The GOLF.com Anonymous Junior Golfer Survey: The game’s young stars sound off

October 8, 2019

We know what Tour pros think — we poll them annually in our always-popular Anonymous Pro Survey. (Psst, this year’s edition is coming soon!) But what do the generation behind them think?

What makes today’s top young players tick? What are their playing habits and behaviors? Their pressures and frustrations? Their aspirations and inspirations? What are their takes on slow play, the distance boom and Tiger vs. Jack? And then there’s really serious matters, like … have they seen Caddyshack?

In pursuit of answers, we surveyed a random sampling of 64 competitive junior golfers between the ages of 12 and 18 — 44 boys and 20 girls — in four* regions of the country. The result is a revealing, at times surprising, look inside the minds of the game’s future stars.

(*Polling locations: 2019 AJGA Polo Golf Junior Classic at Liberty National GC, in Jersey City, N.J.; 2019 Boys Junior PGA Championship at Keney Park GC, in Hartford, Conn.; the International Junior Golf Academy, in Hilton Head, S.C.; Xavier College Preparatory, an all-girls high school in Phoenix, Ariz., whose golf team has won 36 state titles.)

Do you spend more of your time on the course or the practice areas?

Course: 67%
Practice areas: 30%
Both: 3%

They said it:

“I learn more on the course.”

What part of your game do you practice the most?

Driving: 3%
Irons: 45%
Pitching/chipping: 10%
Putting: 42%

On average, how many hours per week do you practice, including time in the gym?

1-5 hrs: 9%
6-10: 12%
11-15: 10%
16-20: 12%
More than 20: 57%

They said it:

A lot more than 20.”

On average, how many hours per week do you play, either casually or competitively?

1-5 hrs: 5%
6-10: 31%
11-15: 18%
16-20: 33%
20+: 13%

Do you currently play any other competitive sports?

Yes: 23%
No: 77%

If no, at what age did you stop playing other sports?

16+: 9%
14-15: 18%
12-13: 36%
10-11: 14%
7-9: 13%
5-6: 10%

They said it: 

“Competitive basketball, rec league MVP 2015.”

Do you play more public golf or private golf?

Public: 42%
Private: 53%
Semi-private: 2%
Both: 3%

Does one or both of your parents belong to a private golf club?

Yes: 48%
No: 52%

How many teaching pros have you worked with?

None: 5%
1: 28%
2: 27%
3 or more: 40%

Have you ever felt like a teacher has messed up your swing?

Yes: 46%
No: 54%

They said it: 

“Absolutely.”

How many significant swing changes have you made since you picked up golf?

0: 5%
1: 12%
2: 16%
3 or more: 67%

Do you putt with the flagstick in?

Always: 3%
Sometimes: 55%
Rarely: 25%
Never: 17%

Most juniors subscribe to pin-in putting.

Are you concerned with how far today’s top players hit the ball?

Not at all: 65%
Moderately: 29%
Greatly: 6%

They said it: 

“Well, I hit it really far.”

Are you concerned you don’t hit the ball far enough to be competitive in college or beyond?

Yes: 34%
No: 66%

In tournaments, do you get nervous on the first tee?

Yes: 73%
No: 27%

Have you ever blamed your caddie for a bad shot you hit?

Yes: 34%
No: 66%

Deep down, do you truly love golf?

Yes: 84%
No: 0%
Depends on the day: 16%

What do you see as the biggest threat/opportunity to growing the game? 

Cost: 43%
Time it takes to play: 32%
General lack of interest among kids your age: 23%
Other: 2%

They said it: 

“We should shrink the game.”

“The mental side.”

If you were grading yourself on your knowledge of the Rules of Golf, you would give yourself a…

A: 22%
B: 61%
C: 17%
D or F: 0%

Do you ever feel pressure from your parents or coaches to practice/play more golf than you would like?

Never: 45%
Sometimes: 43%
Often: 12%

Do you ever feel pressure from your parents or coaches to perform well in tournaments?

