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Community Spotlight: The First Tee of Greater Washington, DC

The First Tee of Greater Washington, DC doesn’t just teach golf to kids – it’s part of a 20-year-old chapter of programs that uses golf to teach important values and healthy habits. While learning golf skills, participants also learn The First Tee Nine Core Values (honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment), and develop important life skills such as communication, self-management, goal-setting, and overcoming challenges.

The organization’s Life Skills Experience classes are held at 15 golf facilities in the DC area for ages 7 through 18. The First Tee also offers their program in schools and youth centers. The First Tee network stretches across all 50 states and has international programs as well, but the DC chapter was recently recognized as one of the best. That’s why we chose The First Tee as our community spotlight this month. We spoke with Executive Director Clint Sanchez to learn more.

Tell us about the recognition your chapter received at The First Tee National Network Meeting.

In 2016 and 2017, our chapter was recognized as an ACE Chapter, the highest recognition a chapter can receive.  In 2016, we were one of only nine chapters to receive the recognition. Executive Director Clint Sanchez was selected as one of only five Executive Directors from throughout the country to receive the Chairman’s Award – the highest individual honor for an executive within The First Tee Network. Director of Programming Katie Blodgett also received an award as a Recognized Coach of The First Tee. Our Participant of the Year, Madison King, was one of 28 high school students from across the country selected to attend The First Tee Outstanding Participant Summit in Orlando. 

How do you teach golf skills to different age groups and skill levels?

Our Life Skills Experience Classes are all activity based. We use various games and activities to teach various golf and life skills. We have a golf skills curriculum that lays out what participants learn at each level of the program. At the PLAYer Level, our entry level, participants are learning basic golf fundaments like holding the club, proper stance, and target awareness. As participants move through the levels additional skills and fundamental are introduced. All participants begin at the PLAYer level and progress through a certification process which accesses golf knowledge, life skill knowledge and golf skill. The other levels of the program are: Par- interpersonal skills are emphasized, Birdie- goal setting is emphasized, Eagle- community engagement and planning for the future are emphasized, and ACE- where participants complete a variety of projects like volunteerism and career exploration. Learn more details about the levels and certification requirements here.

How does The First Tee use golf to teach the Nine Core Values?

Life Skills and our Nine Core Values are seamlessly integrated into every Life Skills Experience Class.  The curriculum we use is intentionally designed for each level and is cognitively appropriate.  If we are working on Honesty during class, we use an activity that will elicit the use of participants being honest such as keeping their own score or telling others when they do not achieve the desired outcome.  If we are working on Judgment, we may use an activity where participants must put into circles representing different foods in order to create a healthy meal.

What are The First Tee Nine Healthy Habits, and how do you incorporate them into the program?

The Nine Core Values are: Respect, Courtesy, Responsibility, Honesty, Sportsmanship, Confidence, Judgment, Perseverance, and Integrity. See for how we incorporate them.

Tell us about The First Tee National School Program.

The First Tee National School Program (NSP) began with DC Public Schools as a part of their daily physical education classes in 2005. We offer training to teachers to teach The First Tee Nine Core Values, The First Tee Nine Healthy Habits, The First Tee Code of Conduct and Golf Skills during PE classes.  Teachers become certified to deliver the program during regular school hours. Our chapter is on over 170 schools throughout the District of Columbia including DC Public Charter Schools, Private Schools, Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, and Montgomery County Public Schools.

Do you offer any other programs?

Participants in the program have the opportunity to apply for The First Tee National Opportunities through The First Tee Home Office. These opportunities involve golf and leadership academies and playing opportunities at various tournaments. Locally we offer The First Tee Metro Tour, a summer tournament series with surrounding The First Tee Chapters.

The First Tee DRIVE is specifically designed for youth-serving organizations, like the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club, The First Tee DRIVE gives kids the chance to learn about golf and develop character through fun golf games.  Similar to the National School Program, the youth leaders are trained to deliver golf and life skills to young people at their location.