Christmas may come at the beginning of ski season but last year my husband Matt had one thing on his mind: golf. He wanted our sons to learn play a game he himself enjoys in much the same way I love to ski. With great glee, he bought starter clubs for 15-year-old Tommy and 12-year-old Teddy, placed them eagerly under the tree and told them that when the snow melted he was going to get them out playing in the spring.
But while we somehow managed to fit in plenty of skiing last winter, as the spring and summer progressed he just didn’t get them out on the course in Delaware that often. They took a few lessons, but with our family’s busy schedule it was difficult to get any momentum going and reach a place where they might be able to go out on the course and actually play.
I realized that perhaps a bit of Vermont magic was in order, specifically the Sugarbush Resort Junior Golf Camp. It seemed to me that what the boys needed was several day of continuous instruction while we were all relaxing on a Vermont vacation and didn’t have plans and obligations. And I don’t like to brag, but I may have been exactly right.
Four Days of Fun on the Links
Sugarbush Junior Golf Camps are designed to teach kids ages 6 to 17 the basics of golf over a four-day stretch. They learn how to hit off the tee, chip and putt. But as anyone who golfs knows attaining proficiency in these skills can try the patience and enthusiasm of even a disciplined and calm adult. That’s why the emphasis of the camp isn’t just on practice – it’s on getting kids moving and having fun.
Tommy and Teddy were therefore very happy to discover that their golf camp days would begin with stretches followed by a rousing game of soccer on the driving range – when no one else was using it of course.
Even simple skills activities like hitting off the tee were turned into games when Jordan the instructor (who was young enough that the older kids clearly thought he was cool) divided the kids into teams, placed a garbage can on the range, and challenged them to hit the balls into it. The first team to reach five was the winner. Another popular activity combined baseball and golf, with kids hitting the ball and running base. While this may not totally make sense to a grown up it kept the kids engaged and moving.
Each activity lasted between 15 to 30 minutes and the kids moved seamlessly from the driving range to the practice tee. All the while Jordan walked among them, watching and offering specific suggestions.
One morning I watched as he helped Tommy ground down through his heels and swing more smoothly on the driving range. On some of the days the course pro Roger King also joined the campers to offer advice in his easygoing, kid-friendly way. My boys never got bored and they both said they felt like they had lots of chances to practice different part of the game.
Kids Learn the Rules of the Game
On the boys’ last day of camp the skies opened up as if the heavens were a giant bucket. But that didn’t deter the pros at Sugarbush – they simply cleared the floor in the golf club’s restaurant and used it to play some putting games. Then they spent some time reviewing things that every golfer needs to know like how the scoring works, what a handicap is and the basic rules of golf course etiquette. After owning clubs for months without doing more than visit the driving range, Tommy and Teddy definitely left the camp equipped to actually play a round of golf.
This camp checks all the boxes parents look for in vacation activities. It is run by professionals who understand that kids learn best when they are also having fun. With the wide range of ages, there’s a focus not just on golf skills but on working together – my boys both enjoyed the chance to help out kids who are younger than them and to make some friends their own ages. Since the sessions run for only half the day, parents get some time to themselves but still have the afternoon for family outings. And at $199 per child for a four-day week, it’s a genuine bargain.
But as is the case with all things at Sugarbush Resort, perhaps the best thing about the Junior Golf Camp is the panorama of the mountains that serves as its backdrop. Foxes and even a black bear or two have been known to scamper and stroll across the driving range (at a safe distance from the golfers). Your kids will gain an appreciation not just for golf, but for Vermont’s natural beauty. I call that a hole-in-one.
More information about Sugarbush Junior Golf Camps
- Sugarbush Junior Golf Camps are offered during two weeks in the summer, one in July, the other in August. The sessions run from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Tuesday through Friday and lunch is included (kids are offered a choice of three menu items like chicken tenders, grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs). The communal lunch is served on the deck at Hogan’s Pub and my boys really enjoyed getting to socialize with the other kids in the camp over the meal. In our experience the children golfed until noon and then had lunch, so they weren’t really finished until around 12:30.
- The age range of the camp may be a bit large, but the instructors do a good job of assigning the children age-appropriate partners and to working with kids of varying ability levels. Be prepared for your kids to make friends – Teddy was delighted when he discovered that his partner at camp was staying in a condo just a few doors down from the one we had rented near the course. The two of them spent the rest of our time in Vermont palling around.
- My sons each have a starter set of clubs, but if you don’t have clubs for your children the resort will provide putters and drivers for them to use. My kids also shared their clubs with other kids in the camp. Word to the wise: If your kids have their own clubs, check to make sure they are all accounted for when you pick them up, as sometimes the sharing means clubs are put into the wrong bags.
- If you don’t want to wait until next summer, the Golf Club at Sugarbush Resort is open through the end of October. There’s a Junior Golf Clinic on September 2, 2017 and you can also sign up for a family golf lesson with the course pro Roger King.
Mara Gorman may live at sea level now, but she’s a native New Englander and mountain aficionado who grew up skiing in Vermont. She spends as many days each winter as she can chasing her two teen boys through glades and across mogul fields and regularly journeys far and wide to get on the slopes. Mara blogs about her family’s many travel adventures at The Mother of all Trips. She is also the author of The Family Traveler’s Handbook and an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in various USA Today print publications as well as on websites such as BBC Travel. When there’s no snow, Mara and her family can be found hiking, biking and eating around the United States and Europe.