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My story originally appears on PGA.com on 9/3/22
Over the years, there have been a multitude of approaches that golf instructors and coaches have taken to teach the game to those looking to learn it or improve at it. One approach that has become widely accepted, adopted, and admired over the last few years is the Operation 36 model.
I recently had the chance to catch up with PGA Professional Matthew Reagan, one of the founders of Operation 36, to chat about this amazing way to grow the game.
What was the genesis of Op36?
“Operation 36 was founded in 2010 by myself [Matthew Reagan] and Ryan Dailey. It started as an attempt to create a long-term junior golf development program. We understood that it takes a long time to become a skilled golfer. The idea was if we could get the juniors to come consistently to the golf course for the entire golf season, we would have the best chance to take a beginner and turn them into a competitive golfer.
We always thought the hard part would be creating good competitive golfers. Little did we know that it is even harder to take a complete beginner and get them connected to love the game of golf. Without doing this, you will never create a golfer, competitive or recreational.
It took over 5 years of trial and error running programs and working with kids daily, to learn all the components that should be in place to make becoming a golfer fun and motivating. We have learned even faster over the last 7 years as we have grown to over 650 program locations that are led by over 1,500 golf professionals who also want to improve the introduction to golf.”
Give us a snapshot of the Op36 program model…
“Operation 36 is not a short-term clinic or camp, it’s a developmental program designed to take someone from their first round and guide them to being able to shoot par (36) or better from a full tee box. The Operation 36 Program Model consists of 3 items that are essential for a beginner program to have if the end goal is to create a golfer. If any of these are removed, it makes it much more challenging for a participant to have what they need to be successful.
Playing Golf – In Op 36, beginners play their first 9 holes as a part of the program using our proprietary on-course model. Instead of playing a full-regulation course, all golfers start in Division 1 and play 9 holes from 25 yards from the hole. It is called Operation 36 because the goal is to try and shoot 36 (par or better), to progress back to Division 2 (50 Yards) from the hole. This continues through 10 Standard yardage divisions. All scores are tracked by coaches and individuals in the Op 36 Technology. This keeps golfers motivated through automated and achievable milestones which highlight every stroke improved on the golfer’s journey. Coaches can print reports to show golfers their progress year after year.
Weekly Group Classes – To complement playing golf, participants attend a weekly class designed for them to learn and train their skills in a fun group format. These classes can be run all season long because of the structure of the Long-Term Curriculum.
Encouraging Technology – Outside of the classes and 9-hole events, participants deserve to have tools and education to guide them on their golf journey. The Operation 36 mobile app provides a community and gamified-based technology that centralizes everything the golfer and coaches need to be successful.”
What is the overall mission of Operation 36?
“Our network of program locations are led by over 1,500 Golf Professionals that are on a common mission of creating 1,000,000 new golfers. We are very proud of the fact that we set a standard for measuring if we are truly creating a golfer. This is a stat in the Operation 36 coaching platform that we are measuring, and every community can see. We measure it by how many participants join the program and shoot 36 for 9 holes from division 1 on the golf course. Why? Because this one simple measure tells us that the participant has played 9 holes and has had a positive experience with the sport. To us, this is the first step of a golfer’s journey and is what every beginner who tries the sport deserves.”
How has ADM influenced you and how has PGA Coach helped you or your Professionals?
“When we started Operation 36 in 2010, we founded it on the principles of Long-Term Athletic Development. The American Development Model encompasses education on these same principles and PGA.Coach has been a great avenue to teach professionals how to do the right things at the right time in a junior’s development. If our Golf Professionals don’t have that knowledge, they will not think long-term about the junior’s development. What the ADM training on PGA.Coach does, allows everyone to be aligned with a philosophy on how we should be developing athletes to create lifelong golfers.
Once Golf Professionals have that knowledge, they can use programs like Operation 36 as the program to actually execute the principles and philosophy that ADM helps align. Operation 36 is a developmental program that is designed to take someone from their first 9-hole round until they can shoot par or better from a full tee box. We provide executable tools and programming like our Junior Development Model Report. This tool allows coaches to see where their golfers are in their development based on their age and skill to help guide their players based on their goals.
PGA.Coach and the ADM training provide professionals who run Operation 36 Programs to have a common philosophy and knowledge to run a successful developmental program to create more golfers and grow the game.”