In addition to being a popular spectator sport and passionate hobby for millions, golf is a force for good. No professional sports league has raised more money for various charities than the PGA Tour, and that spirit of giving filters down through all levels of the game.
One cause is particularly close to the heart of four-time major champion Ernie Els. He and his wife, Liezl, are parents to an autistic son, Ben, whose unique needs prompted them to found the Els for Autism Foundation in 2009. Among the many programs the foundation offers and facilitates is the Els Center of Excellence, a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., which houses the foundation's offices as well as two schools that serve autistic children and young adults. A new building, which will offer services meant to address the needs of autistic adults, is scheduled to open in 2023.
Both Ernie and Liezl Els speak movingly about this aspect of their lives in the new documentary My Roots: Ernie Els, which debuted this week.
Capitalizing on the generosity and network of the greater golf community, Els for Autism sponsors a months-long Golf Challenge, a series of outings and fundraisers with a competitive component, held across North America. The 2022 slate of tournaments visits an impressive list of courses, including PGA Tour hosts and other elite private clubs. The Grand Finale event, which brings together top fundraising teams from the preceding months, will take place in October in the Bahamas, with participants playing Albany Golf Club, the annual host venue of Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge, which Els designed.
More than a dozen regional events are scheduled for the spring and summer. Here are three at noteworthy courses that you should look into:
Monday, July 18
Conway Farms Golf Club - Lake Forest, Ill.
Conway Farms has hosted the PGA Tour's BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup Playoffs event, three times. In 2013, Jim Furyk shot the sixth 59 in PGA Tour history at the Tom Fazio-designed layout that has graced lists of the top 100 American golf courses in Golf Digest. Click here for event information.
Monday, August 8
Silver Creek Valley Country Club - San Jose, Calif.
Silver Creek Valley is one of a handful of courses touched by one of modern golf course architecture's most fascinating figures: Mike Strantz. In the final years of his too-short life, Strantz remodeled this Ted Robinson, Sr. design in Silicon Valley, adding some artistic flair and exciting green contours to a previously pedestrian design. Click here for event information.
Monday, August 29
Point O'Woods Golf & Country Club - Benton Harbor, Mich.
I can personally vouch for the golf-at-summer-camp feel of this midcentury classic Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design, which I was fortunate to play in 2019. More than three dozen times a host for amateur golf's prestigious Western Amateur, Point O'Woods has history in spades, with several stately holes routed through high-canopy trees that create the look and feel of hitting golf shots inside giant vaulted-ceilinged rooms. Click here for event information.
To see the full schedule of 2022's Els For Autism Golf Challenge events and to sign up for one, click here.