A pilot golf coaching scheme for school children, launched this week in St Andrews, is set to be the blueprint for young people’s golf coaching in Scotland. Under the new scheme, local youngsters from 5 to 18 years will receive a comprehensive programme of professional tuition.
Starting in Spring 2002, the programme is a co-operative venture between St Andrews Links Trust and the Scottish Junior Golf Partnership which was set up in the summer to develop a structure for junior golf in Scotland. The Partnership is made up of representatives from the Scottish Golf Union, the Scottish Ladies’ Golf Association, the Professional Golfers’ Association, sportscotland and the Golf Foundation.
The venture with the Links Trust could be an example of the type of programme to be introduced throughout the country. Known as the St Andrews Links Junior Golf Association, it will bring together existing local schemes for training young golfers, which have been developed by different organisations over the years.
“The Junior Golf Association will build on the good work that has been carried out so far in St Andrews,” explained Frances Melville of St Andrews Links Trust. “It will provide a training programme designed to ensure consistency in teaching the game and offer opportunities for the youngsters to improve at all levels. In addition to the coaching, we want to encourage children’s enjoyment of the game so there will be skills testing days, competitions, order of merit recognition and internal matches between groups.”
The children will be organised into three main age groups and, for those showing exceptional ability, there will be a separate group to be known as Team
St Andrews, who will be taught by PGA professionals. The other groups will be coached by volunteers trained by qualified PGA instructors. They will deliver a set programme with an accompanying manual that will ensure consistency.
“We have looked at various schemes around the world as part of the Scottish Junior Golf Strategy,” explained Alan McMillan from the Scottish Junior Golf Partnership. “We are looking at this scheme as a pilot and its success will be instrumental in the development of a structure for junior golf throughout Scotland.”
The Association will be run by a committee made up of representatives of the junior sections of all the town’s golf clubs and schools in St Andrews and chaired by Niall Flanagan, golf services manager at St Andrews Links Trust. It will help with the administration of girls’ handicaps and work closely with the New and St Andrews Golf Clubs with regard to the boys’ handicaps.
“Working with the local clubs and schools is essential if we are to succeed,” said Mr Flanagan. “Any child interested in golf who goes to school in the town will be able to take part – it is a great opportunity to further develop the game at the Home of Golf, where it all started 600 years ago.”
Funding for the Association is being provided by St Andrews Links Trust, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and sportscotland. In addition, the Ben Hogan Golf Company is supplying equipment as part of a comprehensive sponsorship arrangement. There is a joining fee of £5 plus an annual subscription of £5 for 5-12 year olds and £10 for 13-18 year olds.
St Andrews Links Trust www.standrews.org.uk