Let us start with a huge THANK YOU. To all of you parents, grandparents, golf coaches and most of all to our Wee Highlander players for challenging themselves in our game by coming to a Wee Highlander event and competing. We value your support and we hope we can move forward together and keep providing you all with a suitable product that you can enjoy attending.
As it’s now been close to 6 months since we first introduced our Wee Highlander fun competitions we thought it might be useful to provide an update on where we are right now with this junior series and our thoughts going forward.
As you may know we always provide a report for you to (hopefully) enjoy after each Wee Highlander event. Our competition at Red Tail GC in Sorrento on Saturday was great fun as usual and the report is shown below this update.
To quickly recap for those of you reading about our “Wees” for the first time the following will hopefully give you an understanding of why we feel it’s very important that we add these youngest of young golfers into our thoughts each time we operate a junior competition.
Its not just a cliché when we say that juniors are the future of golf…its a FACT. As a sport generally we are doing pretty well. In fact where we live (The Villages, Florida) right now the game is on an upward curve with new players taking up the game and many existing players playing more regularly than before…if we only look at those statistics golf is in a pretty good place right now.
The reality is a little different. As we all know during tough times sometimes things can get a little confusing and this is certainly the case here. There are many positives around our sport and probably the biggest right now is how golf managed to quickly find ways of continuing to play despite the world around us quickly changing due to the effects of Covid-19. For that we are all very grateful indeed…for many of us playing golf keeps us active and sane and it didn’t take long for others to latch onto this fact as other sports closed down. The growth of new or returning players immediately followed.
The longer term issue the game has however is more about the demographics than ever before. Who are these new and returning players that are propping up the game and are they going to stay for the long haul? In our opinion it’s unlikely. We aren’t experts but certainly where we live we are not seeing a huge influx of juniors out on the golf courses, we are seeing adults and particularly (we DO live in The Villages remember!) lots of seniors dusting off their old clubs or even investing in a shiny new set of Pings or Mizunos!
The long term future of our great game is all about our youngsters and we are committed to doing everything we can in our State to play a small part in ensuring they have not only great venues to play but they can be slowly introduced at an early age to junior golf competition. Only by doing so and competing regularly will they properly develop their confidence and the practical skills and ability they are being taught by parents and golf coaches.
Our Wee Highlanders series began when a golf coach we know, one who already supports what we do with our older kids and our regular Junior Tour competitions, asked us if we would be interested in putting a fun competition together for some of his very young students? He had a handful of 5-8 year olds who were already taking lessons from him.
At that point we looked at the practicalities of doing so. Its interesting when you start to consider such a project as kids certainly don’t just come in one standard package and golf-playing kids in their earliest playing years most certainly DON”T! The first challenge is one of age and stamina…when is a junior golfer old enough to play on the golf course and how many holes can we realistically expect them to conquer while still ensuring its good fun…young kids get tired and when they do they get emotional, granted some MORE than others but we already know golf is NOT an easy game to master. Put those two together and then ask too much of young kids and you may get a Saturday afternoon on the golf course to forget…and more important than that you may just struggle to get your little one back to play the game we hope they will play for their whole life!
The answers to the above are really open for debate although our experience of operating our WEE Highlanders over the last few months tells us it’s most likely somewhere between aged 5 and 9 and playing 6 suitable-length holes is probably about right too however it’s also NOT possible to define this fully as we can now point to at least two rapidly developing boys aged 8 and 9 who now regularly play in our 18 hole HJT competitions…one prolific young talent shoots sub 80 most days and the other in the low 90’s! In addition we also have an exciting young 7 year old female Wee Highlander from The Villages Golf Academy who is not that far off from joining them!
We realize we cannot offer a one size fits all product for these young players because THEY are all so different in so many ways including age, ability, build and even how interested they are in playing golf! What we can offer however is a fun way of getting them playing regularly, with their family alongside them for support at great venues, and from tee boxes that suit their age and ability.
Wee Highlanders play 6 holes of stroke play golf from our own designated tee boxes on each hole and with an 8 stroke per hole maximum recorded on the scorecard if required(circle 8 rule) In the spirit of proper golf competition we present a Wee Highlander medal to the winning player at the end of play in the clubhouse. We encourage players to be joined on course by a parent who can if they wish act as caddy-coach and we are happy for players to ride in rented golf carts to help ensure their energy levels and enthusiasm remain high and to ensure a good pace of play is maintained.
