’s journey easier.
“I tell people the most important thing is to understand how to take care of the golf course and to be conscious and respectful of other people on the golf course.
“If you play slowly but know that you have to let other people through, these golfers will appreciate that awareness and you will feel much more welcome on the course.
“The rules are just a by-product of the game. You will learn them over time, but you don’t need to know them all. We just want to have a good time and enjoy ourselves.
“Golf can be whatever you want. If you want to play three holes and then go out for a drink with a friend, or hit the driving range, or play 18 holes competitively, this is all you want.
“I really do drive this home as often as possible. That this is a game for everyone and that is what you want to make of it. “
Hit the market
The overarching question emerging from the COVID-infused golf boom revolves around how newbies become lifelong golfers.
Rather than relying on the game’s legacy and the traditions on which it is built, Donaldson says it has a duty to the golf industry to meet the suddenly emerging market rather than expect it to come to us.
Whether it is to offer more group-based classroom environments that people can join with friends, make time to transition to the golf course, or just experience the new way people want to experience golf, every opportunity is worth discovering.
“I actually had a couple of girls in my range, they would have been in their early twenties, one looked a bit punk and one was wearing Converse,” says Donaldson.
“They were out at the shooting range making music and I actually excused myself from a class to go to them.
“They might think I was coming to condemn them, but I said, ‘Can you come back please? Because that’s great. ‘
“That’s the kind of thing that we need to promote. The right attitude in the pro shop and the committed and welcoming personality are decisive.
“We are no longer exclusive. We cannot use that word. We need to be inclusive and welcome people from all walks of life. It means adapting to different people and understanding that golf is no longer a specific type of dress and posture. It’s pretty big in terms of the people it’s aimed at. “