In 2000 the English Golf Union (EGU) and English Ladies’ Golf Association (ELGA) introduced a scheme providing funding to golf clubs who offered free golf coaching sessions with the aim introducing more players to the game of golf. Initially this incorporated advertising support and now offers a full grant of £200.
Since that year over 500 clubs have participated in the scheme and over 15,000 would-be golfers have been able to experience a new sport. This positive support for the scheme has now received more credibility as research, which has been underway since 2004, shows that many of those who participated in these free introductory lessons are still actively playing golf.
In 2004 an online tracking survey was created to assess the long term participation trends of those beginners and has been completed by participants after six, twelve and eighteen months to date. The results are very positive.
After 18 months 46% of those who responded to the survey are still playing golf, the majority being in the 41 years and above age groups. Over time it appears that once hooked their participation becomes more serious with the percentage involved in practice activities such as visiting a driving range and booking lessons decreases, whereas the percentage that join a golf club increases steadily from 23% to 29%.
In relation to what encourages people to join a golf club, the reasons seem to differ. Initially it appears that cost plays a major role with new golfers, those who responded six months after their initial session, being attracted by clubs who did not charge a joining fee, 64%, or special membership offers and discounts, 49%. After 18 months, cost is much less of an issue with 60% of respondents stating that their higher level of ability would now encourage them to join a facility.
Respondents who stated they were no longer involved in the game specified both general costs and time constraints as the main reason for not continuing.
Richard Flint, Development Manager for the EGU commented, “ We will continue with the research which tracks the development of new golfers as it provide valuable information as to how we can further develop existing an new initiatives to bring get more people playing the game.”
Further information on the Free Golf Coaching initiative can be found at the EGU website www.englishgolfunion.org.