We spoke with Golf Cubs founder Tom Hefford on his background in golf, the concept behind Golf Cubs and some great advice for parents of junior golfers!
Tell us about yourself!
I’m a qualified PGA Professional with a 1st Class Honours degree in Applied Golf Management Studies, graduating from the University of Birmingham in 2015.
I started my career in golf at the prestigious Edgbaston Golf Club, spanning 5 ½ years of coaching, retail and corporate/society event management.
In 2018, I had an idea on ‘bridging the gap between lessons’ that would positively contribute towards the golfing journeys of young children and their parents, worldwide. That brand was ‘Golf Cubs’. My objectives were to create something so unique yet familiar, and so obvious yet unusual. I chose to use the medium of cartoon illustration and animals to appeal more to the younger audience . This could then help occupy them between weekly classes! By providing tangible and digital resources, we could help children stay engaged with their golf. Whilst practising, learning and most importantly, having fun with five golfing lion cub characters!
What does Golf Cubs offer?
Golf Cubs currently offers a series of paperback cartoon golf activity magazines for those aged 4-8, along with a new rules, etiquette and trivia board game, Race To 18, for those 7+.
It certainly challenges the traditional learnings of the rules and presents a modern twist that can involve all the family!
We also have a digital platform called ‘The Den’, this is free and available to everyone (parent, coach and child). This includes a Video Vault which features a cartoon animated home practise videos. Games Cave with game recipes, word searches, puzzles, colouring-in, anagrams and more.
Our Scorecard Hub (Grown-ups Crash-out) encourages parents to ask the difficult questions and help one another by sharing their own experiences.
Finally, we have a Feedback Zone. We are also in the process of designing an iOS and Android application that uses the framework of our latest product, Race To 18. But that’s all I can share with you at the moment!
What’s your first golfing memory?
My very first golfing memory would have to be when I was a little tot and playing a game of crazy golf at the Jolly Roger opposite the landmark, Skegness Clock Tower. Annual holiday trips to the seaside were great fun and whilst we were there, a game of crazy golf was a given!
Interestingly though, I never showed any interest in wanting to play “real” golf at that age and it was only when I turned 11/12 that my dad introduced me to the game (that meant using something more than a putter) at the local driving range. I think I share a similar first golfing experience with the majority when I say, I was awful… top, miss, duff! Nevertheless, I stuck at it, determined as ever and here I am today!
What has your involvement and experience in junior golf been like?
I come at this from two perspectives, one as a junior golfer and the other, as a junior coach…
As a junior golfer, I committed very long hours to my golf. More so between the ages of 14-17. Prior to this it was a ‘foot in, foot out’ sort of approach. I was interested in playing other sports as well. It was in my mid-teens, when I set about achieving that single figure handicap status and found myself at the course most days of the week!
Sadly, the one thing I never forget about my junior days was, that feeling in the pit of my stomach of ‘just missing out’ in the county events… Time after time. I was never quite good enough. What I found hard to comprehend, was that there was an extensive system of support and progression if you qualified for a county squad. But very little for someone who didn’t ‘make the cut’.
As a young and ambitious individual, I felt as if I had the same drive and determination as those making the county squad, if not more! Nevertheless, I enjoyed playing junior opens, representing two local clubs and achieving a category 1 handicap.
From the perspective of a coach, I was actually driven by those childhood experiences. I wanted to setup a junior academy that would provide for those kids like myself, who just weren’t quite at the level. Yet had the ‘umph’ and ‘grit’ to want to better themselves. During my years at Edgbaston, I took just 4 junior golfers and grew it into a healthy 50 strong family. I also made the decision to offer lessons to those as young as 4 years old. Junior golf was my everything! Those crisp Sunday mornings setting up ‘the stage’, for my 6 junior group classes was so enjoyable and without a doubt those that knew me well would confirm I was the biggest kid in the group! I adored my ‘job’. Being a coach, teacher, mentor and to some, a role model figure.
What advice would you give to parents whose children have just shown an interest in golf?
