Junior Golf in the UK: where are we and where are we heading?

We were struck recently when an old article resurfaced on our Google ‘junior golf’ news alerts; this set us thinking about the apparent differences between junior golf in the US and on this side of the Atlantic.

This is the article in question (Yahoo Sport, 18 Feb 2017):

Tiger Woods, Justin Timberlake purchase ownership of junior golf tour

“Tiger Woods may be on the sidelines of his professional golf career right now, but he’s making moves elsewhere in the sport — and he’s doing it in part with entertaining legend Justin Timberlake.
Woods and Timberlake, along with property developer Tavistock Group, own a company called Nexus Luxury Collection, and that entity has purchased partial ownership of the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour.
HJGT claims to be the largest “grass roots” junior golf tour, running more than 900 tournaments with more than 30,000 participants since its inception in 2007.
“The success of junior golf is an important element in growing the game,” Woods said in a statement. “Helping boys and girls compete, and be involved in golf, will benefit the kids and help strengthen our sport.”
Timberlake said, “I have always been a committed supporter of junior golf, and through the Hurricane Tour we can continue to help grow the game amongst the junior ranks.”
The HJGT helps players earn experience that could land them on college golf teams, as well valuable experience that could get them starts on the American Junior Golf Association schedule.”

We obviously know of HJGT and there are quite a few other junior tours in the US, but firstly, let’s look at the very top.

Junior golf in the US is a celebrated thing: at the top of the tree, they have the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), undoubtedly the leading junior golf organisation in the world, dedicated to providing a platform for junior golfers at the highest level.

Their list of sponsors is a who’s who: Taylor-Made and Adidas are their Global Partners, Rolex their Premier Partner, followed by Ping and Ralph Lauren, then on to the ‘smaller’ sponsors Callaway, FlightScope, Mizuno, the KJ Choi Foundation, Ninja, and not forgetting the PGA Tour among others.

They then have 94 different ‘Tournament Title’ sponsors, ranging from Arnold Palmer to Avis, Coca-Cola to Evian, and The Players Championship to Under Armour.

The AJGA has 60 employees.

Quite impressive, right?


Funding is a huge issue for us in the UK – unfortunately, junior sport takes money to organise, whether we like it or not, so we will hit you with another impressive stat from the US:

The AJGA has a revenue in the region of $15-20 million annually!
Let that number just sink in for a moment: around $20 million for the top level of junior golf; not professionals, not top adult amateur golfers or club golfers, but dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf – as their mission statement says.

They are hosting 55 Events in June alone!
Granted, the US is a huge place but even so, this is an impressive number; all these events are at least 3-day, 54-hole World Amateur Golf Ranked events at top quality venues on their main course.

The final event of the month is the Coca-Cola Junior Championship at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort in Maine for 132 players. There is a pre-qualifier for 78 players at the same venue the day before the main event, which will generate over $8,000, plus the practice round fee for the remainder. The entry income for the main event will then be almost $40,000, not considering any withdrawals, etc. So, we are at over $50,000 revenue just on entries for this single event.

We would imagine that there is some substantial sponsorship on top of this also.
They will take over Sugarloaf Mountain for at least 4 days, which we would have thought comes at a cost, but courses all over the country welcome AJGA events as a badge of honour.

Unfortunately, the story here is very different, even when we contact clubs for single day events, let alone attempting to put on multi-day events!

Why is this?

The AJGA has a Performance Based Entry System (PBE) meaning that you need to earn your right to play at qualifying events.
To put this into perspective, only the winner of the IMGA Junior World Championship 15-18 Division becomes Fully Exempt for AJGA events, the remaining places earn varying numbers of performance stars.

There are dozens of junior tours and organisers who apply to be able to offer PBE stars to their winners; these include Future Champions Golf Tour and HJGT.

The AJGA events are the ones that US college coaches attend to watch the best players compete to earn scholarships at universities across the country.
The US College system is another topic altogether and not one that we will cover here, but you get the gist of the importance of these high-level junior events.

So, let’s move on to the junior golf tours that fit under the AJGA.

