Since 1996, CN Future Links has been providing kids and teens between the ages of 6 and 18 with a chance to learn how to play golf.
It has become a leading junior player development program that golf clubs and practice facilities utilize to grow the game across the country because of its affordability and accessibility.
As of 2012, CN Future Links has officially introduced one million Canadian junior enthusiasts nationwide to golf and it doesn't look to be slowing down.
"It's just great. It just shows that golf is alive and well and that there are new kids coming into the game all the time," said Bob Beauchemin, an active CN Future Links supporter and the Director of Golf at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto.
This year, there were 236 sites actively running CN Future Links, a 30 percent increase from 2011. Through the Learn to Play, Junior Skills Challenge, Junior League, Mobile Clinics and Girls' Club programs, instructors and facilities have had the opportunity to impact many prospective young golfers.
While the primary focus of the program curriculum is on the kids, the program also engages parents, facilities and instructors as the key pillars and decision makers behind junior golf participation.
Scott Frizzell, the Director of Instruction at The Links at Montague in Dartmouth, N.S., utilized CN Future Links programming throughout his entire 12-week junior golf program this summer. Frizzell and his instructors had 640 students participate in Learn to Play, 383 students in the Junior Skills Challenge and they also ran a successful Girls Club program.
How did they do it? Frizzell finds that many of the juniors enjoy the Skills Challenge because it's very fun and he believes the that the skills portion of the program is an extremely user-friendly section to implement into anybody's coaching plan. He's been using the program since 2007, but mentioned his team has been extremely consistent with it for the past two years.
"We've had kids here for five weeks in the summer and they follow [their scores] online and try to better their score against friends," he said. "If their friends are going two weeks later, they are doing the same test, so they are always competing against each other, it makes it more fun."
With some suggesting a decline in the number of golfers nationwide, junior golf has become a vital component in ensuring the longevity of the game. With the game's inherent values – honesty, fair play and integrity – having a positive impact on a child, making golf less intimidating for beginners is one of many things that CN Future Links consistently focuses on.
For Beauchemin, increasing access to the golf course and engaging kids with fun and welcoming programs will go a long way towards sustaining and ultimately growing participation among young golfers.
"I think that when kids are introduced to the game, it's nice for them to feel like they're a part of something," said Beauchemin. "They're kids and they love to interact. I think that they inspire each other, especially when you include the competitive aspect of it."
Since CN Future Links' inception in 1996, Golf Canada in partnership with the PGA of Canada and the provincial golf associations has built a world-class program that is recognized by Sport Canada. It instills many great core values into junior golfers while also teaching them the basics of the game in hopes they will continue playing.
In addition, it offers junior enthusiasts the right balance of fun and fundamentals, and can be settling factors that any parent can relate to.
"It teaches the kids an awful lot, not just about golf but also about respect and honour," said Frizzell. "The kids are always meeting new people and it's social, it's exercise and it's all kinds of good things for them."