Growing the Game

Seven years ago, Augusta National Golf Club partnered with the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association (USGA) to create Drive, Chip & Putt, a series of golf skills tests for boys and girls between ages 7 and 15. Qualifying play lasted for nearly a year, with the driving and chipping finals played on the world’s best practice facilities at Augusta National. The putting contest was held on the actual 18th green itself, site of dozens of life-changing moments of golf history over decades of Masters Tournaments.

Golfers all over the world were stunned that Augusta National, known for decades as the most private, even “stuffy,” golf club in the world, was inviting kids to putt on the 18th green!

First played in 2014, Drive, Chip & Putt was an instant hit.

It was conceived as a part of a larger,  global effort to grow the game, starting with pre-teens and teenagers, a demographic that rarely thinks about golf. But as every golfer knows, once you hit that first great shot or sink your first birdie putt, you think of yourself as a golfer.    

Today, local qualifying tournaments are held around the country, top scorers get invited to state and regional tournaments, and the whole thing funnels to invitations to the finals on the grounds of Augusta National on the Sunday before the Masters. Past champions, in their green jackets, circulate, congratulating – and inspiring – the youths.

Much like kids used to be taught golf 50 to 100 years ago, courtesy, honest self-scoring and a commitment to civil behavior on the golf course are more important than how well you hit the ball – or how many times you hit it. That had been forgotten as young people took up the game with their friends, eschewing instruction from club professionals and never even being made aware of the importance of etiquette in the game.

Etiquette instruction is among the goals of Drive, Chip &  Putt, and from the astonished testimony of club professionals around the country, it’s working. Some of the kids who have participated are already playing college golf, and some are even on professional tours, but the praise from local pros is more about the courtesy these kids show to their playing partners and to others they meet during their time at their home courses.

Photos provided by The Augusta Chronicle

Article appears in the April 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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