Never: 37%
Sometimes: 44%
Often: 19%

Who is your golf success more important to: you or one of/both of your parents?

You: 84%
Parent(s): 13%
Both: 3%

They said it: 

“I hope me.”

Do you ever feel burnt out by golf?

Never: 38%
Yes, occasionally: 56%
Yes, frequently: 6%

Have you or anyone you played against been penalized for slow play? 

Yes: 44%
No: 56%

Do you think pace of play is a problem in competitive junior golf?

Yes: 86%
No: 14%

Do you consider yourself a slow player?

Yes: 3%
No: 97%

Have you ever knowingly broken a rule in a tournament and not reported it?

Yes: 20%
No: 80%

They said it:

“I put a club firmly on rough to get a better lie.”

Have you ever confronted or reported another player for breaking a rule?

Yes: 69%
No: 31%

Do you listen to music on the course/range?

Sometimes: 44%
Frequently: 38%
Never: 18%

Have you seen Caddyshack?

Yes: 66%
No: 34%

They said it: 

“If you haven’t, you shouldn’t be in the field.”

One in three respondents have not yet seen Caddyshack.
Orion Pictures/Getty Images

How much do the habits and behaviors of pro golfers influence your own habits and behaviors?

Not at all: 13%
Moderately: 63%
Significantly: 24%

Have you ever played equipment in a competition that wasn’t the best fit for your game because a manufacturer gave you free clubs?

Yes: 44%
No: 56%

Is your goal to play on the PGA Tour/LPGA?

Yes: 77%
No: 20%
Don’t know: 3%

If yes, do you expect to achieve that goal?

Yes: 84%
No: 16%

They said it:

“Not really, I’m gonna be a hedge-fund manager.”

“Eh…”

“I’ll be a doctor, detective or pathologist.”

Who’s your role model on the PGA/LPGA Tour?

Tiger Woods: 20%
Brooks Koepka: 14%
Jordan Spieth: 8%
Justin Thomas: 8%
Phil Mickelson: 8%
Rory McIlroy: 6%
Other: 14%
Don’t have one: 6%

Also receiving votes: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Sung Hyun Park, Brandt Snedeker, Michelle Wie.

Tiger Woods, role model.
Getty Images

If you could play a round with one pro golfer, who would it be? 

Tiger Woods: 37% (“He’s done so much for the game.”)
Jordan Spieth: 17%
Rory McIlroy: 14% (“He seems like a cool guy”)
Rickie Fowler: 12%
Brooks Koepka: 9%
Other: 11%

Also receiving votes: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Lydia Ko, Jeongeun Lee6, Phil Mickelson, S.H. Park, Jordan Spieth.

Whose swing would you most like to steal?

Adam Scott: 24%
Rory McIlroy: 26%
Brooks Koepka: 13%
Tiger Woods: 9%
Jordan Spieth: 9%
Don’t know: 4%

Also receiving votes: Tommy Fleetwood, Dustin Johnson, Jeongeun Lee6, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, S.H. Park, Michelle Wie.

Who is the best golfer in the game right now?

Brooks Koepka: 62% (“Hard not to say him.”)
Rory McIlroy: 7%
Jordan Spieth: 4%
Tiger Wooods, 2%
Dustin Johnson, 2%
Don’t know: 6%
Other: 17%

They said it: 

“I don’t watch golf.”

Who is the greatest golfer of all time?  

Tiger Woods: 66%
Jack Nicklaus: 18%
Arnold Palmer: 8%
Don’t know/other: 8%

Finish this sentence: If I’m not playing golf, I would rather be_____________.

Hanging out with friends: 27%
Don’t know: 18%
Playing another sport: 16%
Fishing: 9%
Watching TV: 7%
Other: 23%

Also receiving votes: on the beach, working out, sleeping, watching golf, practicing golf, coaching golf, hanging at home, in the gym, surfing, playing video games, reading, racing cars.