Golf in the School Cafeteria – Of Course Says TGA!
Youth sports franchise model brings golf year-round in schools changing the landscape of how to grow participation
The fastest growing junior golf program in the industry is bucking the mainstream trend of how to grow participation. By vesting local stakeholders to grow golf through a unique youth sports franchise model, TGA is growing faster than industry programs such as PGA Junior League (33,000), Youth on Course (18,000), and Drive, Chip, Putt, and at the same time becoming a significant feeder program into each of them.
As schools across the country welcome the return of students, TGA Premier Golf (670,000 participants to date) will be front and center with over 55,000 youngsters (ages 5-12) registering this fall for its school based golf enrichment programs. Among those registering, 65-70 percent of them and their millennial parents have never played the game before.
"TGA (Teach Grow Achieve) Premier Golf fills a void in the industry by delivering introductory programs and bringing the sport directly onto school campuses while solving junior golf's primary barriers to entry: accessibility, cost, time, transportation and fun," CEO Joshua Jacobs said.
"When we started TGA in 2003, our model was contrary to the industry beliefs of how to grow the sport. The industry relied on philanthropic, volunteer, or charitable endeavors where the norm was to provide free golf programs for primarily lower socio-economic demographics," Jacob said. "With only about 3-4 percent of America playing golf, there is an opportunity to grow participation throughout all demographics, including middle to upper income families who lack the knowledge of how to get into and stay in the sport."
Meanwhile core sports like soccer, lacrosse and others, which charged participation fees for their introductory programs, flourished and grew fast. TGA recognized, especially in individualistic sports such as golf and tennis, that retention was often tied to how much time and money a family invests in that sport.
"By making golf available and bringing introductory programs to the masses in a cost-competitive way, it gives TGA a higher probability of bridging the gap from school programs to professional instruction and recreational programs at golf courses and driving ranges as well as retaining them for the long term."
The self-sustaining, no funding needed business model is putting golf on a level playing field with other mainstream sports and is creating a healthier and safer environment at schools for students to be introduced to and learn golf. The program is also being utilized anywhere on school campuses regardless of weather, including gymnasiums, hallways, cafeterias, fields and blacktops.
What differentiates TGA from other industry programs and initiatives is the for-profit turnkey franchise business that vests passionate entrepreneurs whose livelihoods are based on growing golf participation throughout their local community. In addition, the TGA program, with its classroom like curriculum, incorporates education subjects and STEM/STEAM Labs using golf as the conduit, as well as physical fitness and health components.
TGA also provides all the equipment at no cost for its classes. This includes its own line of TGA youth golf equipment providing age and height customized equipment with a low-cost access point into the game.
"Introductory grassroots golf programs have taken a back seat to competitive programs," Jacobs said. "Introductory programs are a critical component to the future of the game and with golf's core audience, baby boomers, playing less and passing on, these programs have become vital to the industry's sustainability and paramount to the success of golf courses and PGA/LPGA Professionals careers."
The majority of the 1.5 million families TGA reaches across all facilities they serve are from middle to upper income areas allowing the model to be fully sustainable through parent funding. The lower income areas in the communities they serve are backed by TGA's 501c3 non-profit arm that provides grants and subsidies to ensure no child is left behind who wants to learn golf.
After activating participants and their families in these introductory programs, TGA partners with local golf courses and driving ranges (around 200 across the U.S.) that bridge participants from non-traditional golf programs to recreational golf programs such as camps, parent/child events and local leagues. It is a true player pathway.
An exciting byproduct of working with this age group is gaining a platform to communicate with their millennial parents, a coveted and elusive golf group the industry is only beginning to tap. TGA has learned that if you activate juniors, the probability of activating the parents increases as golf becomes a fun family activity. TGA franchises are now providing parent clinics to get them started in the game.
"With the money and talent the PGA and LPGA TOURS offer, their players visibility has never been higher. With that, the demand to learn and play golf is at an all-time high," Jacobs said. "To capture that demand, the industry has a great opportunity to plant the seeds to succeed long term. If we focus on and invest in scalable, sustainable and replicable introductory programs offered in the right environment, the impact will be felt from golf courses to manufacturers for decades to come."