Falkirk GC - RBS Junior Club of the Year nominee

Falkirk Golf Club was shortlisted for the 2013 RBS Junior Club of the Year as the leading existing ClubGolf facility for the previous year. This case study will focus on how the club has achieved continued success as a delivery centre for ClubGolf.

Falkirk

1.    The Challenge
Falkirk Golf Club's junior membership has grown sharply from around eight junior members in 2009 to 120 in 2012. This has been achieved through the introduction of the ClubGolf programme, which the club runs from May-June, followed up by a further block of coaching in September.
However, the club identified that to maintain its success in the long-term, it would have to focus on retaining members.

2.    Requirements
During discussions with his predecessor and now Junior Match Secretary, Allan Bryson, Junior Convener Steven Lytham highlighted the considerable success of the Falkirk junior programme thus far. Rather than consolidate their successes, however, the decision was taken to develop new innovative ideas, as well as ensure the existing activities were maintained. Through these additional opportunities, the club hoped to retain its current membership and attract new youngsters to join.

3.    Approach
In order to focus more closely on junior issues, having seen the section grow exponentially over recent years, the club's junior team was extended from Junior Convener alone to also incorporate the roles of Junior Match Secretary and Junior Section Treasurer.

"The magnitude of what's going on," was how Junior Convener Steven Lytham assessed the club's principle approach to retaining members. Juniors are continually engaged through upwards of 50 medals every year, which are combined with away days and a calendar of events through the winter, which attract approximately 40 juniors weekly. Juniors also have access to complimentary coaching from the club professional, as well as discounts in the pro shop year-round.

Contact is maintained with parents and children at all times through a Facebook page, which was established in 2011. Here, one of the junior team will post updates daily to encourage constant interaction. It is also used as a tool for welcoming competition entries and posting draw sheets, as well as general information distribution. 

Falkirk finds itself in the fortunate situation of having a nine-hole par-3 course that sits alongside the more senior 18-hole layout. This has been used to the advantage of the junior section. Here the club avoids any possible conflict with the adult membership by conducting junior coaching and allowing unrestricted junior access. They have also offered over a room within the clubhouse as a junior lounge. 

In order for competition to remain healthy but to avoid discouraging less able golfers, the junior section has been split into three sub-sections, which are categorised for competitive purposes by age and ability.
To avoid any pressure being placed on coaches to attend every session, Falkirk has been careful to enlist eight qualified coaches and additional volunteers, thereby allowing coaching to follow a rota system.

4.    Results
Lytham has described the junior section Facebook page as critical to the club's success. "Everything revolves around that. The Facebook page has helped with the success of everything else." As well as being a free and wide-reaching means of communication, it is its own marketing tool, generating more interest in junior golf at Falkirk every time a parent of child uploads a new image or 'likes' a post. The club have also found it to be a more personable, immediate and ultimately engaging way of contacting current and prospective members.

Competitive play is recognised as essential at Falkirk, helping to keep juniors engaged, allowing for appreciation of their development and promoting interaction among their peer group, notably through Facebook. This also allowed for the establishment of separate summer and winter prize givings, the last of which was attended by over 130 parents.

A rota system approach to coaching ensures the commitment accepted by coaches at the club is perhaps not as great as it would otherwise be. This ensures that every member of the team accepts a fair share of the responsibilities without ever feeling overwhelmed. Six new volunteers have been welcomed into the team in 2013 and will form part of this rota.

As a result of all of the positive work being done at Falkirk, not least the access to subsidised professional coaching and the par-3 course, three juniors from Falkirk, including one girl, were inducted into the Scottish Golf Union's Academy Programme in 2012.

Through the collective efforts of the club over the last four years, Falkirk's junior membership has grown from 8 to 120. This is also reflected in the number of junior members active in club competitions, which has increased from 8 to 80 over the same period.

5.    Benefits
The unlimited access that is offered to Falkirk youngsters through the par-3 course has ensured that before progressing to forward tees on the 18-hole layout, juniors are well versed in the basics of the game, including rules and etiquette.

As competitive play is maintained year-round, youngsters are less likely to experience a drop off in skill level, which has ultimately led to an abundance of able young golfers, who are more likely to pursue membership at Falkirk in following years.

As evidenced by the turnout at the most recent junior prizegiving, Falkirk has a considerable level of parent activity, which has benefitted the club in maintaining a high level of entries for junior medals high, attracting volunteer coaches and in inviting wider friends and family into the club.

6.    Future
Going forward, Falkirk is set to follow a structured action plan, which was established by Lytham toward the end of 2012, more closely. This has identified the opportunity for improvements in the areas of people, policies & procedures, ClubGolf, junior play, communication and budget & funding to benefit the overall operation of the junior section.

After success in previous years, creative fundraising methods will be a feature again in 2013. As well as an Awards for All grant - for which the club are currently in the process of applying - ball collecting will continue, with bag-packing at a local supermarket also scheduled. 2013 may also see the return of the 'Rag Bag' medal - in which the club accepted a bag of old clothes as the medal entry fee which can then be exchanged for a cash payment - and fund-raising raffles.

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