Youth on Course booms in Michigan as golf continues to be a safe activity for juniors

In more than 25 years of service to the game in many Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) capacities, John Schulte has never seen anything like the success of Youth On Course (YOC) in truly growing the game of golf.

“I don’t think anything has come close to achieving this,” said the current president of the GAM Foundation that leads the Youth on Course effort in Michigan.

“We’ve seen some record numbers in tournament growth in the last 20 years by adding a number of championships to reach a more diverse group of golfers, but Youth on Course has exploded with new golfers. It’s been a great way to get young people on the golf course.”

The final 2020 numbers for the GAM Foundation’s work in the ever-growing national YOC effort include 27,660 rounds being played by 7,094 Michigan youth golfers. The foundation paid out $211,000 in subsidies to the 108 Michigan courses that participated.

By comparison, 9,900 rounds were played in Michigan by YOC golfers in 2019 and this year’s subsidies are significantly more than double what was paid a year ago.

This year was the fourth year of GAM Foundation involvement in Youth on Course, which is a national non-profit grow-the game program implemented nationwide that allows youngsters ages 6-18 to play golf for $5 or less.

YOC recently reported over 104,000 members across the country who played nearly 300,000 rounds this year with over 1,400 partner golf courses and over $2 million being reimbursed to the courses for their YOC rounds.

Schulte called the 2020 Michigan numbers in YOC amazing.

“It has been a wonderful year especially considering the pandemic and all the bad things that went on around the world,” he said. “Everybody was worried at the start of the golf season, and even when golfers were permitted to go on the golf course in mid-May, I don’t think anybody expected numbers to increase so much over our previous years.

Schulte said the young golfers jumped on the golf courses and saved the day.

“Getting 27,000 rounds was more than double than what we anticipated even before the pandemic,” he said. “I think all of us were very much surprised and very pleased. Being part of Youth on Course has been a great experience for me, I think for all of us at the GAM, and I’m delighted with it.”

Schulte said the numbers early in the season seemed to be what was expected and he was pleased with it. Then in July and through October, the numbers continued to build.

“That was amazing, and as we passed Labor Day the boys and girls were still getting out on the course.”

The success in Michigan has added a challenge to the GAM Foundation. A centennial celebration in 2019 that involved Jack Nicklaus served as a GAM Foundation fundraiser that, according to Schulte, put the GAM in a great position to fund the subsidies that anchor the program.

“Going forward we need to come up with some additional streams of revenue, especially considering the growth we are experiencing,” he said. “We’re working on it.”

Among the ideas being put into play is the 100 Hole Hike fundraiser used by the YOC. The GAM, led by Executive Director Chris Whitten, raised over $4,000 in 2019 and over $14,000 in 2020. The 100 Hole Hike involved Whitten and others taking pledges and then playing 100 holes of golf on foot in a single day at Chandler Park Golf Course in Detroit.

“We would like to grow the 100 Hole Hike and have it become a state-wide initiative for us,” Schulte said. “We want to encourage young golfers to get involved, graduates of Youth on Course and others to get involved and help the foundation continue to fund Youth on Course.”

Whitten is all in despite having sore feet at the end of his 100 holes the last two years.

“The GAM Foundation is so proud to bring Youth on Course to Michigan with the amount of participation we have seen,” he said.

“When many activities were considered unsafe for kids this summer, golf filled a big void for a lot of families. We saw growth over 100 percent and the Hike helped bring awareness to our effort to support kids playing golf affordably all across the state.”

Learn more about supporting Youth on Course in Michigan at

Comments are closed.