BRATTLEBORO -- With tuition and other costs on the rise, it’s hard to imagine that any student, already struggling to attend college or university, would have the resource to spend the day at their favorite golf course.
But Kris Hart, founder of
The CollegeGolfPass, seeks to change all that.
"Young people in college don’t have much discretionary income," said Hart, from his office in Boston, Ma. "We want to bridge that gap for them, so they can play."
That’s why he said he has finally brought his program to Brattleboro.
What started out as a simple idea a few years ago while he was earning a finance degree at Bryant University, Hart’s organization has grown dramatically in the last year alone. As of December 2011, the program only included about 15 courses in Massachusetts. Now there are 100+ participating courses across New England.
And starting this summer, the program will be offered at Brattleboro Country Club, and Crown Point Country Club in Springfield.
What happens in the golf industry, according to Hart, is that when an individual turns eighteen years of age, they lose the discounts offered only to them as juniors. "Whether you’re a fifty-year-old executive, or you’ve just turned eighteen, there’s often no difference in what you’ll pay for a round," he said.
This "cutoff" point is what Hart said can deter potential pros, steering them away from
"If you want to play a round of golf, it might be $50 to go down the street," said Hart. "Many simply cannot afford that. They will write off that one activity they may have once enjoyed."
Hart believes this is unfortunate, and sees a noticeable disconnect between the industry and the emerging, younger demographic. This attitude toward aspiring players astonishes Hart, given the fact that so many of today’s top pros, still look wet behind their ears.
"It’s awesome to see the younger players coming up," said Hart. "Look at players like Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson, and Andy Zheng (at 14-years-old, he became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open). From our perspective, the sport needs that kind of energy right now."
At first, Hart said the cold calls he had to make to spread the word about the program were rough. Too many of the course owners thought the concept cheapened their brand. But when they saw the plan in action, and a nice payoff to boot, it was apparent Hart’s idea had worked.
Today, Hart said he’d like to see the program go national, and at the organization’s growth rate, this seems entirely possible.
Not bad, for a start-up.
"We’re not trying to appeal to the regular customers out there, who can afford to pay full price," said Hart. "It’s trying to get that next generation out on the green -- that’s our mission. If you think about it, it’s a win-win for both the students and courses. Now they will have future, return customers. One thing I often tell course owners: If you don’t reach them now, you might not get that customer back until they’re forty."
David Aquino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.