Text: Brenna Buckwald // Photography: Getty Images
On October 16, 2021, Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is welcoming youth competitors from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan to compete in one of ten regional qualifiers for Drive, Chip and Putt. This event is one of the last rounds of this year’s Drive, Chip and Putt competition leading up to the national championship, and will decide the regional participants’ who will earn their place at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, on April 3, 2022.
Drive, Chip and Putt was first started in 2013 by three organizations: Masters Tournament, United States Golf Association, and the PGA of America. Since then, the program has strived to be inclusive and accessible to youth across the United States, with the goal of getting kids involved and excited about the game of golf.
This free-to-enter competition entails three rounds prior to the national championship: local, subregional, and regional qualifying events. This year, the season began in May with 326 local qualifier sites sprinkled throughout the United States. For each event, youth compete in age and gender divisions on three specific golf skills—drive, chip, and putt. The top scorers of each category move on to the next event in the competition, until 80 national finalists will make it to the end and be invited to Augusta National Golf Club to compete in the national finals.
“My favorite piece about the program is it is totally free for families to sign up, and they are only hitting nine golf shots—they hit three drive, three chips, and three putts—then they take their total score from all nine golf shots to have that overall number where they’re competing with other kids in their age bracket,” said Chelsea Guoynes, PGA, player development coordinator and foundations activities director of the Michigan Section PGA office.
“I do think it is kind of that low barrier to entry, where it takes about 15 minutes from start to finish for a child to go through the competition, only hitting nine golf shots, and then we are rewarding them for success in each one of the different skills, as well as overall,” Guoynes added.
This is the second year the regional event is being held at Oakland Hills Country Club, as it was also held there in 2019. This year, on October 15, the night before the competition, participants and their families can enjoy a complimentary dinner from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET. This social dinner will also comprise clubhouse tours and a chipping contest for the children in attendance.
“We have a really great relationship with Oakland Hills. Their membership is one thousand percent supportive of this event, and lets us take over the facilities for the weekend, which is something that is instrumental to us having a successful regional. We are able to do the dinner before, a fun skills contest, and then really roll out the red carpet for the kids who are traveling up for this event for the day,” Guoynes said.
On the day of the regional competition, the event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET, beginning with the youngest age division—seven- to nine-years-old—and throughout the course of the day, working through the divisions of 10- to 11-years-old, 12- to 13-years-old, and concluding with the oldest age bracket, 14- to 15-years-old. A rewards ceremony is held after each division is completed, approximately every hour, so that the children who compete earlier in the day can head home after seeing their category’s results.
“The driving force behind Drive, Chip and Putt, and one of our biggest goals for the competition is to provide the opportunity for every kid, of every ability, everywhere. We are always looking at putting local qualifiers all throughout the nation and the state, so we can really make sure that everybody has the opportunity to participate in this,” Guoynes said.
“I think it has been a really neat thing to have out there, especially being a free contest, to make sure that we are introducing kids of all skill levels to the game, in every nook and cranny of the U.S. It has been a really fun mission for us to carry out,” Guoynes added.