One of BB&O’s (Berkshire Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire) top golf coaches has become the driving force behind the new Iver Golf Academy in Bucks. After eight years as the Head Professional at the top private members club, Calcot Park GC, Lead Coach for the BB&O Golf Partnership Mark Grieve is fulfilling a long held ambition of getting a lot more people into golf, especially juniors and the disabled.
“I had a terrific career as a junior,” he says, “crowned in 1982 by becoming the British Boys champion and captain, and then the England Boys captain. As a professional I’ve always been involved with junior golf, but I’ve long nursed an ambition to do much more for getting school children in general into golf.”
He continues, “I’ve also become seriously interested in golf for the disabled, especially after reading about the relationship between Headley Court’s servicemen and the relationship with the PGA’s Phil Taylor at Pachesham Park in Leatherhead. For a coach, teaching the disabled is a big challenge and it’s one of the reasons I’ve got qualified to teach golf to disabled people.”
Iver was originally a 15 bay range and 9 well established golf holes. There were plans to develop it into an 18-hole course, but when it became obvious there was not enough land, with Mark’s guidance the owner is now developing a Junior academy course instead.
In addition there will be a 300 yard grass driving range, and a short game area with up to 100 yards for full shots to a target green, and the net result is that the new Iver Golf Academy will soon be a Junior Academy Centre that is fully recognised by the BB&O Golf Partnership.
For the disabled golfers, the covered range has already been made fully wheelchair-friendly with concrete ramps as required. The new facility has excellent drainage and will be open all year round.
Mark’s enthusiasm is clear: “It’s a terrific new challenge for me to get lots more kids and disabled people into golf. I want them to have the opportunities I had, and with golf now a recognised Olympic sport there is every reason to find our future champions in this country.
“TriGolf is a great way for the very young ones to get started, and we are also a certified for the Golf Foundation’s Golf Roots initiative aimed at both staff and schoolchildren from five upwards. We are already running special promotions so that school children get free golf coaching opportunities.”
Mark is keen to make sure that people coming to Iver Golf Academy learn not just how to play, but how to play golf quickly as well, as he explains. “Slow play is already turning a lot of people away from golf. When I was a junior, 2 hours 45 minutes was considered good for a full round of 18 holes, but now 4 to 5 hours is becoming commonplace.
“As part of our on course coaching programmes, we are putting a lot of emphasis on learning all the various ways you can play faster and get round in a sensible time. It’s so important for the younger generation who watch golf on the television and pick up all the ways in which the game is slowing down to a snail’s pace.”
The Iver Golf Academy is aiming to become the place where whole families can learn to play, and as part of its plans to become a major disabled golf centre, Iver has already attracted attention from the Disabled Golf Society as a venue for a disabled golf tournament.
“This would be the ideal way to raise our profile amongst the disabled community,” Mark explains “and to make lots more people realise that no matter what their circumstances, golf really can be for them.”
Iver Golf Academy www.ivergolfclub.co.uk/academy.html