Players at Nairn Dunbar Golf Club – juniors, adults, beginners and elite alike – will be able to increase the amount of quality time spent practising, ultimately benefitting by becoming better golfers, following the opening of its new practice facility by former Open Champion Paul Lawrie OBE.
The club is a renowned facility with an enviable reputation for junior development. Yet its spectacular beach front location has proved a double edge sword. Those trying to hone skills on a practice area fully exposed to the Moray Firth know the meaning of ‘biting easterly wind’. A solution was needed.
It was 2005 when the club first addressed the challenge with the outcome that sportscotland delivered a transportable three-bay, all-weather driving range. Using it through the winter opened eyes all around to the potential of having a permanent structure.
Five years on the club proudly revealed a new undercover coaching facility. Built by local company John A Jack Contracts Ltd, it is modern, made from high tech materials, lined with top grade Huxley matting, and has some canny touches one would expect to encounter in Highland.
By clever design six “invisible bays” eliminate the need for traditional divisions, thus saving space, whilst clear roof and wall panels maximise the natural light. Two further outdoor bays sit directly to the side of the building.
Ample depth behind the hitting area provides a viewing and classroom space which complements the use of modern technology – video cameras, launch monitors and cutting edge coaching devices. A plentiful storage area houses a wide variety of equipment.
“Players travel from far and wide to come to Nairn Dunbar for coaching,” said David Torrance, the club’s PGA Professional.
“The wind chill could be quite off putting for training, in terms of being buffeted around and being cold. Wet and windy days restricted the use of certain equipment like cameras and laptop computers.
“But now, irrespective of what the weather is doing, the coaching in the main will be uninterrupted. The new facility will automatically encourage juniors to spend more time practising their skills.”
The ambitious new project, made possible by grants of £25,000 from sportscotland, £12,500 from Highland Leader 2007-2013, £3,000 from Nairn Ward of Highland Council and £10,000 from the club, marks an important step in the club’s evolution for juniors.
Six years ago the club saw the potential of offering local children coaching through the national junior golf programme, clubgolf. A partnership between the Scottish Golf Union, the Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association, the Professional Golfers’ Association, the Golf Foundation and sportscotland, clubgolf was created as a lasting legacy for Scotland’s staging of the 2014 Ryder Cup.
In that time hundreds of Nairn children have been introduced to golf at school through the programme’s introductory game, firstclubgolf, and many have progressed to coaching at the club. Fortunately for them, Nairn Dunbar is one of eight regional centres within the Scottish Golf Academy where nine talented were involved in the programme this year.
One of three SGU North District Coaches, David Torrance is perfectly placed to coach children from the Stage 1 entry level of the clubgolf programme right through to Stage 4 for elite players (75 children take part in Nairn Dunbar’s clubgolf programme and there are plans to train members to become volunteer coaches this winter).
It is a mark of the club’s reputation as a centre of excellence that juniors travel to it from as far afield as Fort William, Nethy Bridge and even Dunbar in East Lothian on a regular basis for coaching. In his 12 years at the club Torrance has helped produce four international competitors and one other has been named in a national squad. Both Fraser Fotheringham and Kelsey MacDonald started their golf at Nairn Dunbar with Torrance when they were still at primary school.
Paul Lawrie is no stranger to Nairn Dunbar having played its Championship course on numerous occasions. The club hosts a Paul Lawrie Junior Jug regional qualifier, a new annual event he launched last year. Junior golf is close to his heart and the Paul Lawrie Foundation aims to support and sustain an interest and enthusiasm for the game.
“I am delighted to be opening this facility at Nairn Dunbar,” said Paul. “It is fantastic to see projects like this in the Highlands and I am sure this will be a huge success, everybody involved should feel very proud of these facilities”
Whilst everyone agrees that juniors will get the opportunity to play more often as the result of the new facility, adult club members are also beginning to turn out in large numbers to take advantage.
“Our own members are already using the facility in increasing numbers and the feedback is that the new Huxley matting is vastly superior to the previous matting with a softer feel when hitting shots,” said Club Secretary, Jim Gibson.
“Last year we started a new category of Introductory Member for adults new to the game, which included two free lessons from David Torrance. The new facility will be a great asset to this programme continuing. Having an all weather facility, in addition to an artificial putting green supplied by the SGU, will help attract national tournaments to Nairn Dunbar with all the economic benefits for the town.”
sportscotland Chief Executive, Stewart Harris added: “Nairn Dunbar Golf Club has a fantastic reputation for developing the sport in the local community, particularly for young people participating in the clubgolf programme. We are delighted that our investment of £25,000 Scottish Government funding from our Sports Facilities Fund, will allow this to continue to grow in the future.
“The provision of the new practice bays and the innovative technologies will only add to the superb coaching and development opportunities offered by the club. Nairn Dunbar is already considered to be a centre for excellence and I hope these new additions will encourage more people to participate in the sport.”