Makefield Highlands ClubhouseMakefield Highlands, one of the properties managed by Spirit Golf, was the cover story in May’s Golf Business Magazine. Sharing the club’s success story is Bob Doria, PGA, Spirit’s Director of Golf and Makefield’s General Manager.

Makefield Highlands, an 18-hole, links-style public facility located on the state’s eastern flank by the Delaware River, may be an anomaly in that it is so busy. But that success is no accident. Instead, in an age of sleek slogans where the promise often exceeds the product, it suggests that Makefield Highlands is actually honoring its pledge of ‘redefining public golf.’

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Els for Autism launches pilot series for its Ernie Els #GameON Autism™ Golf Program aimed at using golf as a life skills developmental tool for individuals on the autism spectrum.

To have golf used as an effective supplementary therapy for people with autism … The pilot series is a crucial step in helping us reach that goal.

Ernie Els, Els for Autism Founder

Els for Autism has launched a nationwide pilot for the Ernie Els #GameON Autism™ Golf Program. The #GameON Autism Golf Program is aimed at developing life skills, encouraging social interaction, and promoting healthy living through golf for individuals on the autism spectrum. Each session is designed to help build self-esteem and confidence in a fun, welcoming and supportive environment; encouraging participants to learn golf skills while practicing specific autism learning concepts.

The comprehensive program, which has been developed by Els for Autism with support from PGA REACH and thru a grant from New York Collaborates for Autism from the proceeds of Comedy Central’s 2012 Night of Too Many Stars, utilizes multiple evidence-based practices, identified by the National Professional Development Center on Autism. It consists of nine group lessons and takes four and a half weeks to complete with golf lessons taking place twice a week. Each session has a specially designed lesson plan that delivers golf instruction paired with specific autism focused learning concepts, including: communication, regulatory, motor and social skills.

Over 100 children in seven cities across the U.S. will take part in the pilot program that runs from the end of April through 2015. In each pilot city Els for Autism has selected a host golf facility, golf partner, and autism partner who the Foundation will be working with during the pilot program. Stonybrook Golf Club in Hopewell, NJ is the program’s local host facility.

Mike Attara, President of Spirit Golf, the management company for Stonybrook Golf Club and a member of the NJ Golf Foundation, says “We are pleased to be part of this groundbreaking pilot program. It’s a natural fit with our company’s values and mission of helping grow the game and reaching into the community. I’m proud that Stonybrook was asked to participate. Our Professional Staff, led by PGA Professional, Joe Porter has done a great job preparing for the program.”

“To have golf used as an effective supplementary therapy for people with autism is a pretty exciting concept for me and I have been lucky enough to have seen first-hand the incredibly positive effect that the one-day golf clinics can have on participants. Our end goal is to develop #GameON Autism Golf into a comprehensive program that can be rolled out so that more individuals with autism can have access to this specialized program world-wide. The pilot series is a crucial step in helping us reach that goal,” said Els for Autism Founder, Ernie Els.

He added: “We are so grateful for all the support we have received from the organizations and individuals that have helped us develop #GameON Autism Golf as an initiative over the past couple of years, in particular PGA REACH and New York Collaborates for Autism who have enabled us to develop and implement this pilot series for the program.”

“Sports and other recreational activities can be the bridge to creating meaningful connections for people with autism to others in their life. NYCA is grateful that Ernie Els and his foundation have used their expertise to teach people with autism how to play golf and thereby engage with others through the game,” said Ilene Lainer, President, New York Collaborates for Autism.

Els for Autism is thankful to all of the organizations and individuals that have supported the development of the #GameON Autism Golf initiative over the last couple of years to get it to this stage, in particular: the PGA of America, PGA REACH, The First Tee, U.S. Kids, The Honda Classic, New York Collaborates for Autism, Adams Golf and Southwest Airlines.

Donations to the Els for Autism Foundation can be made online at: Els for Autism.


Golf Range Magazine named Makefield Highlands Golf Club in Lower Makefield Township one of the top 50 ranges in the country.  Makefield Highlands was recently honored at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando Florida in the “on course” category.

“Spirit Golf is proud of the effort of our entire staff for making this award possible” says Mike Attara, President of Spirit Golf Management.  “Since taking over management of the facility, the goal for Makefield was to enhance the course’s position in the community.  The Rick Jacobson designed course was already a popular choice to play and the range was always busy, but we wanted to take the experience to another level.”

Makefield Highlands Golf Club

Makefield Highlands Golf Club

Improvements included automating the range ball dispensing, improving the short game area and re-turfing and marking the targets to give a true sense of on course targets.

Most importantly, the Golf Academy, lead by PGA Professional Bob Doria and PGA Director of Instruction Ed Gibson, established the programming and activities that helped reach these outreach goals.  Some of these programs included offering short rounds, such as 3 & 6 hole rounds late in the day as part of the driving range experience. Players could hit a bucket of balls and for just a few dollars more head out and play a 3 or 6 hole loop that brought them right back to the range.  In addition, Get Golf Ready Classes continued to grow traction in the community especially in women and junior classes.

Bob Doria, PGA General Manager, says the success of the range was a snowball effect. “Mike challenged us to establish a strong player development program at Makefield Highlands and after we started offering and posting our Academy programs online, we saw a real surge in the number of students in our classes. Our Director of Instruction, Ed Gibson, did an excellent job of building the Academy class schedules and creating a fun environment for our students to learn the game or make improvements to their swing.  This year all of our programs will be online on the PGA’s Active Golf website. The new site allows our students the convenience to register and pay for classes on the website.”