There are many "standard" questions I am asked when people first learn about the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan. One of those questions is what it takes to start a program like this. Many would be surprised at how little is actually needed to get a successful junior golf program off the ground. Adapted clubs are not necessary. The special carts you see people like famous trick shot artist Dennis Walters using aren't necessary. Just what is needed? Read on and you will find out.
The first thing to look for is a facility that has a reasonable amount of space to conduct golf clinics. This space does not have to be outside! Since our program at Ranken Jordan is year-round, and St. Louis weather can be quite severe at times, we spend quite a bit of time indoors. Ranken Jordan has a wonderful facility that includes two different areas, the primary being Warner's Corner, that allow us to have golf clinics inside. Any time the weather allows we will go outside to a large grass field that is perfect for the kids to hit golf balls on. This field is large enough that each kid can have individual targets so they all get the thrill of having a "hole in one!"
Given the complex medical conditions many of the children are faced with, and the fact that many of the kids are confined to wheelchairs, you might think adapted golf clubs are necessary. That would be an incorrect assumption. Thanks to the generosity of U.S. Kids Golf, we have a large selection of standard length and lie angle junior clubs. This was done for two reasons. First, cost was a factor. Adapted clubs are significantly more expensive than the standard clubs. We wanted to be able to have as many clubs as possible so no kids would have to wait their turn to hit because of a shortage of clubs. This would not have been possible without using U.S. Kids Golf clubs. Second, and most important, we wanted each of the children who participate in the clinics to be able to go into any golf shop or off course store and buy golf clubs of their own once they are out of the hospital. This is one more way to show these kids that there is no reason they cannot play golf if they want to!
One other vital piece of equipment which has allowed us to conduct clinics both outdoors and indoors is the Almost Golf Ball. These golf balls are similar to a firm Nerf ball. They are soft enough that they won't break skin or glass yet hard enough to give a very good idea of ball flight. Having multiple colored golf balls has proven to be very beneficial. One of the kids who has been in the golf program had a serious issue with his eyesight. Because he had a hard time differentiating some colors from others, the orange golf balls were the only ones he could see. This is one thing we had not anticipated, but because we had 4 different colors for him to pick from, he was able to play golf during his stay at Ranken Jordan.
When you hear about needing multiple sets of clubs and dozens upon dozens of practice golf balls you might think the cost starts rising quickly. Add to that the time for each of the golf professionals and a program like this has to cost a fortune, right? Wrong. The initial investment in the golf clubs, golf balls, and a variety of targets was less than $800. The golf professionals involved in the program have donated 100% of their time. As I stated in earlier blog posts, this program has not cost Ranken Jordan one dollar. And with continued support from the Gateway PGA and PGA Golf Day (www.pgagolfday.com/gateway) it never will cost the hospital anything.