reposted with permission from http://www.usgolfcamps.com
“I was expecting 20 kids and 40 showed up!” stated Larry Velten, Class A PGA Head Professional at Manor Country Club in Rockville, Maryland. In the long run this is a great problem to have, but while it’s happening it can be tough for the instructors and dangerous for the participants. Like many golf professionals and junior golf leaders, Larry’s situation is something that needed to be dealt with quickly before the situation got out of hand and he started to lose kids from his program. The following are a couple of basic ideas that will help when you run into this situation. The main two things that you need to handle this problem are supervision and space.
Proper supervision is the ability to keep a safe ratio between the instructors and students, while giving quality instruction. What is the correct ratio? There are many different opinions, but in golf a 5 to 1 ratio is very strong. Once you have more than 10 kids per instructor, things can get dangerous. Most golf courses can’t afford to have 4 staff members for a 20 kid clinic, so what do you do? What Larry did at Manor Country Club was to find volunteer help. He looked in 2 directions, first was for older junior golfers that had been through his program and second was parents of the students and retired members of his club that were willing to help. In both cases he recruited volunteers that had the time to help, but also had a good basic safety knowledge of the game. He was not as concerned as much about their golf teaching ability.
The next step was to give his volunteers a 45 minute orientation of how the clinic was to run, how long each part of the clinic was to last, how each activity was going to be set up safely, and a basic idea of the topics that he was going to teach that day. Each volunteer understood that they should be more concerned with the safety of the clinic than the teaching techniques. Their job was to keep order and emphasize what Larry had told the kids at the beginning of the clinic. A good ratio is obviously going to help keep the clinic safe, but it’s also going to help the clinic move smoothly from activity to activity. Remember that the biggest complaint we hear about junior golf clinics is not the quality of the instruction but that the program was disorganized. Getting help to bring your ratio down will go a long way to help with the organization of the program.
The spacing issue was not a problem for Larry. He had a large range tee, plus an ample chipping green and a full putting green. Plus, best of all, the practice area was closed to the rest of the club members on Mondays. With the larger numbers, Larry’s main concern was using the space properly and dividing his clinic into 4 groups, when he had originally planned on having 2 groups. But for many other junior programs around the country, they don’t have enough space in the practice area for their class, plus many times they have to share it with club members or the paying public. The first solution for many programs is simple; ask the facility to rope off part of the practice area for your class. If this is possible, that’s great. If not, you have to get creative. Many groups use open spaces at the facility and paint circles for the greens and cut a hole for the flag. This is also a great spot to chip tennis balls or plastic balls to these newly made greens, or play games where one student chips the tennis ball and the other catches it. Many nontraditional golf programs have done this in fields for years. You can also set up mini-ranges in these spaces, whether you use mats or not. Depending on the age and ability of the participants, you can judge how long of a range you will need. You can get away with driving and chipping in these areas, but eventually you’ll need to putt. So some time is going to be required on a putting green or at least a surface that is closely mown.
One more thing to keep in mind as your numbers increase is the ancillary items. You are going to need more Band-Aids, water coolers, sunscreen, prizes, rental clubs, umbrellas, course paint, training aids, range balls, shag bags, and all the other little things that make a your junior golf program run professionally.
In the end, all of us that teach junior golf hope that we have to deal with this issue of too many kids. Our goal is to be able to deal with increased numbers without losing the quality of our programs.