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  • Writer's pictureCoach Nate

The ABC's of Junior Golf

For one reason or another, junior golf and all the opportunities it affords families can be unequivocally complicated. There are so many different programs, options, and acronyms unseen in youth sports offerings like soccer or basketball. This blog aims to simplify these opportunities to their core, offering insights for golf parents. Below, the various offerings are listed, organized by experience and skill level, starting with absolute beginners.

Local golf course coaches run this program that is offered to kids 6 and under. The classes will follow a curriculum developed by former early education teachers and follow simple, memorable metaphors and stories. The goal is to build a foundation for loving golf and building self-confidence. Classes are typically catered to kids 3 to 6 and do not require any experience, prior skills or equipment to enjoy!

This program is comparable to baseball's Little League. There are two divisions; 13 and younger and 17 and younger. The teams in Central Oregon compete locally with "home" and "away" matches within each league. The feel and look is similar to Little League in that you will play on your team with the same color golf shirts complete with numbers and last names on your back. It is a team event featuring a "scramble match play" format lending the matches to be very fun and not pressure-filled. Some golf experience would be helpful, but this program is intended to provide great on-course learning opportunities for young golfers and their families alike!

These after school programs and summer camps are all about community. The goal is to empower young ladies as they learn the skills required to be energized athletes and engaged citizens. These classes are for girls only, ages 5 to 17, and do not require any experience, prior skills or equipment to enjoy!

This is a branded nationwide curriculum designed to provide motivation to shoot 36 or better for 9 holes. There are different levels that participants ascend through based on current skill. Distilled down, players will start playing 9 holes from 25-yard holes and gradually progress to 50, 100, 150, 200 and a full age-appropriate yardage for 9 holes. If you shoot 36 or better from 25 yards, the next test would be played from 50 yard holes, and so on.  It builds upon skills learned close to the hole and moves back when a player is ready. These classes are for kids 6 and older and should be considered if your junior has golf experience and enjoys playing the game in a formal, stroke-counting setting. 

Drive, Chip and Putt

This initiative is completely free to all participants and has become more and more visible over the last decade with the involvement of Augusta National. The contest is simple, participants try to get as many points as possible in three drives (points are earned with distance within a 40-yard wide grid), three chips, and three putts (points are earned with proximity to the hole on a "bullseye" target). There has been a Local Qualifier held in Central Oregon since 2019. Broken Top Club is slated to host the 2024 edition. There are three qualifiers for each age group that will move on to Regionals (usually in the Portland area), two qualifies from that contest to move on to Sectionals (usually at Pebble Beach in Monterey or Chambers Bay near Seattle), and the medalist at that event will earn a spot at Nationals at Augusta the week before The Masters. This is an incredibly fun event for juniors aged 7 to 15 to prepare for and be "put on the spot" to feel healthy pressure and see what they are made of!

Parents often ask, "Is my child ready for COJGA?" Coach Nate has worked hard to ensure that everyone is "ready for COJGA."  COJGA offers a full slate of learning opportunities detailed below including Free Golf Clinics, Discover Golf, Play to Learn, Girls Golf, and Play to Compete. They also offer a full schedule of playing opportunities within the COJGA Tour. These events include the following divisions: Team Scramble (players wanting to play fun formats with a teammate, often those that are beginning their competitive journey) and Individual (more experienced players seeking competitive growth). Once junior players are comfortable playing on a course, COJGA events are a great place to play and get a sense for competition. It is recommended to know the rules of golf, basic etiquette, and the ability to score 50 or better from age-appropriate tees to play in the Individual division.

COJGA's Program Offerings (link to 2024 Playbook):

  • Free Golf Clinics - Each year, COJGA offers an introduction and an exposure to the game of golf in each of the communities we serve including Madras, Prineville, Redmond, Bend and La Pine.  These clinics do not require any experience, prior skills or equipment to enjoy!

  • Discover Golf - Another COJGA initiative, these after school programs and summer camps are geared to provide a series of play arenas that encourages teamwork, collaboration and exploration using a stick (golf club) and ball to achieve tasks and carry out missions. You can learn all about the "DG Way" here. The classes are for kids aged 4 to 7 and do not require any experience, prior skills or equipment to enjoy!

  • PLAY TO LEARN - These after school programs and summer camps turn up the competitive dial from Discover Golf, but still provide a collaborative group learning environment. The skills of golf are learned through game scenarios that will encourage young people to work together, think critically and develop human skills necessary to be productive athletes and people. The classes are for kids aged 7 to 12 and do not require any experience, prior skills or equipment to enjoy!

  • PLAY TO COMPETE - This program designed by COJGA features classes that appeal to existing young golfers looking to take their game to the next level. Golfers in this group can expect a variety of coaching strategies including but not limited to course management and mental coaching and specialized on-course time. The classes are geared for current golfers aged 10 to 14 that are regularly playing on the course and keeping score.

The US Kids schedule has been growing more and more in the Northwest over the past few seasons.  There is a Southwest OR tour, as well as a Portland tour that are considered "Local". These events are competitive and allow for parents to caddie for their child. Players should know the ins and outs of a round of golf but have their caddies available to help with decision making and reinforce etiquette, etc.  The Local Tours lead into State, Regional, National, and International series of events which are all "status" based meaning you can earn yourself invitations to the bigger events based on playing well in smaller events.

This is the umbrella organization for all amateur golf competition and handicapping in Oregon.  OGA runs the biggest state-wide youth golf tournaments - details and schedule can be found here. If you plan on playing competitive high school or college golf, playing OGA events will develop awareness of how you stack up with your peers and provide valuable experience for future competitions.

This is the most prominent junior golf organization for advanced players. Many AJGA events involve extensive travel and entry fees as well as a "status system" required to gain entry into the field.  The events organized by AJGA are very visible to collegiate recruiters and if you have any desire to play beyond high school golf competitively, AJGA events will give you lots of visibility.


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