Prestonfield Golf Club barely had a junior section left five years ago, but their hard work in attracting young golfers has seen them smash their junior membership targets yet again in 2015.
The capital club only had 10 junior members before they introduced ClubGolf, and last year that rose to a staggering 178 which includes 40 girls. Change has been key to their success: you can wear jeans in the clubhouse, trainers on the course, and get your handicap over three, six, nine, or 18 holes. The club has practice facilities and competitions for children, and is active on social media, unlike five years ago, when there were fewer adult members than now, hardly any juniors, and massive debt.
Getting girls back into golf was a big focus for the year. The coaching team talked to girls at local schools to find out why they chose other sports over golf: they believed it to be old fashioned and for boys. They were invited to the club for a taster and enjoyed being together with their friends and the challenges set.
They ran nine coaching sessions each week for over 100 children who progress through Pars, then Birdies, Eagles, and into the junior section, the clear pathway helping with participation and retention levels. To cope with the demand, they have increased their coaching team to 12 with three helpers. The programme runs for 32 weeks, including two nights during the winter attended by 39 children, growing from 12 youngsters once a week.
Prestonfield ran two summer camps in 2015 rather than one as in previous years, which the parents especially appreciated as a ‘well-run structured programme’. They also ran greensomes and foursomes competitions for the children playing with adult members or one of the coaches which brought families together and created a buzz in the clubhouse afterwards.
The club’s coaching team works closely with Edinburgh Active Schools co-ordinators, attending local schools PE sessions and inviting the children to try golf at Prestonfield. They have found that it makes a difference to the children when they use real clubs and not plastic clubs alone. They also took part in the Edinburgh schools festival, coaching over 150 children.
The club’s focus is also family golf and attracting new adult golfers in their community. Last year, members handed out leaflets inviting all the women attending an open community golf day at Bruntsfield Links to go along to Prestonfield and try the sport.
They are keen to get more mums and dads playing golf with their children and 15 parents whose children are currently being coached have joined the club. Their Professional ran a one-week beginner ladies “boot camp” and offers group coaching too. Their volunteer coaches have been involved in helping with the Get into Golf programme. They hosted an open day for new lady members which involved a crash course on how to play golf, going onto the course and playing three holes with a member, and back to the clubhouse for tea and cakes afterwards. Each new member now has a “buddy” at the club so that they can go out and practice.
Speaking about the club’s selection as a finalist for the Junior Club of the Year Award, Prestonfield’s ClubGolf Coordinator Liz Taylor said:
“It is fantastic for the four shortlisted clubs to be recognised for the work we’ve all done. It is especially great for our volunteer coaches and helpers, and a boost for the whole club, not just the junior section.
“We have worked hard over the last four years, and last year especially to encourage girls to try golf. We arrange other social and fun things for them too, and we’re about to start a buddy system where the older girls can take the younger ones out to play. They play with the boys in our team against other Edinburgh clubs and it is just fantastic to see them all out on the course together.
“If I had told the club board that we were going to have 178 junior members, which 15 adults would join as a result of the junior section, and once again be a profitable business, I think they would have thought I was talking nonsense. But that's what we have done and I am truly excited about the future.”
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