Tiger Woods' golf game is a good measuring stick on the popularity of golf across the nation.
When Woods plays well the popularity of the game soars. When Woods struggles, like he has since last year's British Open, so does the popularity of the game.
To counter the latest downward trend of popularity and lack of growth in the game, the Minnesota Golf Council launched "Bring Your Family To The Course" Friday. The statewide program is designed to get more families involved in the game of golf.
More than 60 participating golf courses in Minnesota will allow children 18 and under to golf for free when accompanied by a paying adult.
The program kicks off Monday, July 7 and runs through Sunday, July 13.
Area courses participating in the "Bring Your Family To The Course" week are Breezy Point Resort, Crosswoods in Crosslake, Emily Greens, Fiddlestix in Isle, the Pines at Grand View Lodge, Little Falls Country Club, Madden's Resort, Pine Meadows at Brainerd, the Preserve at Grand View Lodge and Tianna Country Club in Walker.
The program is a result to the "Growing the game" campaign developed by the game's national governing bodies. The goal of "Bring Your Family To the Course," is to change the trend of new golfer participation which has flattened from it's peak numbers of a couple of years ago.
"That's the whole idea," said Mark Johnson, head professional at Breezy Point Resort. "We need to get some young players involved and this program is just making it easier for the families."
Johnson said the program is similar to the "Take Your Daughter Golfing" promotion Breezy Point and other courses had earlier this month.
"I think there's a lot of recreational golfers in the area, but there's not a core golfing population. We need to grow that and especially the women and kids. We have to get them playing.
"There's a lot of kids who play in school, but once the school year is done, they won't touch a club until next year."
To combat the lack of growth the state of Minnesota formed the Minnesota Golf Council. The council is a joint effort among Midwest Golf Course Owners, Minnesota Section of the PGA, private and public club managers, Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents and the Minnesota Golf Association.
The organization's main goal is to increase rounds played in Minnesota, introduce new players to the game and get those players to play more.
"Promoting golf as a game that can be enjoyed together as a family is a powerful message," said Tom Ryan, executive director and chief operating officer of the MGA.
Along with the "Bring Your Family to the Course," other courses in the area are offering free clinics.
The Legacy Courses at Cragun's is offering free clinics for girls and discounted family rates to encourage parents to golf with their daughters. This too begins July 7 and runs through July 13.
"Although 22 percent of all golfers are female, only 13 percent of junior golfers are girls," said Dutch Cragun, owner of the Legacy Courses. "We feel it is important to encourage more girls to get involved in the game so they can experience the fun of the game and benefit from the life skills that golf has to offer."
While the nation is seeing a downward trend in the popularity of golf, the lakes area isn't. Women's leagues and women's outings in the area are growing and women only golf clinics fill quickly.
Cuyuna Country Club is hosting women's golf schools June 27-28. Kathy Williams, the head teaching professional at Prairie Landing Golf Club in West Chicago, Ill. and former University of Minnesota women's golf coach is providing three clinics on Friday and one on Saturday. All four have already filled.
"When Kathy was at the U she came up here on vacation and put on a few free clinics and they were very popular," said Joan Hasskamp, member at Cuyuna Country Club. "People have asked if she would do it again and so she's coming up to put on the clinics.
"The 32 spots filled up quickly. People wanted to get in so they signed up early."
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