I think it is largely dependent upon how they’ve come about showing that interest. I witnessed all too many times parents ‘jumping on the opportunity’ that their child/children have shown an interest in a sport and they need to find the fastest method to get them to achieve tour standard!
Instead, I always encouraged parents to continue exploring that first event that sparked their interest. Maybe it was mini-golf, after-school golf club, pitch and putt, a driving range visit etc. Then… When the time is right, your child will let you know when that is. Sometimes verbally, by gesture or by body language. At that time, you may choose to shake it up a little and try a different form of golf [see previous examples]. In time, ask them how they’d feel about visiting a golf course? If they’d like to play a golf hole? Maybe watch some golfers play? Or find out when the next junior event is on and spectate. Finding and talking to a local PGA Professional who specialises in junior golf would be an excellent source of information and support for both parent and child.
Before a child sees a coach, what three tips would you give?
The ‘coach’ is there to help you have even more fun with your golf!
Ask as many silly questions as you’d like, in fact, the more the better!
If you’d like them to demonstrate something for you, hand them your club and have a laugh!
How would you recommend children hone their golf skills whilst at home?
Be creative and PLAY! Perhaps there are some soft toys, cushions or an everyday household item that could be used (e.g. cereal boxes, toilet rolls, shoes), to create a challenge. It’s the perfect opportunity to think outside the box and spend time with children designing and building things.
Often, I used to challenge my juniors as a warm-up activity, to choose any piece of equipment out the coaching kit, and come up with 3 games for the different areas of putting: speed, accuracy and green reading. An example of a home challenge may be, ‘using a deck of cards come up with a game that helps you to aim the putter’. It’s quite remarkable to see what secondary skills young children pick-up, when doing activities like these, e.g. numbers, sequencing and ordering, pattern recognition, all useful for plotting you way around that golf course when faced with that troublesome tree… be honest, we’ve all been there!
Every child is unique in ability, competitiveness and application to learning. What’s your advice on keeping children interested in the wonderful game of golf?
I’m such a believer in listening to a child and giving them your undivided attention. They know what they know, and we should respect, reflect and react to that. If they don’t enjoy something, it’s perhaps because they don’t. So rather than dismiss it, take time to understand, talk about it and come to a solution/reasoning together. If a child wants to do more or less of something, find out why, how does it make them feel. Why do they feel like that?
In a world that is becoming more and more digital, we must remind ourselves of the importance of communicating in-person and having healthy discussions. We should also remember that to be interested in something means you, (the child in this instance) gets something out of it more than something else. Whilst we (the reader and the writer) describe this as a “wonderful game”, that is indeed subjective and we have to acknowledge and realise that our ‘wonderful’ might not be someone else’s (the child’s). And we have to be comfortable with that. Parents especially should give the gift of love and support, in whatever sporting field their child shows interest in. More importantly, give the gift of time and commitment. Show an interest and get involved, because it means more to a child than we will ever know.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Always a hard question for me. Not because I don’t enjoy it (in fact, it’s quite the opposite)! I’m one of the lucky few that can honestly say I haven’t ever worked a day in my life. Whatever I’ve done. Be it a part-time job as a teen, Summer placement work during my University years, or moving into full-time employment. I’ve always been fortunate enough to be doing something I relish. As a result, it has never felt like a ‘job’ and in itself I saw a lesson in this approach which I proudly share and that is to do something you truly love, and the rest will magically fall into place.
Who would be your dream Four-ball?
Ooo now that’s a tough one!! It would depend which side of the pond we were on… US: Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka. (UK) Ian Poulter, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose. Having said that, I am aware some of our English professionals have a main place of residency in the States, so I guess we’ll have to make 2 groups, and swap after 9!
Where can we find Golf Cubs?
Golf Cubs can be accessed just about anywhere with an internet connection! We love to welcome new visitors to our online platform and the Cubhouse Shop (https://golfcubs.co.uk). Should you also be interested in following our mischief in The Den or just want to say “hello!”, you can find us on Instagram and Facebook.
It just leaves me to say, thank you so much for the opportunity and let’s keep making noise together! #TeamNoisy