The concept of Gill Wilson and Howard Swan destined to make golf more accessible, affordable and sustainable to more, is set to see its expansion in South Africa in a partnership with the Provincial Government of the Western Cape. Its first home is already set for the Fancourt Golf Resort on the Garden Route.
The FIRSTGOLF® initiative will become an integral part of the Government’s social inclusion and capital development programme, in providing recreational facilities, as yet unavailable in the Cape.
It is the first time the game of golf has been involved in such a programme in the country of South Africa, let alone in the province itself.
The intent is to introduce golf into 21 areas of disadvantaged populations, urban as well as rural, with the design and laying out of FIRSTGOLF courses, centres and academies in the townships.
The initial development is likely to be in Khayelitsha, the 800,000 strong township just east of Capetown, and the site, once developed as a range, but abandoned lies on the outskirts of the township and close to Mitchell’s Plain, a sister community of close to one million people.
The declaration for the partnership – truly a public/private initiative – was cemented during the visit of Acting Premier, Minister Leonard Ramatlakane, and his officers from the Office of the Premier and from the Township’s community organisation to London last week.
Gill Wilson says, “FIRSTGOLF’s visionary partnership with the Provincial Government in the Cape will proactively grow the game contributing to cultural, social and vocational progress.
“As FIRSTGOLF opens the doors to more golfers we need to support this growth with accredited vocational training, skills development and skills transfer opportunities across the whole of the golfing industry, including caddies, turf technicians, golf course managers and hospitality personnel.
“By creating partnerships within the golfing industry, we are spearheading the growth of the game and empowering new generations. We are showing that where there is a will, there is a way. It is simply wonderful that we have the chance to do this in South Africa and contribute to their inclusion programme.”
The concept and initiative will demonstrate the opportunity for golf to broaden its base, presently significantly exclusive in South Africa – no more than five courses in the country, out of a total of almost 500, have open access – and underpin FIRSTGOLF’s objective of increasing the social sustainability of the game.
Howard Swan will re-visit the Cape to finalise the contractual arrangements for the initiative and adds, “We are aiming to celebrate this tremendous step forward at the Khayelitsha Festival in October and it will truly be a milestone both for us in FIRSTGOLF and for South Africa.
“The land available for the development is wonderful duneland, expansive and open and provides an opportunity for a simple facility, easily built and easily managed within the natural environment.
“Next door lies the Khayelitsha Tertiary College which will become the hub for vocational training in golf linked directly to the FIRSTGOLF®centre.”
FIRSTGOLF is collaborating with the R and A, the Golf Foundation and FEGGA in the initiative and being supported by industry partners, including Ransomes Jacobsen and Rainbird International and South Africa’s National Golf Network, and with Elmwood College International as its education partner. Also, Golf Envoronment Europe are working actively with FIRSTGOLF in the development and environmental management of the centres.
FIRSTGOLF is also developing facilities of a simple nature for entrants to the game in India, Brazil, Eastern Europe as well as in the United Kingdom.