There are way too many to mention, but let’s look at Future Champions Golf Tour (FCG), as we know first-hand just how good their events are. We send players each year to play in their International (San Diego) and Callaway World (Palm Springs) Championships, with every player and family who goes and experiences these events coming back with rave reviews.
They have a very similar outlook and ethos to the BJGT.

They host over 120 events in the US plus an additional 50 international events in Asia, Canada, and Mexico, as they look to spread themselves further afield.

They were founded just before the BJGT but have gained significant support over the years and have 21 sponsors, including Callaway and Cobra alongside 9 product sponsors and media partners.

Most of their events take place over 2 days…at weekends!
The chances of getting a single day on a Sunday here are becoming harder and harder to secure (hence the reason for only 15 BJGT events on a Sunday this season) but to find a golf course willing to give access on a Saturday and Sunday would be like coming across a mermaid riding a unicorn (so hats off to you, Sunningdale Heath, you must be our mermaid and unicorn rolled into one!).

Our multi-day events must be midweek, during school holidays, which greatly limits the number of these that we can host each year.

FCG has 26 employees.

It is a very similar story at the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour (HJGT) – we have never experienced their events, but the structure looks very similar.

Hundreds of events, multiple sponsors, weekend dates throughout the year, etc., etc.

They have held events this year at PGA National and Walt Disney World…at weekends!

HJGT has 19 employees.

Seven years ago, they got the investment from Tiger and Justin Timberlake that triggered this piece in the first place; we imagine that their investment would have opened quite a few doors.
This wasn’t just adding their name to help promotion, sending some merchandise for prizes, or throwing a few dollars their way to buy trophies, this was an investment in the company to develop the tour!

The contrast between these organisations in the US and the BJGT is quite something.
They are not seen as ‘just junior events’, they are considered a vital aspect of the game as a whole – sadly this is not the case here.

Until clubs host a BJGT event they have no idea what is about to hit them!
Many still have views of junior opens as a few kids whacking it round, not 80+ of the most talented players in the country putting their members to shame!


We started in 2005 with a desire to provide a platform for junior golfers to compete against each other with yardages suitable for their age, gross strokeplay scoring, and caddies.

Fortunately, we picked up many of the best juniors right from the start and this continues to this day, with many players going on to represent their country and even more turning professional with the PGA or making a career on various tours.

Our work has been recognised by the DP World Tour, which named us as an ‘approved golf development programme’. However, we have never received any support from a governing body. We have also never had the support of the county structure in the UK, despite being an important part of the reason that many of the players they pick are as good as they are.

You would be forgiven for thinking that after almost 20 years, hundreds of events, thousands of players, and a proven track record of high-quality events, we would not have any trouble finding venues and attracting sponsors.

However, to be completely honest, right now, rather than getting easier, it gets harder and harder each year!

Over the past few years, most of our sponsors (funding and/or prizes) have been BJGT families with their own businesses (Project 11 [past headline sponsor], Rattan Garden Furniture, Ron Skinner & Sons, Awesome Golf, Leverett Pianos, Hill St.). Then we have had Titleist, My Golf Mind, Tournament College Golf, The Golf College, and more recently, Trevor Jones. We are very grateful to each and every one of them!

The BJGT has 3 employees.

On the FCG website, they say how much of a family they are and that everyone working there wears many hats – 26 people with multiple duties, we wonder how many hats that means that we are wearing!

So, why the struggle here?

We feel that the system in this country is quite disjointed, with an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude.
Clubs are still recovering from Covid, tee times are at a premium, and members rule, so a junior event cannot be squeezed into many diaries.
Players are picked for county teams younger and younger; we know of 7-year-olds playing in U14 teams – in our opinion, this is simply ridiculous.

Once picked by a county, this then seems to rule a junior’s calendar, as players must prioritise coaching sessions over a BJGT tournament or face being black-balled.
Unfortunately, the same goes for England Golf, with many players telling us that they are actively discouraged from playing BJGT events, despite many England players coming through the BJGT, where they clearly honed their competitive edge (Tyler Weaver is a perfect recent example).

