“The English Golf Union and the counties must work together so that newcomers to golf understand what they need to do to progress from beginner to a world class golfer,” declared Conference chairman, Anthony Abraham, in opening the bi-annual EGU National Coaching conference.
“As we develop more world class golfers they will become role models for the beginners in the future,” he said, and paid particular tribute to Justin Rose for the friendship and advice he had given to England’s top amateur players on their warm weather training visit to South Africa earlier this month.
“English golf is bringing many thousands of youngsters into golf and on to golf club membership each year to bring down the average age of members and boost junior membership. And when they have gone through the EGU coaching programme we will actively help the best players each year to fulfil their ambitions to join the European Tour,” promised world class programme director, Nigel Furniss.
“England will face tough competition from European nations,” declared the director of French Golf, Philippe Grandou, pointing out that France has a budget of 16,000,000 euros per annum to push their players to the top of the game, over three times as much as England.
That was one of the realities put before delegates from 30 counties and other leaders of golf in England who attended the English Golf Union’s two-day ‘Coaching in Harmony‘ Conference at Woodhall Spa.
“I can‘t emphasise enough the need for getting youngsters into golf at an early age,” Anthony Abraham, chairman of the EGU’s National Coaching Committee, told the conference. “Currently the average age of golf club membership is 60, while juniors provide just eight per cent of that membership.
“If we can achieve 12 per cent juniors we will be doing very well. Of the many clubs in England that completed our recent survey, 80 per cent have vacancies for new members, particularly juniors.”
However, it was pointed out that some clubs still put up barriers to juniors, while youngsters also found clubs intimidating. One delegate cited a club when asked when juniors were allowed to play was told: ‘Only during the week and only after 5pm.‘
Some delegates felt that clubs should not impose strict dress rules on youngsters until they had been integrated into the club environment.
Mr Abraham added that much work was being done in schools to introduce youngsters to golf particularly though the Golf Foundation’s Tri Golf and the EGU’s Get Into Golf promotion. These are aimed at the seven to 12 age group, while there were also club and county initiatives.
But he lamented the general standard of practice facilities in England, describing them as deplorable. “We have the best coaches in the world but we need to work to get them better facilities so that they also improve,” he said.
Di Horsley from Sport England told the conference that her organisation was aiming to make England an active and successful sporting nation. This could be achieved in two ways, by persuading everyone to spend 30 minutes each day in some sort of physical activity, and to produce the best sportsmen and women so that England becomes the best in the world by 2020.
The Minister for Sport, the Rt. Hon. Richard Caborn MP also touched on the subject of youth, saying that 70% of young people didn‘t continue in active sport once they leave school. He said that this lack of activity as well as obesity was costing the National Health Service £1 billion per year. He also wondered if golf clubs could become more family orientated by providing facilities for other sports.
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