Lancashire’s golf clubs are ready to build on a hugely successful 12 months – by focussing their attentions on the next generation of players.
The Red Rose county has posted impressive figures – with club membership rising by 1,636 in 2016. The 4.2% increase was the best county performance in the country.
Now the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs wants to continue the growth of the sport in the county by supporting a wide range of initiatives designed to encourage more young people to give golf a go.
The LUGC launched a county development plan two years ago and after hitting all their initial targets, the emphasis will now shift to junior golf for 2017.
The county has already developed a junior pathway, which caters for around 250 youngsters from beginner level up to the elite players who are chosen to represent Lancashire in county matches and national competitions.
It has also launched a special programme for under 14s, with coaching provided by PGA professionals and supported by volunteers. This costs just £25 for three days of coaching during the summer based in six regional centres – North Lancashire, East Lancashire, South Lancashire, Bolton and Bury, Southport and Manchester.
Players take part in a series of skills challenges designed to improve their putting, bunker play and short game, for example, with an end of season competition – at Houghwood Golf Club, near St Helens – giving them chance to put their know-how into practice. It is open to existing club members and entries are still open for this year’s programme with further details from the LUGC website at www.lancashiregolf.org/talent_development_programmes. Closing date is March 1.
The Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs wants to further expand its support of the work going on at club level to bring new, younger players into golf.
Ideas include working with the clubs and their PGA professionals to develop a model for golf camps in the school holidays.
Says county secretary Phil Harvey: “It is something you see in other sports, such as football or rugby, and we are looking to put together a pilot scheme with half a dozen clubs to develop a model that could be used across the county.
“A two or three-day camp, for example, is a good way to introduce beginners to the sport, show them the skills needed to play and how easy it is to make new friends.
“This works well for those who already have an interest in playing the sport, or who want to add to their playing experience. We hope to enthuse, motivate and inspire clubs to get involved in this kind of project.
“We believe there is a variety of ways to attract juniors to the sport, whether that be through the family and friends of existing club members, working with local schools or community groups, by holding family open days or taster sessions or by using social media to promote a club’s activities. The first aim is to get people hitting a golf ball and then to show them how it can become a sport for life.”
The county union will offer support to clubs looking to set up or revitalise their junior section, with Phil adding: “There are great examples of best practice at clubs across Lancashire and we want to share that experience with others. For example, often clubs rely on a single junior organiser who may drop out when their own child has outgrown junior golf, but the successful clubs have a group of people, including the PGA professional, which provides a more robust organisation.”
The Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs, which collects an annual affiliation fee from the 40,000 plus golfers in the region of just £4, delivers a number of benefits for all club members including advice on handicaps, course rating, grant funding, talent development, organising championships and county members events as well as running representative teams.
It offers a free county card to club members, which provides discounted golf at more than 1,400 courses across the UK.
It also works to increase participation in the sport and is an integral part of the Lancashire Golf Development Group – which seeks to attract more players, more members and create stronger clubs – alongside the Lancashire Ladies County Golf Association and the Professional Golfers Association in the region, with the support of two England Golf county development officers.
Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs www.lancashiregolf.org