The key to Stornoway Golf Club’s successful year stemmed from a need to introduce new, younger golfers to the club, and resulted in a 700% increase in the number of juniors playing competitive golf in 2015.
With an average of four playing competitive golf each week in 2014, the Lewis Club needed to work out why, find answers, and set goals, as Junior Convenor, Donald Smith, explains:
“We had to take a long hard look at ourselves and thanks to ClubGolf staff, we were inspired to introduce a six-and nine-hole courses within the course, which has been crucial for 12 to 14 year olds as 18-holes take too long and are too difficult.
“We then went into schools and put our junior noticeboard in the PE department to get the message out to secondary school children, and we have had a huge surge in regular competitors from four to 32.”
The Club set up a Junior Development Group to radically overhaul the junior section, identifying:
- Competition from other sports were proving to be more attractive to children, so they organised times which did not clash with other sports.
- The misconception by many youngsters that golf is wholly a solo, non-team sport, so they planned team skills events and Texas scrambles.
- With a lack of a suitable competitive structure to 'hook' young players, they planned regular competitions for all abilities.
- Aware that they needed to be more pro-active in making golf more accessible to all school children, they worked with Sports Development staff and school PE staff.
- They accepted the club had to change attitudes amongst Club members, that the junior section was its future life-blood.
As the 18-hole course was too demanding for junior development, they set up a six-hole Blue Course for primary school children, and nine-hole Green Course for secondary school-age golfers within the course, allowing a clear progression to the 18-hole Yellow course. Thanks to funding from Big Lottery Fund/Awards for All, they introduced tee markers showing distance, par and stroke index for all courses, giving them equal status within the club.
To make sure juniors felt welcome in the clubhouse, improvements were made to the junior locker room so each had their own locker, with a scorecard-box to collect and submit cards for competition, and photographs of junior golfers and star players in action. The Master Scoreboard system now includes all junior competitions so members can access their scores online.
The Club has embraced the need to provide quality coaching for junior members, and the Captain and coaches arranged briefing sessions for families at the start of the coaching season. They have over a dozen Level One coaches working under the direction of a Level Two coach. With no resident professional on the island, the club works with ClubGolf and has created close links with Coach Development staff and visiting PGA professionals, providing CPD for coaches and professional coaching for specific junior golfers.
Coaching is offered to all primary school junior members in May and June and to golfers of secondary school age on Friday afternoons from April to June under the direction of PE staff. The club’s captain and coaches worked closely with Active Schools and Sports Development staff to stage an indoor Ryder Cup style Skills event for Primary School golfers and an outdoor golf skills challenge in the form of a Texas scramble for Secondary School golfers. Trophies for new junior competitions have been secured via sponsorship and support from local businesses.
Advertising competitions on a notice board in the secondary school is seen as key in maintaining interest in the game throughout the season and as a catalyst for recruiting new members.
As well as increasing the number of youngsters playing regular competitive golf, the club’s junior membership has grown 75, five of whom regularly compete in the Adult Winter League. There has been a corresponding increase in adult and family membership with many taking advantage of the £100 introductory new membership offer.
Stornoway Golf Club has invested considerable funds over the past five years in improving its clubhouse which is now considered one of the most attractive and popular venues for functions in the area.
Donald added: “We were very pleased to be shortlisted for the Junior Club award given where our club was at junior level a year and half ago, with membership numbers and those taking part in competitions, and I think it is because we’ve made improvements very quickly.
“I’ve enjoyed golf so much, I was inspired to give something back. With parents, coaches, the community all involved, we’ve been able to achieve an awful lot in the last 12 months and we now have a structure which means the work can carry on seamlessly regardless of who is Junior Convenor.
“We’re thrilled to be nominated and to be sitting at the table at the Awards with other people who are being recognised for doing something of value.”
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