Nearly 200,000 people in Wales have had the chance to give golf a try thanks to the legacy of hosting the event, 5,000 newly trained volunteers are having an effect at clubs week in, week out, while 38 new facilities all around Wales continue to thrive in developing the game.
Transforming the face of Welsh golf was one of the promises Ryder Cup Wales made to attract the world’s third biggest sporting event – and that promise has been carried through with a long-lasting effect on the fabric of the sport.
Golf Development Wales, the development arm of the Golf Union of Wales, was set up as a result of the Ryder Cup bid and it is still going strong two years after the event with ongoing funding from Sport Wales in place. It is providing a huge benefit for Welsh golf which simply would not have happened without hosting the Ryder Cup.
“We were set up because of the Ryder Cup bid in 2002 and have carried on working hard to make a difference to Welsh golf,” said Hannah Fitzpatrick, director of development for the Golf Union of Wales. “It has been tough times economically, which has made it even more important to work hard on developing young golfers, more lady golfers and helping clubs to operate in a way which attracts more members of every kind.
“The aims of Golf Development Wales have always been fairly simple, to increase the opportunities for anyone to play golf – the benefits of which can last a lifetime. We are also working to develop a network of thriving clubs to secure the future of Welsh golf, with plenty of hard work from development officers Dilwyn Griffiths in North Wales and Zoe Thacker in South Wales.
“Since Golf Development Wales started there have been 180,000 participants in our schemes, with the figures rising each year – including going up since the Ryder Cup.
“For instance the year after the Ryder Cup saw a rise of 10,000 people in schemes as a result of increased funding to run more Start Beginners Golfing Schemes at clubs as well as an increase in schoolchildren taking part in Dragon Sport Tri-Golf and 5×60 Golf Xtreme, with plenty of hard work from development officers Dilwyn Griffiths in North Wales and Zoe Thacker in South Wales.
“Some of the professional events may have stopped coming toWalessince the Ryder Cup, but the Seniors event is back and there are junior clinics with the pros and a six hold Pro-Am as part of that – top amateurs such as European champion Rhys Pugh and Curtis Cup star Amy Boulden have been helped at those in the past.
“Many golf clubs in Wales are embracing the change to great effect. Clubs involved in our pilot Business Support Scheme increased membership by just under 10 per cent, turnover by 5 per cent and visitors by 17 per cent in just one year.
“Where there are Ryder Cup Legacy facilities in place, junior membership has gone up three per cent since the Ryder Cup finished.
“In order to ensure that those facilities continue to have an impact for years to come we have a full-time employee, Stuart Finlay, to make sure they get the best use possible and share good practice across those facilities to reach their full potential.
“Those overall figures are pretty impressive, but perhaps the best example is some of the case studies which show the real impact at club level.
“Glyn Abbey in West Wales is a Business Scheme Support club and they have a new nine hole par three course for beginners and a driving range thanks to the Ryder Cup Legacy Fund.
“They have nearly 500 people in coaching, membership is up more than 100, they are also coaching special needs groups, while junior membership has doubled, turnover is up, visitors are up 25 per cent which means almost 5,000 extra green fees in the last two years.
“Carmarthen has a new driving range and five hole academy course, when they had no teaching or practice facility in the past, club membership has increased by 232 over two years while junior membership is more than 100.
“They have visited every primary school in the area to deliver a fun golf session, there is regular junior and adult beginner coaching for children from as young as four upwards, weekly school visits to the club and inter-school competitions at the club.
“The Ryder Cup bid was launched at Rhondda Golf Club and we are seeing some of the most dramatic changes there, also thanks to new facilities as well as the hard work of several people at the club.
“There is now coaching in 30 schools in the area with nearly 60 juniors in their academy structure, there are 20 new lady members thanks to a Golf Development Wales beginner scheme, while membership has increased by more than 100.
“These examples all show how big a change there has been for Welsh golf at grass roots level. That impact may not always grab the headlines compared with the top stars in the Ryder Cup, but if those stars had not competed at Celtic Manor in Wales two years ago then very little or none of this would have happened.
“Hosting the Ryder Cup brought about a sea change in Welsh golf and will continue to do so for many years.”
While watching events unfold in Chicago this weekend, it is good to know that the Ryder Cup Legacy lives on so strongly in Wales.
Golf Development Waleswww.golfdevelopmentwales.org