NEWPORT — The next generation of golfers got a grip on their putters, seven-irons and wedges this week during a two-day golf camp at Agate Beach Golf Course, where the game’s future rests on new players as young as five.
“For most of these children, it’s their first time to hold a club,” said Terry Martin, the club’s owner and P.G.A. Pro. “Teach a child to golf, and they’ll have decades of fun with families and friends in the decades to come.”
Seventeen children, ages 5 to 14, stepped up to the tee during the June 17-18 annual training session. Their quiet determination at the putting green and driving range was punctuated by squeals of elation and groans of frustration. With each swing, Martin and assistants such as retired Newport H.S. golf coach Don Gray tutored with their hands and calm words.
“It takes lots of patience, but most of these kids will now be able to go out with adults and play without intimidation,” commented Martin, whose family-owned, 36-par course in north Newport sprawls across 50 acres and 2,905 yards of rolling fairways, spotless greens, a putting area and a driving range.
Built in 1931, the club was purchased in 1960 by Martin’s parents, Bill and Ramona, during the post-war heyday of golf. Agate Beach G.C. has weathered much of the national downturn in golfing that has resulted in the closure of about 150 courses a year, according to a report by Bloomberg News. By some estimates, the number of golfers nationally has dropped from 30 million to 25 million in the last decade.
Agate Beach’s broad fairways and immaculate greens, however, are home to golf’s biggest demographic — active retirees — and are a magnet for thousands of vacationers.
“We’ve felt it, just not as bad,” said Martin, whose junior golf camps and easy access for young golfers and high school teams has strikingly lowered the average age of golfers at his club.
Martin hires members of the high school golf team to handle course chores, while young duffers can shoot for $5 a round as part of a new Oregon Golf Association program.
“The older players are getting, well, older,” commented Martin. “We recognize these kids are the future of the game, and we want to give them a good foundation. What’s nice is they come in without any bad habits, so you don’t have to un-teach them.”
The camp stresses fundamentals: the grip, the putt and the drive. “Lag putting” helps children develop an idea for distance, while short-putting encourages them to hit the hole and feel the rush of success. They shoot three, seven and nine irons at the range to learn the physics of the drive.
Martin cited a recent uptick in business which he attributes to the resurgence of golf’s greatest living player, Tiger Woods, at the recent Masters Tournament.
“These are the new ‘Tigers,’” Martin concluded. “They’re going to help us rebound.”
Understanding Agate Beach Golf Course
Agate Beach G.C. is a nine-hole, regulation Par 36 golf course renowned for its “playability” and picturesque setting. The course has a well-stocked pro shop, a driving range and putting green.
Course rates are $22 for 9 holes, $37 for 18. Golf carts, pull carts and clubs are available for rent. Special rates include prices for juniors, afternoon play and off-season pricing. PGA lessons are available by appointment.
The 9-hole lay for men is 2,905 yards; for women, 2,669.
Located at 4100 N. Coast Hwy., call the pro shop at 541-265-1931 for reservations. Drop-ins are welcome, too.