drive chip and puttIn 2014, The Atlantic published an article showing golf had the oldest fans in the sports world. And around 2010, golf fans were openly wondering why the game was struggling to attract young fans.

These days, if you Google “golf young fans” you see a bevy of articles showcasing the problem may have been answered. The rise of young stars like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler have helped make golf more popular among the younger crowd.

But the introduction of the Drive, Chip, and Putt Championship in 2015 may represent one of the most innovative ways of advancing the next generation of golfers, thanks to Augusta National Golf Club’s initiative.

For those unaware, the Drive, Chip, and Putt Championship is aimed at kids between the ages of 7 and 15, with four division for both boys and girls separating competitors by age. The format is similar to a Punt, Pass, and Kick event the NFL holds across the country, in that golfers aim to score points by outperforming the competition. It’s broken into three sections: Driving distance (off a tee, and staying inbounds), chipping (a place off the green, aiming to get closest to the hole), and putting (closest to the hole).

Those with the best scores from local qualifying sites advance to subregional and then regional qualifying, with the winners from regional qualifying getting to compete at Augusta National Golf Club – including a putt on the 18th green.

As Chairman Payne said in the initial press conference introducing the concept:

“Generations of players have been inspired by the dream of sinking a winning putt on the 18th green at Augusta National,” said Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament Foundation.  “Now an exciting opportunity exists to make that dream a reality. I am confident that our collective efforts with the USGA and The PGA of America will showcase the talents of kids who already play this game and motivate others to give the sport a try.”

The free competition, with over 200 local qualifying sites – spanning all 50 states – certainly seems to be doing the job.

For more information, go to drivechipandputt.com.