Keeping the sport of golf alive is a challenge — especially when you’re talking about a game that emerged in Europe around the 15th century. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek to say that a lot has changed since then.
So, let’s fast-forward to more contemporary times, say the 1990s, when the game was in its heyday. Tiger Woods was a household name for the sport, and it seemed that people of all ages were falling in love with an activity that’s really quite primitive: club hits ball.
Yet, the reality is that times and interests change, and by the time the economy plummeted in 2008, golf was experiencing a rude awakening.
Since then, keeping golf relevant has been the goal, not just locally, but virtually everywhere. Naperville Park District courses, Springbrook and Naperbrook, which both have enjoyed large and loyal followings since their openings in 1974 and 1991 respectively, have taken on the challenge to increase play.
This comes in the wake of national studies that show time and money — and exactly in that order — as main obstacles to playing more golf. Add to that, the role of “dad” in today’s family is significantly different (meaning more involved) than it was even a decade or two ago.
What’s a golf course to do?
“The goal has been to expand our mindset of who’s playing golf,” explained Ed Provow, director of golf for the Park District. “As a result, we’ve introduced family golf and more youth play opportunities in recent years. The sport of golf is becoming a real family affair.”
The notion that golf is for “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden” is long gone. Learning opportunities abound at both Park District courses, with lessons offered this year for kids as young as age five.
“If kids start soccer at age 4 or 5 and learn the other sports available, there’s no reason not to put a club in their hands and teach them the sport of golf,” Provow said.
Both courses are in their second year of offering the PGA Junior League, a little league-type atmosphere for kids ages 13 and younger.
“It’s a great opportunity for kids with all levels of experience to meet other youth golfers and compete, but in a fun and friendly atmosphere,” said Mike Lyzun, Springbrook’s head golf pro.
Other recent kid-friendly improvements include junior tee markers and a junior scorecard.
Adults interested in taking up golf, but concerned about the embarrassment factor, would be well served taking lessons at either course.
“We have a low-key approach to teaching,” said Tim Dunn, Naperbrook’s head golf pro. “No one benefits from feeling pressured. Golf can be challenging, but it’s our job as instructors to make the process fun and productive. Each instructor has a somewhat different approach, but in the end, our goal is to help our students, regardless of age, learn to play a game that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.”
So, what makes Springbrook and Naperbrook different than other area courses?
“We’re an affordable option, and our courses are beautiful and well-maintained. We hear that time and again from our guests,” Provow said. “We’re also making some changes to our clubhouses that will make them more welcoming.”
Both courses will receive patio upgrades and updates inside, including additional TVs, new furniture and menu upgrades.
“Aside from the changes, our success hinges on growing the game for tomorrow; it’s the youth players that will make the difference,” Provow added. “I am optimistic about the future, not only for the game, but also for Springbrook and Naperbrook.”
Sameera Luthman is the director of marketing and communications at the Naperville Park District. Contact her at 630-848-3570 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit www.napervilleparks.org.