Golf is unique from other sports because players learn values like honesty and responsibility by calling penalties on themselves and reporting their own score. The sport is a perfect platform for helping young people develop character because just like in life, players experience the highs and lows of the game.

First Tee of Benton Harbor has three main programs, as well as many other opportunities for our community’s youth:

Classes – The core of our program. These low-cost classes feature the curriculum that serves the greatest impact to our youth. 

Outreach – The way we reach more youth. By partnering with community youth organizations, such as schools and after-school programs, we are able to bring the game of golf to them.

Opportunities – Participants of our classes are offered several “Opportunities” during the year. These are life skill and golf events that frequently require applications.

First Tee’s main curriculum is called The Life Skills Experience.” In addition to The Life Skills Experience are several additional opportunities that First Tee of Benton Harbor offers. All classes are conducted by trained instructors and are frequently assisted by volunteers.


The Life Skills Experience features incremental levels through which participants progress. All new participants begin at the PLAYer & Par level. Each level is listed below.

From age 5 through senior year of high school, youth progress through different levels by demonstrating First Tee Nine Core Values, life and golf skills as well as passing an assessment. All participants regardless of age start at the PLAYer level. The pinnacle of First Tee is completing Ace.

  • Target (Ages 5 & 6) – Tee up for the first time and learn the game of golf and First Tee’s Code of Conduct.
  • PLAYer (Ages 7 & 8) – Tee up for the first time and learn the game of golf and First Tee’s Code of Conduct.
  • Par (Ages 9+) – Focus on interpersonal and self-management skills on and off the course.
  • Birdie (Ages 11+) – Emphasis on setting goals and making them a reality.
  • Eagle (Ages 13+) – Learn resilience, conflict resolution, and future planning.
  • Ace (Ages 14+ or entering 9th grade) – Put it all together and hone in on setting goals, career education, and giving back to the community.

Ask us about scholarships for financial need.

Throughout each level participants experience the usefulness of First Tee’s Nine Core Values – Respect, Courtesy, Responsibility, Honesty, Sportsmanship Confidence, Judgment, Perseverance, and Integrity.

The games in our classes are designed to be fun and educational for our participants. Students explore their own ideas about the game while being encouraged to exhibit behaviors beneficial to themselves and others. The curriculum is also designed to challenge our students. To progress from one level to the next, participants must convey all nine Core Values throughout the season, as well as pass tests during “Certification.” Only after a participant has completed certification can progression to the next level occur. Participants frequently take a single class multiple times before certifying.

Instructors at First Tee of Benton Harbor begin as volunteer coaches until they attend a multi-day training. At training they learn the basics of safety and the curriculum as well as the finer points of teaching and mentoring.