Spring starts early down South. With Spring’s arrival, the start of the golf season begins including PGA Jr League Golf Teams. Beginning in April, these teams are forming across the Country to encourage more youth to enter the sport.
PGA Jr League Golf Teams are a great way to expand your child’s love of golf from lessons to match play tournaments. After all, what fun is it to take tons of lessons and never put those skills to the test on the golf course! These leagues are all-inclusive and not exclusive to try-outs. It allows golfer, who are 13 and under, of all skills to enjoy playing with other kids.
At the end of four to seven match play games of nine holes each, the Top 10 best players of each golf course league gets to advance to the Semi-Finals. For example, in our case, the State of Georgia meets in the Atlanta area to compete off other teams. The winning team out of the Semi Finals then goes to compete at the Nationals against other States. In 2016, the Nationals will be held at Greyhawk in Arizona.
A brief description of a PGA Jr League Team…
A Team needs a minimum of 40 players. If 40 players can not be found at a singular golf club, golf clubs can join together to get to the 40 total. If combining, practices and play are shared between the clubs. Usually, the first meeting is a “skill assessment”. Although, there are not try-outs for the PGA Jr League, the Coach(es) do need to evaluate each player instead of just throwing them out on the course against other players.
The first month, give or take, will consist of evaluating and practice to determine which players can go to the course immediately to practice there and which players need a little bit more practice on the putting/chipping green and/or driving range with assistant coaches. This is great because your child is getting lessons as well as actual golf course experience all wrapped up in a package. This is the best for your child so don’t worry if they don’t make it to the golf course immediately after the evals. Those that immediately go on the golf course are given certain skills to practice but typically not coached. They are not playing a match on the course but practicing/demonstrating skills. Once match play begins, practicing ends and all kids go to the golf course for match play
The First Meeting evaluates Driving, Chipping and Putting Skills. Usually, those that are more experienced golfers go to the course to practice. Those that do not evaluate as well stay on the Driving, Chipping and/or Putting area with asst coaches for more practice.
The cost to join a team is independent and not standard. Each Coach and golf course charges differently. A minimum cost of $75 is required by the PGA Jr Assn (for admin fees, shirts, marketing, etc) and then the Coach/Golf Course adds on their fee on top of that. For a total cost, I’ve seen anywhere between $175 to $375. Even at the high end, it’s a bargain for your child to get actual match tournament play, additional practice/lessons and experience.
Shopping for a team? I guarantee you there are parents out there that will only have their child sign up for a team that is hot hot hot. While, I understand and can relate to a winning spirit/attitude, we chose the team that our favorite coach is managing. Our coach is a rare bird because before he teaches a kid about golf, he teaches them about life: sportsmanship, friendship, taking the high road, common sense and the love of the game. My son much prefers a coach that is understanding vs over aggressive. Each kid is different. Ours prefers a partnership vs. a dictatorship but that is another blog topic altogether. I recommend talking to the Coach that is leading your local PGA Jr League to see if it’s a fit for your child.
Two teams of players are matched each week to play against each other within your golf course league. Each team consists of two to three players (almost never the same players week to week). This is a game of “best ball.”
The teams play three matches (see Pace of Play below) in sections of three holes at a time.
Only two players from each team play at a time for every group of three holes. The extra third player helps his/her team by reading the greens, club selection and helping select the best ball.
After each golfer has hit their ball, they select the best ball to play from.
Pickup is triple bogie for each hole.
Every three holes is won or lost. At the end of every three holes, it is decided who wins those holes and the winning team gets a “flag.” A flag is basically a sticker for your bag. A group of three players has the opportunity to win up to three “flags.”
The goal is to get as many “flags” as you can on a weekly basis.
What to Expect:
- Weekly Visits to the Golf Course, typically, from May to July
- Match Play for Every Child for four to seven games.
- Try to have your child attend as many games as possible. It takes a lot of kids to play and it helps the entire league to have as many golfers as possible. Since this occurs during Summer, it is expected and acceptable to miss due to vacation.
- Parents are asked to bring water/snacks for their team (usually 3 players)
- The players are changed each week so no one is constantly matched together to prevent “ringers.”
- Most parents that were in our league either waited at the Clubhouse during Match Play or did a “drop-off”. There are plenty of parents on the course to make sure your kiddo is not alone. This is precious father-son time for our family.
Pace of Play:
As with any tournament, the Pace of Play is tracked and a range warden (usually the main Coach or a designated parent), will let you know if you need to hurry it up. Having players that are familiar and have played golfed previously helps keep the Pace of Play on track. Hunting for lost balls, taking too much time deciding on best ball or having too much parental involvement/inference (i.e. clubbing) are the top reasons for slow pace of play in the league. Please encourage your child to keep the pace of play moving. In full disclosure, we are guilty of taking too much time discussing clubs.
I do not have answers on how and who is selected for the Top 10 best players. My hope is that each Coach is basing it on skill as well as performance. Our experience shows that to be the case. It is very important to note that just because your child wins a lot of “flags” during the match play tournaments, that does not mean that your specific child is a Top 10 player. Why? Because it is best ball, the other players your child is paired with might have been carrying your child. I see it every week. A lot of coaches will pair up great golfers (role models) with not so skilled golfers to even out the play. The Top 10 idea is a way to keep the more experienced golfers in the league and become role models. Be honest with yourself and with your child about their skills so they do not get let down. It is the parent’s responsibility to understand their child’s skill. Although Nick’s goal is to win and make the Top 10, he focuses on the weekly challenges instead of the Top 10.
Nick recommends that a Top 10 golfer exhibit the ability to Drive at minimum 150 yards (straight), getting on the green by Pitching at least 50 yards away and be able to successfully Putt at least 12 feet. Consistency is key!
Personally, I believe that an all around great golfer is probably not in a league. The kids are young and still learning. There are kids that excel above others and those are considered role models for the less experienced golfers. If I were the Coach, I would pick the best drivers, chippers and putters that can handle tournament play to be in the Top 10 because it is best ball. Tournament play is a completely different activity than grabbing some friends and going golfing. It takes a certain type of character to compete with other experienced golfers in a stressful situation.
- Always have your child arrive about an hour early to practice driving, chipping and putting. This gets them warmed up and gives them an opportunity to meetup with fellow golfers/friends. There is zero time to chat or hang out once the Match Play starts. * Some courses provide free driving range balls and some do not.
- Bring your own golf balls!! I can’t stress this enough! Our Coach has to constantly remind golfers and their parents that it is the golfer’s responsibility to supply their own golf balls. Please bring more than your child will need. If your child loses a lot of balls, then definitely pack extra! *Provide your own tees as well.
- Do NOT spend time on hunting for a ball. If the golfer hit it into the woods and you can’t find it quickly, then move on. There is zero time built in for hunting balls. I can’t stress this enough. Since the Match Play is best ball, hunting for balls really is a moot activity and hurts the team because you are preventing them from getting the full nine holes in.
- Since Pickup is triple bogie, do not let your child continue to play the ball. The word “pickup” does not mean that a golfer gets to continue to play even if it’s just for fun or practice. You are in a tournament, not a fun match. Tournaments have rules and this is one of the top rules for tournament play.
- The Tournaments last no longer than 2.5 hours.
Our family has enjoyed the PGA Jr League immensely. We encourage every kid golfer to sign up and experience the fun! The other golfers are excited to play and easy to interact with. The parents have been awesome and filled with enthusiasm for the love of golf and their kids as they cheer everyone on. Since our son ages out, we are hoping that the PGA makes it official to have a 16 and under league in 2017 so Nick can continue the fun.