We actively encourage the learning of good golf etiquette and sportsmanship throughout all of our competitions and we encourage all spectators to get fully behind and support EVERY Wee Highlander who is participating in a competition. At this stage of development we believe having FUN is primarily why kids should compete in these competitions. Any parent who believes strongly that their kid must WIN above everything else should probably find an alternative place to go and play. To date we have been very lucky and we haven’t met too many who posses that particular parenting style!
Our other objective in creating our Wee Highlanders is also about the future. Our kids will of course develop and grow. Their confidence will improve alongside their practical golf skills and at some point you/we and they will feel they are ready to step up a competition level and play in our regular competitions. We see Wee Highlanders as a stepping stone to help them get there. The fact that all of our Wee competitions take place at the same venue on the same day as the older kids competitions is no co-incidence…its now no longer unusual to see kids aged from 5-18 warming up on the driving range together before play and even our older kids cheering our Wee Highlanders back in the clubhouse as they receive their medal. We hope this helps you and them see where their participation from an early stage might lead.
Over the next few weeks we would like to ask for YOUR help. We love hosting our Wee Highlander events and we are committed to continuing however we can’t do so without your input and support. Some of our recent events have been two or three player events and on a couple of occasions we have had to cancel through a lack of entrants. We very much understand why this happens and we are very much open to looking closely at how we can better work with you to ensure we are providing the product you want. Contrary to some opinions Wee Highlanders are NOT only for the most talented of young players, while we certainly have some of those already the only reason they are is because they play and practice more than others, we want to dispel that myth immediately and ensure that any young golfer can feel comfortable and have fun playing with us.
We have some ideas and maybe YOU do too so our plan is to drop you an email over the next few weeks with some of our thoughts and let’s see if we can come up with an even better Wee Highlander product as we now move towards 2021.
Keith McColl – Co-Founder (Highlander Junior Tour and the Wee Highlanders Tour)
(See below for our latest Wee Highlander report from Red Tail GC)
If you’ve already read the HJT Competition report you will know all about the heavy Red Tail GC rain showers we are becoming accustomed to when we visit this great venue to play. We are happy to report our Wee Highlanders missed it ALL!
Fine golfing weather, a wonderful venue that supports junior golf, supportive parents and two excited young golfers set the scene.
Local kid Koen Huther aged 5 (Eustis, Fl) and Carson Luck aged 8 (Rockledge, Fl) were our two Wee Highlanders who stood ready to take on the shortened yardage Red Tail GC holes (1 through 6) in this latest fun stroke play event.
Both Koen and Carson share several things in common. Firstly they have both been medal winners in our Highlander competitions and so have their older brothers! Both come from wonderfully supportive “golf families” and while Koen and Carson were enjoying playing in this Wee Highlander brothers Ryker (Huther) and Cash (Luck) were competing in our 18 hole HJT event. That’s what you call a proper family golf day out!
Both of these young players are great fun to watch and Saturday didn’t disappoint. Both faced challenges including having to play carry shots over water hazards and on at least one occasion both faced the prospect of having to get out of Red Tail’s links style bunkers, each did so without a problem and only a little bit of advice from “caddie-dad”!
The age differences of these two juniors shows up their individuality even at this very early stage and this contest was made even more fun for us as we know these kids AND we could also see the golfing similarities they already share with older brothers too! We know Koen and Ryker as slight in build and height golfing kids (although the latter at aged 10 now seems to be gaining several inches in height EVERY time we see him!) and Carson aged 8 is already starting to take on the same strong and powerful look his older brother Cash (14) has!
Golf is very individual and all about finding what works for you, even at this stage, and both of these young players already do what works for them very well indeed. Carson hits a good powerful drive and Koen (although only a little shorter from the tee) more than makes up for that with a short game most significantly older kids would be proud of having!
It was a very well matched up pair and the scores reflected that. Remember too the course length may be shortened BUT the Red Tail greens are no different to what the rest of us play. When you take that into account both players returned a great scorecard too. Carson shot 32 and Koen shot 31 (on this occasion the circle 8 rule was NOT required!)
Well done To both players. It was fun to watch and hopefully fun to play in. Congratulations to Koen on your medal win, maybe your best one yet?
Thank you everyone for coming along. We appreciate it. Next up for our Wee Highlanders we are back to Eagle Ridge GC in Summerfield this coming Saturday(17th October) The following week will be a break for the Wee’s as the HJT older kids head to the iconic and historic Mission Inn. We hope to see you all soon.
Details of all our future competitions and to register can be found by clicking HERE