Whether we like it or not, the reality is that running any junior tour takes money, time, dedication, and a real desire to make a difference. We at the BJGT have four of these five elements nailed; there is just one missing, can you guess which?

The entry fees charged for 36-hole events by the tours in the US can exceed $400 (and even then, this is not their main source of income!); we simply cannot do that here.

Entry fees were never meant to be the main income for the BJGT; it has always been the plan that sponsorship would cover the running costs, green fees, trophies, and prizes.
We are now a Community Interest Company (not-for-profit), meaning that all profits are reinvested into the development of the tour. This has actually always been the case, but we felt that now was the time to make it official, hopefully making it easier for companies to support us.

We truly believe that the BJGT is a worthwhile vehicle for companies to support, the target demographic is as wide as it gets, from 5 to 85. The history, the reputation and the feel-good-factor are all as positive as they can be.
And, for a small company, the number of target views that we reach through on-site, websites, and social media, are pretty high.

The fact is that you must know, or at least talk to, the person who can make decisions and this is far too hard, sometime impossible. We know that there are big companies or organisations out there, with a ‘corporate, social responsibility’ budget that we would fit perfectly into.

But we have learned that it’s very much ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!’

So, looking at two main questions arising from this piece:

Question 1Why don’t ‘established’ top players/celebrities want to get involved and support the BJGT?

This one still seems odd to us; on the face of it, it’s a win/win situation, putting something back into the game, inspiring the next generations of players, and great publicity, so what’s to lose? The honest answer from our side is that we simply don’t know!

We are very grateful to BJGT alumnus, Aaron Rai, for lending his name to support the tour (we now have an event named ‘The Rai Challenge’, in his honour), but he is still young and establishing himself on the DP World and PGA Tours.

To have a ‘big’ established (but current) name associated with the tour would make a huge difference in the perception of what we do, from the public, golf clubs and, of course, the players themselves.

There are junior tours out there with famous names attached, and clubs love it when they turn up to present trophies and have their picture taken at the club. Parents love to see their children having their photo taken with their idols (or, more likely, their own idols when we are talking about long established names) – who wouldn’t?!

This brings us back to the top of this piece and Tiger and Justin Timberlake, one arguably the best golfer ever and the other a huge celebrity who loves the game. They have invested in the future of the game in the US.
Nick Faldo does an amazing job here with his Series, we can’t knock that; he’s given incredible opportunities to many juniors over the years.

We have tried approaching top players and golfing celebrities but rarely get past their agent, taking us back to the question above. We’re not necessarily talking investment here, that would hopefully come from elsewhere, as it’s the high profile that they could bring that would encourage the investment.
This would then also encourage clubs to support, which in turn would increase participation and so the wheels would start to turn a little more easily and faster…

Question 2How do we find investment contacts?

Our current headline sponsor, Motocaddy, has been amazing! They are obviously a big and well-respected name in the industry, they get what we do, and provide fantastic and much appreciated support.

However, it should not all be down to them; just look at the list of sponsors for the US tours, all working together happily knowing that they are doing their bit for the betterment of junior golf in the US.

Is it any wonder that players from all over the world look to get out to the US system as soon as they can, whether they be 6 or 18?
Look at the pathway, the opportunities, the competitive level, the list could go on; we have undoubtedly fallen behind here and will continue to lose ground if we don’t see important changes.

We have held talks with prospective major backers in the past (one as recently as last autumn, who ended up simply ‘ghosting’ us), but to no avail so far, which sums up the frustrations that we have lived with for the past 19 years.

What comes next?

We know what we would like.
We know that we have the knowledge and experience to implement the plan.
We know that we have the right vehicle and structure to expand.
As far as we know, we are the only not-for-profit junior tour in the UK, so companies can invest, safe in the knowledge that everything gets invested into the growth of the game.

So, if there is anyone out there in the BJGT network who knows someone, or knows someone who knows someone, then please get in touch, we would welcome the introduction.

We will continue to work as hard as possible for you and we will hopefully find more support – let’s try and start the catchup to those tours over the pond!