(Males 14-17, Females 13-16)


To establish and implement programs to ensure the technical, tactical and supporting ancillary skills of the individual player are improved to meet current and future competitive expectations.


At the Learn to Compete stage of development, participants begin to be referred to as athletes. This is an important period for establishing a determined and resilient mindset able to withstand the successes and failures associated with competitive golf. This is also the period in which the junior athlete can begin to more accurately measure their skills against peers and adapt accordingly through more detailed annual planning provided by a qualified coach. The focus of this stage should be to assess the strengths and weaknesses of all the individual’s golf skills in comparison to his/her peers.


  • Centeredness of ball contact.
  • Learning basic concepts surrounding ball flight.
  • Concepts of distance control for clubs.
  • Awareness of changing conditions and their effect on performance.
  • Specialty shots (i.e. uphill, downhill, knock-down).
  • Adding shot variety to basic skills learned.
  • High level putting skills (i.e. starting the ball on line and speed control).
  • Implementing basic tactics and strategies on a variety of courses inclusive of yardage and charting skills.
  • Introduction of post-round reflection and stat collection.


Choosing an appropriate length course is important in order to enhance the athlete’s learning and enjoyment.

  • Length for males: 6,500–7,000 yards
    • Course rating of 71
  • Length for females: 5,600–6,000 yards
    • Course rating of 73

Golf Course Length Reccomendation



Performance benchmarks at this stage become the primary means of assessment for coaches to measure athlete performance.

Ball Speed
+130 mph
Ball Speed
+130 mph
Green in Regulation

  • 6–10
Green in Regulation

  • 6–10
Up-and-down percentage inside 50 yards

  • 30–40% from grass
  • 20–30% from sand
Up-and-down percentage inside 50 yards

  • 35–45% from grass
  • 20–30% from sand

  • >90% from 1–3 ft
  • 60-75% from 4–5 ft
  • 30-40% from 6–10 ft
  • 10-20% from 11–15 ft

TrackMan combine score of 68 plus


  • 87% from 1–3 ft
  • 60-70% from 4–5 ft
  • 30-35% from 6–10 ft
  • 10-20% from 11–15 ft

TrackMan combine score of 66 plus


All instructors and coaches undergo PGA of Canada training that is entirely specific to the type of player or athlete they wish to work with. The recommended level for this stage is listed below:

  • Coach of Developing Competitor
  • Coach of New Competitor


Individualized practice plans inclusive of random/blocked practice modeling competition

  • 32–42 weeks per year (indoor and outdoor practice included).
  • 30–40 training hours per week (inclusive of on-and-off course training).
  • Outdoor training week—two to three, 18-hole rounds plus two, 9-hole rounds (max. 72 holes).
  • Practice sessions are 2–3 hours with varied focus as well as rest and recovery.
  • Distribution of practice (note: this should be reviewed between the coach and athlete to ensure proper focus based on personal needs):
    • 30% putting
    • 30% short game
    • 40% long game


Working with a qualified coach, athletes have now been introduced to a yearly plan that will include a competition schedule with a combination of home club and inter-club events as well as a larger number of competitions outside of the athlete’s home club. A general guideline is set out below and for more details see the Junior Competitive Pathway.

  • 18-hole: 4-5 events
  • 36-hole: 5-6 events
  • 54-hole: 4-6 events
  • 72 hole: 2-3 events


Custom fitting should be further developed at this stage—otherwise fundamentals, technique and performance will likely be compromised in this stage and in future stages.


  • Basic understanding of tournament etiquette.
  • Develop an understanding of NCAA/CIS programs including recruitment policies and procedures.
  • More detailed understanding of the Rules of Golf.
  • Introduce basic understanding and impact of performance enhancing supplements.
  • Introduction of stats collection (i.e. Shot by Shot).
  • Introduction of course charting and mapping.


Through this stage in their development, athletes should be introduced to the concept of well-designed annual planning coupled with a periodic critical review process. Given the demands upon their time and the impact of growth and development, logical plans or roadmaps provide a basis for decisions and programming.

Since this stage typically involves significant physical and psychological challenges, it is important that the physical conditioning program reflects and responds to the individual athlete’s situation. Time must be given to establishing a strong physical
foundation as the athlete matures. The physical conditioning program will have to involve both generic and more golf-specific elements, although the overall thematic will still be on developing the overall athlete. In particular, flexibility/suppleness and the ability to deal effectively with high rotational velocities will require continual work as the athlete grows and develops.

Those experts involved in the Learn to Compete stage will need to monitor for possible overuse symptoms that can become prevalent throughout this stage. Education and strategies concerning nutrition and recovery/regeneration should be incorporated throughout this stage in an age-appropriate manner.


In this stage, coaches might consider having the athlete work with a specialist in sport psychology/mental training. An individualized assessment should be completed to help the athlete understand their tendencies, implications for play and areas in which to develop or improve. Basic mental skills should continue to be practiced and technology might be considered to help develop accountability around skill development (i.e. apps, portable biofeedback, etc.).

The athlete should begin to have a plan for pregame preparation as well as an on-course game plan. This should include the identification of potential distractions and a plan for refocusing. Pre and post-shot routines should be well-rehearsed and woven seamlessly into their game. The athlete should be purposeful about practicing mental skills strategies as a component of their regular practice sessions both on the range and on the golf course. A regular debriefing process should be implemented and all key stakeholders involved with the athlete should be working collaboratively towards a specific performance goal.

