The TGA Premier Golf curriculum can be taught in a traditional golf course setting, but also in a school gym, community center or any indoor / outdoor setting that will accommodate the hitting of low-impact golf balls. [Photo: Brian Walters Photography]
You can’t beat good golf equipment — missile-launching drivers, forgiving irons, hole-seeking putters. Today’s technology and applications are dedicated to making your game better. There’s still one hitch, however. You have to have a game, or at least an interest in developing one.
In short, it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got a swing.
The most valuable tools you can have to play golf are commitment and know-how. That’s where TGA Premier Golf comes in, a golf enrichment program that has reached 75 markets across 28 states.
Entry-level golf initiatives like TGA Premier Golf and the USGA's First Tee chapters demonstrate lessons to be learned from the game. They provide initial exposure, teach rules etiquette and integrity, preach golf as a conduit for life lessons, then transition them to national programs like PGA Junior League and Drive, Chip & Putt.
What makes the TGA model different is it teaches kids how to also grow within the game, and how to embrace it long term.
When Joshua Jacobs launched TGA (Teach, Grow Achieve) in 2003, he had seen statistics that say only 2 ½ percent of Americans play golf. He read articles that indicate the children of parents who do not play were also highly unlikely to play. He is aware of National Golf Foundation numbers that show 1 million people take up the game each year and 1 million quit.
And he is pragmatic about all of it.
“Everything in the golf world is a business, the manufacturers, publications, golf courses … all businesses,” Jacobs said. “The PGA (Tour) board, PGA of America, the USGA … they look at themselves as businesses. And that’s what’s ironic.
“They always say in business that, if you look at an industry as a whole, the most expensive and time-consuming line item is going to be customer acquisition. Yet, the golf industry spends the least amount of money on customer acquisition.
“We do a great job of keeping all kinds of people interested. We have leagues for them, we have different ways to buy clubs, cheap tee times … a lot of different ways to keep people involved. But there are not a lot of ways to get people who don’t play golf into the industry.”
TGA is not an initiative program, it is a business model. It’s the business of reaching kids and families who might otherwise not be reached, the business of teaching them to enjoy a sport and a means to pursue it, the business of customer acquisition and retention.
The TGA model is an after school enrichment curriculum, for kindergarten through eighth grade students, that can be conducted at schools, community centers, churches or just about any type facility. Equipment is provided and regular clubs are used to hit low-impact golf balls, which allow the series of six one-hour classes to be conducted indoors or outdoors, on grass or concrete.
For a cost of around $100 per student, youngsters advance, station-by-station, through five skill levels. The increments include warm-ups, fun-based drills, skills instruction and leadership and sportsmanship lessons. What’s more, the program features interactive STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts) labs to allow kids to explore and relate concepts like math, gravity, and aerodynamics to the dynamics of the sport.
The TGA model also operates summer camps, “play days” and tournaments that allow parents to be involved and encourage young golfers as they progress. One complimentary aspect of the program is that non-golfing parents often follow their children into the game by being TGA instructors themselves. Those parents fall into the 25 to 45 age bracket, i.e. the sweet spot of potential new golfers. In short, the tail wags the dog.
“These are introductory programs,” Jacobs said. “No. 1, these programs need to be fun. No. 2, there needs to be some skill development and No. 3, there needs to be consistent communication. Because, for the majority of our parents, this is their first foray into golf, which has to be a positive because this sets up the rest of their golf career.”
A franchise costs between $15,000-$20,000 and franchisees can adapt the business model to fit their particular needs. TGA provides the initial equipment, a curriculum and training for coaches — who do not have to be golf professionals.
“We’re going to build the house for you, we’re going to build the walls, but you’re going to decorate the house to the way you want it to look like,” Jacobs explained. “Every franchise has its own personality, from the coaches they hire, the way they teach their classes, to the quality control they have. That’s going to be their personality.”
Talk about “growing the game.” TGA is providing economic motivation for entrepreneurs to offer a good product, access and stimulation for kids, commitment from parents and a self-gateway for the sport. Sounds like customer acquisition.
Jacobs added his research shows 70 percent of the kids and families that participate in TGA programs have never played golf before and 42 percent funnel to golf facilities. Moreover, TGA recently completed a $750,000 curriculum and business infrastructure investment to streamline operations across its eight sports platforms, including golf.
“They key for us is we’re really the base of the pyramid,” Jacobs added “When you talk about who’s growing the sport of golf, who’s increasing participation, who’s going out and running programs and making golf available to the masses that don’t play — we’re one of the few organizations that actually does that.”
Dan O’Neill, who covered golf for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1989 to 2017, is an editorial consultant on golf for Fox Sports. His articles have appeared in publications such as Golfweek, Golf World, Golf.com and The Memorial magazine.