story by Christina Waldner | photography by Kurtis Kristianson
At Collicutt Siding Golf Club in Crossfield, providing a program for young golf enthusiasts is important. The Dream Junior Golf Academy introduces kids as young as four to the game through fun, 45-minute weekly sessions.
“Our niche definitely is the introduction to the game. Never once will you hear us refer to them as ‘golf lessons.’ We’re introducing young boys and girls to the game of golf,” said general manager Lyndon King.
The program launched in 2009 with 56 kids and grew to 1,027 in 2017. It’s for kids aged four to 14 but King said the program mostly consists of six-year-olds. Approximately 20 volunteers run the junior golf academy.
“Here are guys that are just interested in growing the game and seeing the smiles of the kids – our pay is the pats on the back from the parents and the smiles from the kids,” he said. “It’s quite rewarding.”
Participants are divided into three groups during each session – one group practices putting, while the others practice chipping and working on their swing. The groups rotate every 15 minutes.
“Every week when they come, they actually do all three stations,” King said. “At the end of the chipping one and the putting one, we have a challenge. For the putting challenge, if you’re four years old, you putt from four feet. If you sink that putt, you actually win a ring pop. Trust me – it’s pretty motivational for a four-year-old.”
The program runs on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 5, 6 or 7 p.m.
“The parents have to register for either Monday or Wednesday but they can come at 5 p.m. one week and 7 p.m. the next – whatever works best for their family’s schedule,” he said. “That’s another reason for the program’s success because it’s quite versatile for the schedules of the families.”
The other great selling point is the cost – it’s only $55 per child, per year. Included in that price is a juice box and hotdog each week, as well as a welcome gift. Clubs are even provided to the kids for use during the program, which costs the golf course between $3,000 and $4,000 each year.
Dream Development came on in 2017 as a major sponsor of the junior golf academy, something King said has really helped the golf course be able to run the program. Dream Development has also held barbecues and other special events to support the academy.
The Crossfield Outdoor Recreation Association and the Crossfield Recreation Board are also sponsors. According to King, this sponsorship has allowed the golf academy to purchase picnic tables and chairs, as well as 600 dozen golf balls.
King said the program is expanding in 2018, with three new programs that go beyond the scope of the junior academy: the Brakeman, Conductor and Engineer programs.
“It’s just different tiering without saying, ‘you’re good, you’re better.’ Some of your peers may excel a little more, and then the lesser ones, they have a tendency to drop out,” he said. “In golf, we don’t want to see that. It’s a sport for all abilities. (These new programs) are all about ability.”
Registration for all programs began April 1 and King said no kid is turned away.