During this stage athletes become more engaged in competition with their peers which can lead to an over-emphasis on outcomes and winning. This can be a positive motivation for some but if the individual is not successful, it can lead to poor self-esteem, low confidence and a fear of failure. Coaches can plan for successful experiences by keeping the focus on learning as well as those things over which the athlete has control (such as applying and refining physical and mental skills). What you choose to focus on and talk about with the athlete will have an impact on what they feel is important over time.

Mental skills training can be purposefully introduced to help the athlete with preparation for performance and coping with challenges while practicing and competing. Negative experiences should not be conceptualized as failures, but rather opportunities to learn. Pre-competition or practice routines are encouraged to allow the golfer to be focused and energized for the lessons or activity.

In preparing explanations for the athlete, be brief and precise. Try to give specific instructions, for example, saying “relax just like with your belly breaths” instead of simply, “relax”. This will help the athlete connect to the exercises for more value. Social interaction will also be an important part of participation in golf at this age, so allowing time and activities that promote the development of positive relationships will add to the overall learning experience.

Progress in physical and mental skills will vary more at this stage due to growth spurts. Physical and emotional maturity may not develop at the same time so instructors will see a wide range of skills from athletes of different ages and genders. Support and encouragement based on each individuals growth will help maintain motivation and self-confidence as well as coping with success and failures. Be sure to reflect on what the athlete has learned—this will help them apply their mental skills during practices and competitions.

Mental Training Framework



Handicap Factor becomes more relevant at this stage as it starts to provide a more accurate measure of a player’s scoring ability against different golf courses over a period of time (up to a player’s last 20 scores). For an overview of Handicap Factor levels for each stage, see the Junior Competitive Pathway.

  • Male average is 11.0
    • Top 10% = 0.1
  • Female average is 16.0
    • Top 10% = 0.8


(BALYI, WAY, & HIGGS; 2013)

  • Understand the challenges of growth and development that will likely impact this stage and design programming appropriately.
  • Emphasize flexibility training given the rapid growth of bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles.
  • Understand the sport-specific technical skills required according to a golf-specific technical checklist and ensure that attention is given to establishing and reinforcing these skills at all times.
  • Use and develop a wide variety of tactics in training so that the athlete can implement them during competition.
  • Train athletes in daily competitive situations in the form of competitive practices, games, drills and challenges.
  • Utilize periodization strategies to effectively manage the athlete’s annual schedule.
  • Introduce approach-to-major-competition strategies (with major competitions defined as stage specific, i.e. National Junior Championship).
  • Utilize and consider resources outside of what the traditional golf facility might consider ancillary capacities and supporting elements to support the athlete’s progress. For example, ensuring school is supportive of commitments required by golf; ensuring that nutritional factors are addressed so that the young athlete has the fuel to train effectively.
  • Ensure the athlete is involved in a range of physical activities and sports so as to continue to develop a sound athletic competency, including the establishment of a foundational endurance level or physical work capacity.



Young players who are coming out of provincial or national programs and looking to continue in university have to be aware that their decision should not be exclusively based on the college coaching staff. For the most part, players have had a technical coach and they expect that their college coaches will also be experts in this field. Many college coaches perform the duties of a team manager and have no formal qualification in coaching other than perhaps coming up through the system themselves. Their job is to structure practice, support development either through their own expertise or outsourcing in the local area and to organize the day-today running of the team. In my experience, too many players choose the school they want to attend based on their opening encounters with the coach. Instead, they should look at four key areas, with the coach being at the bottom of that list because at any point in time the coach may leave to take up another posting.

My priority list would start with looking at what kind of facilities the school has to offer. Players need a good facility to practice and advance their game regardless of technical input. Second, will they get the level of competition that will challenge them to reach their potential? Is the school in a conference that plays a competitive schedule and moves around the country? Third, the actual schooling part is very important. I think very few players realize that there is a lot of work in balancing school and athletic responsibilities. Players need to understand that when they choose courses, they should be looking at their long-term future, based on realistic expectations of where their game may take them.

And finally, there is the coaching staff. Players need a coach that will support them as they try to move forward. There are quality coaches out there but players have to do their research. They should visit several schools and check out their practice facilities, have a dialogue with the coaches to see what their philosophies are, look at the team and class schedules and how they will get around campus. They should ask themselves— will this environment help me get better?

Players always have options—choosing to go to a U.S. school or staying here in Canada is a big decision and should be based on personal needs. If getting a good education is your priority, and golf is currently secondary, then maybe staying in Canada is a smart move. Players will be close to their coach, their family, and get lots of support. If a player wants to be a competitive golfer, with the goal of eventually turning professional, they most likely have to go where the weather allows you to play full-time and where the level of competition is higher—and that means going to the U.S. Players should discuss their potential choices with their parents and provincial or national team coaches. It is an extremely important decision.


The groups below outline the key stakeholders that are associated with the Learn to Compete stage and what is needed from each to succeed. The help and support from the following stakeholders is vital for complete development:


  • Preparation for transition to post-secondary golf programs.
  • Golf in Schools (High School program).

Provincial Golf Associations

  • Awareness of training opportunities.
  • Identification of appropriately trained and certified coaches available to support.


  • Implementation of talent identification initiatives.
  • Order of Merit rankings.

National Organizations

  • Awareness of National Team High Performance programs.
  • Implementation of talent identification initiatives.
  • Team Canada selection criteria.
  • National Order of Merit.
  • Create awareness within their membership of programs and initiatives available to support their coach development.


  • Complete PGA of Canada Coach of Developing Competitor.
  • Complete PGA of Canada Coach of New Competitor.

Junior Tours


  • Consider making golf one of the top two sports played and practiced.
  • Become familiar with the competitive pathway available for competitive golf.
  • Become aware of post secondary options available to their sons/daughters both in Canada and the U.S.

Golf Facilities