Encouraging juniors should be on the agenda of every UK Golf Club. Is allowing them to play in adult competitions an effective way to do it?

Young players are the future of our game and, at club level, it’s vitally important that juniors are encouraged to stay in the sport. Allowing them to compete in adult competitions would seem an obvious way to do this – To make them feel part of the club and to provide the chance for older members to give guidance and support. But is it that straightforward?

With regards scratch events, it probably is. If a junior is able to compete on a level with the best players at a club, he or she should be allowed to do so. It would take a real Scrooge to deny a junior the chance of winning the club championship or scratch knockout if he or she has the ability to do so.

But when it comes to handicap tournaments, there’s more of an issue. As a rule, junior players who enjoy the competitive side of the game are improving, and many will be doing so rapidly – their handicaps tumbling. Put those youths against adults who’ve battled to maintain the same handicap for decades and the playing field doesn’t look particularly level.

If a long-time member has the round of his or her life in a significant club handicap competition, they’ll feel rather hard done by losing out to a 14-year-old who’s pitched up and shot level par gross, claiming to play off 15.

And what about the social side of the game? Many adult members play the monthly Medal as a way to meet people and to enjoy the company of like-minded individuals. Not all would be delighted to find themselves paired with a monosyllabic teenager who can’t buy a pint after the game. And prizegiving could be something of a damp squib if a couple of juniors have swept the boards thanks to freefalling handicaps.

Adult members should respect, not resent, the junior section. Perhaps allowing the kids to compete in all adult competitions isn’t the best way to achieve this.

What we think:

Clubs should run sufficient junior competitions for young players to gain competitive experience and reduce handicaps. There should be specific adult/junior events through the season and scratch club events should be open to all with the ability to compete.

  • CavanMotorist

    2 or 3 medals off an artificial handicap aren’t to be boasted about

    I would propose a half way house, allow juniors (not juveniles) play in adult competitions for a separate category prize. Where an established adult handicap is achieved then, by all means, allow full participation.

  • scratchiemm

    Ageism and sexism attitudes are fully entrenched in the club game of golf and it will take decades to change the stance of club secretaries and pompous committee members to fully embrace the potential of individuals who want to progress in the game.
    I worked tirelessly at my game for many years, but was unable to ‘compete’ against fellow club members on a regular basis, why? Because I was a ‘lady golfer’.
    I could have easily fared well in the men’s monthly medal, playing off the white tees, but I was never given the chance.
    At least the juniors will eventually age into the right category, but why waste so many years on their path to success?
    Playing with adults (men in general) enabled me to learn the game, the rules, the etiquette. It gave me a perspective of how good my golf was, which, if compared to the ‘Ladies’ in the club was sadly lacking.
    Clubs should have a provision in their competition rules to allow juniors to play and compete as much as possible…….2 or 3 medals will surely get their handicap on track??
    There should be no barriers to success, we should embrace it not stifle it.

    ( Played off scratch, County player, County Champion)

  • Fergus Bisset

    Definitely plenty of adult bandits too! When I was a junior, you were allowed to play in the regular men’s comps at my club when you were 16 and if your h/c was single figures. I think that was about right, (and thought that was about right then too.) Those couple of years definitely helped me improve too, and it was good because by 16 I had enough self-confidence to chat to the older guys and not feel out of my depth. But we were lucky to have a weekly Medal for juniors and plenty of opportunities for bounce games with pals during the rest of the week. We also had a big junior section – like 40 or so regularly playing comps. What with 175 men competing for times on a Saturday comp each week, adding 40 juniors into the mix wouldn’t have been on. I think the situation will be different at different clubs, probably. Those with very small junior sections have to allow juniors to play in men’s medals.

  • Dereck Guilfoyle

    If your one of those people that are very concerned about winning trophies at your local club then you are more than likely to be of those people who are less than straight forward with the self imposed rules of golf. Let the juniors play. Also, there are plenty of adult bandits around that manipulate their handicap in order to win a particular competition.

  • Oh dear, this is a can of worms you’ve opened. Is not the Monthly Medal amongst others a competition for members regardless of age? Clubs have precious few junior members and those that welcome them and their families and let them play in events, tend to be the more forward looking, economically vialble ones.
    I was very lucky when i was a junior, I won plenty of club trophies and received loads of praise and encouragement from my elders, which spurred me on to become a pro.
    I would think that generally the majority of golf club members are relaxed about junior players in their events, but it might be 51% – 49%!
    The whole of the golfing community should be pushing so hard at the moment, after Jordan Spieth’s win in the Masters to market the game as the ultimate family sport, I’m sure you must be having many meetings in the Golf World office about driving junior golf forward?