John Wallrich, the 2015 Wisconsin PGA Section Golf Professional of the Year, is PGA Head Professional at Pine Hills Country Club in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
The past few years, there has been a welcome emphasis on getting kids to exercise more. About seven years ago, we added “golf baseball” to our already vibrant youth golf program, resulting in added fun and fitness. We have a big practice range, so we play golf baseball right on the lesson tee, behind the hitting stations. We use orange traffic cones to make a baseball diamond. I buy playground-style eight- inch soft plastic balls from a local sporting goods store, and the kids, divided into two teams, use big-headed plastic golf clubs to hit the ball, which is pitched to them just like in real baseball. They learn about accuracy and trajectory, skills that translate to their golf swing. The game, incorporated into our 45 minutes of lesson time, along with etiquette, manners, rules and technique, adds another level of fun to our program for youth ages 5–17. Afterward, they go out to the course to play their two, four, six or nine holes.
While golf baseball is just one of many fun things we do throughout our youth golf season, it is a popular draw for kids, who pay $95 each to participate. The program runs each Tuesday for eight weeks. Our enrollment fluctuates from 80–100 youth golfers each year. The revenue is returned to program expenses: I pay my assistants, and I spend about $200 annually on teaching aids for our youth programs. Also, each youth golfer receives a gift every year with an approximate value of $12. Trophies and awards are presented at our season-ending banquet, along with a video of the youth golfers in action throughout the season.