Golf course architect Howard Swan and Gill Wilson, formerly with the Ladies’ European Tour and now running the Rye Hill Golf Club in Oxfordshire, have come together to develop the FIRSTGOLF® initiative, conceived to make the game more:
Wilson laid out at her Club the initial FIRSTGOLF® course in the United Kingdom, alongside her eighteen holes course and says, “We have a three hole par 3 Academy course and within this area we have created a very simple nine holes, simply mown out of the fairways with holes between 30 and 50 metres.
“Our youngest players use plastic clubs and balls but quickly they, and older ones, progress to real clubs and restricted flight balls. Our FIRSTGOLF® course has green and teeing areas, connecting fairways and moveable hazards – bunkers and trees.
“It was simple to develop, is simple to maintain and manage, yet produces exactly what is needed to introduce the game to children…and their families.”
Swan, a professional golf course architect of close to 40 years standing, first created a simple golf course, mown out, at the Gosfield Lake Golf Club in his home county of Essex, where he designed the 27 holes complex with Sir Henry Cotton.
He feels that the game is not inclusive enough, not sufficiently socially dispersed, particularly in many of the emerging countries in which our Practice is working, where the opportunity ‘to spread the word’ is immense.
Swan and Wilson have established FIRSTGOLF Limited and FIRSTGOLF International Limited as the vehicles to roll out the concept, together with a charity FIRSTGOLF® TRUST.
Support for the concept has been received from the R and A, The Golf Foundation, FEGGA, the golf associations in South Africa and India and from the Grow Golf Group of equipment companies, along with TORO, Ransomes Jacobsen and Rainbird.
Swan anticipates the Fancourt Resort in South Africa will see a FIRSTGOLF® facility laid out by April where it will be unveiled to the delegates at the third Golf Summit.
Elsewhere the concept will be seen at the new FIRSTGOLF® Academy in Essex, at Swan Golf Designs’ project in Bratislava, on the Skytop Golf Village Development in Mysore, India and at Elmwood College, close to the home of golf.
Wilson adds, “We are offering a package of services to help implement the concept anywhere in the world – design, development, operational management, product procurement of FIRSTGOLF® equipment and educational initiatives in schools to complement the laying out of FIRSTGOLF® courses on school playing fields.
“In doing this, we anticipate becoming an International partner of the Golf Foundation to build on the tremendous amount they have achieved in the United Kingdom. We aim to broaden the base of the game and make sustainable golf available to so many more around the world.”