PGA professionals from across Devon are leading the drive to combat an aging and decreasing golf population in the county.
With golf’s profile soaring, West Country PGA’s have joined forces with the sport’s other leading bodies to create the Devon Golf Partnership.
Formed at the turn of the year, the DGP is looking to increase the numbers playing golf by five per cent in the next two years to combat the twin issues facing the sport in the 21st century.
The DGP is poised to move into the second stage of its development plan which will trigger a £10,000 cash injection to make golf hip and cool for the iPod generation.
Project leader Duncan Hasell explained that the DGP is looking to promote golf’s beauty and break down the perceived barriers – financial and cultural, as well as the stereotypes, which could be holding back its growth in Devon.
“What’s happening in Devon is clubs are having vacancies when they used to have waiting lists and are now sweating about what’s going to happen,” he said. “The average age of the golfer in Devon is 61 so we‘ve got to get some young faces in the game and make it accessible.
“With the likes of Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie, they are grabbing the attention and girls especially are taking notice so it’s about tapping into that, which we are doing.
“But we want to make the game more relaxed too and introduce a ‘cafà© society‘ feel in clubhouses and break down the barriers that exist. We want the rules of the game and etiquette observed on the course but off the course if someone wants to wear a t-shirt, jeans and trainers what’s the problem with that. We don‘t want to have barriers.”
In the six months since being set up, the DGP has brought 28 of the county’s clubs on board and also attracted a substantial number of juniors and girls to the sport.
Over 1,000 school children have picked up a club for the first time in their lives at Hele Park Golf Club under the enthusiastic eyes of PGA professionals Stuart Disney and Malcom Craig, with the full backing of the clubs owners and director of golf Duncan Arnold.
They are one of seven clubs in the county already recognised by the Golf Foundation for their work with juniors, with more expect to follow suit.
“We have already tripled the number of clubs applying for free club coaching grants just simply by pulling the clubs together and telling them what’s out there,” said Hasell. “It’s created a lot of awareness about taster sessions and we‘re promoting best practice in achieving sustained interest and growth such as what is happening at Hele Park.
“We‘re also getting funds to finance 90 volunteers to PGA level one, so there are some quality assistants to help the pros with the running of group sessions.
“This is just the start. We have got a three year funding commitment from England Golf and there are other pots of money we can go for under the county sports partnership banner, which we aim to use to expand the game.”
The Devon Golf Partnership is backed by the PGA, the English Golf Union and the English Ladies Golf Union – under the umbrella of the England Golf Partnership.
Devon Golf Partnership www.devongolfpartnership.org.uk