Architects' society to award First Links grants

Allen Wronowski of The PGA of America during the opening ceremony of the Junior Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

The American Society of Golf Course Architects, with help from the PGA of America, is taking the first step to help existing golf courses create beginner-friendly venues.

Unlike ski resorts that feature “bunny slopes” to accommodate neophytes, golf courses rarely provide easier-to-play facilities to help beginners get acquainted with the game.

Under a new initiative called First Links, the ASGCA and PGA hope to address that deficiency.

Underwritten with a $50,000 gift from the PGA, the architects society will issue $2,000 grants to select golf courses that are seeking additions designed to increase participation.

The grant pays for an ASGCA member to visit the facility and make recommendations for new site features that should attract new players. The one-day visits will result in a site evaluation report, including ideas for layout and land reconfiguration. The grant, however, does not cover actual construction costs.

“Many facilities may not know how to even think about re-purposing unused land or looking at their existing layouts in a different way,” said Rick Phelps, president of the ASGCA. “First Links provides an opportunity for facilities to see the kind of creative problem-solving ASGCA members are known for and to get more players on the course.”

Golf courses seeking to participate in the initiative must complete an online application available at http://www.asgca.org. To be eligible for an on-site visit during the summer of 2012, applications must be submitted by April 15.

“Our industry recognizes the future of the game lies in our present ability to retain players and to increase the enjoyment of the golf experience,” said Allen Wronowski, PGA president. “First Links will heighten the customer-service capabilities of staff in facilities everywhere.”

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