Keith Renton - 2013 RBS Volunteer of the Year nominee

Keith Renton was shortlisted for the 2013 RBS Volunteer of the Year award for his commitment to junior golf at Thornton GC over the previous year. This case study will focus on how his involvement has benefited the club.


1. The Challenge
Having been a longstanding category one golfer, a club champion at three local clubs and a respected golf coach which included five years delivering ClubGolf at the nearby Balbirnie Park Golf Club, Renton first took an interest in the junior section at Thornton when his daughter started taking junior coaching there through ClubGolf.

Having decided that he would like to put something back into the sport, he was motivated by the enthusiasm of the volunteer coaches at Thornton. In particular, he was interested in working to develop the way in which Thornton tackled the challenge of expanding the junior section and continuing to develop the skills of juniors over the off-season while supplementing ClubGolf coaching with a bespoke programme.

2. Requirements
Upon reviewing the coaching system previously in place at Thornton, and identifying areas of improvement through his own, considerable knowledge of golf coaching, Renton felt it was necessary to design and implement a new development plan to complement the ClubGolf and SGU player pathways.

3. Approach
One of the principle areas of improvement was the way in which the club followed up its ten-week ClubGolf programme, generally held in the first half of the golf season. Once the ClubGolf coaching programme concluded, there was little done to encourage continued participation at the club or to follow up on the skills acquired.

There was no coaching structure in place for the few junior members of the golf club and there was a need for additional coaching to further develop ClubGolfers at Stage 3 of the programme who were not considered ready to the Fife Development Squad, let alone be considered as SGU Academy prospects.

His solution to this challenge was to establish a four-stage coaching programme, focussing on children positioned within the following stages: ClubGolf Introductory Level, a ClubGolf Progression Group, an Early Stage Handicap Group and an Advanced Group capable of inclusion in the Fife Development Squad. As part of this coaching pathway, Keith also arranged for weekly winter coaching sessions at local driving range Cluny Clays, ensuring skills were at least maintained if not further enhanced all year round. 

A competitive four-hole circuit was established to encourage healthy competition within the junior section, encouraging development. Each child earned a four-hole handicap, which they could then work towards improving. This was set out among the holes that lay closest to the Thornton clubhouse in order to maintain adult supervision. This also ensured that the young golfers were introduced to the rules and etiquette of the game and also provided opportunities to introduce basic course management strategies.  

4. Results
As a result of Renton's improved coaching pathway, children have been exposed to a more appropriate system of coaching, depending on their identified skill level. Those that are identified to be progressing faster than their peers can be promoted within the programme; two players have already progressed to the Fife Development Squad.

Rather than having to re-introduce fundamentals to those undertaking isolated blocks of ClubGolf coaching each summer, year-round instruction allowed Renton to focus on building their golf swings, improving their ball striking and introducing ball flight laws. This will allow ClubGolfers to progress onto the full course far sooner than they otherwise would, giving them a greater incentive to become members of the club and to participate in competitive golf.

From very few competitive members, the club now has around 15 youngsters with official handicaps taking part in weekly medals. Along with inviting into the club an increased number of others yet to attain official handicaps and non-members involved in ClubGolf coaching, this allowed Thornton to hold a junior prize-giving, which was attended by between 30-35 children and their parents.

Four-hole competitions and handicaps allowed the junior coaching team to measure player development so each could be assigned to the most suitable coaching group. Handicaps, particularly, allowed the children monitor their own progress and served as positive feedback for their hard work. It also allowed them to be recognised for visible improvements on a regular basis.

5. Benefits
The benefits of continuing coaching over the winter, according to Renton, are remarkable. He said: "Because kids were only getting their ten-week ClubGolf block when they came back a year later, we had to go over the same stuff again.

However, those that attended ClubGolf coaching last year, and have continued with our coaching over the winter, are making huge strides.  They have all got pretty good golf swings, they are all hitting the ball well and they are role models for the others now. The new kids can see the progression that these guys have made and it encourages them."

Adult members have also started to gain from his involvement. Out of Renton's love for teaching the game, he regularly gives up his time to help older members maintain their handicaps year-on-year. Renton has also offered up his time for video analysis on some club days to anyone seeking help.

As a local golf personality, the club indicated that the involvement of someone of Renton's stature in club coaching alone attracted six members, while ClubGolfers attending sessions during his time involved has increased from 29 to 40.

Being central to the junior coaching offering at Thornton has also been of benefit to Renton himself, allowing him to enhance his coaching skills and to build on his passion for the game as a Level 4 World Golf Teaching Federation Coach, a Master

Mind Factor Coach and an NLP Practitioner. He's also currently working towards his PGA Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Golf.  "I get an awful lot of enjoyment out of being able to help other players and to see their improvement," he said. "It is more than a hobby to me. I guess it is a passion, really."

6. Future
Having clearly defined coaching pathways in place makes it much easier to plan and prepare for the future. This year the club will offer ClubGolf at the introductory level to at least one additional school, increasing the number of young people introduced to golf. We'll be able to stream those returning to the programme based on their level of competency, we'll be able to support and encourage player development with the aim of increasing the number being selected for the Fife

Development Squad. The club has the ambition of having one of the Thornton group inducted into the SGU Academy.

And for his own golf, Renton intends to spend a bit of time on the course himself, with the aim of getting his own game in peak condition for the World Golf Teacher Cup, scheduled for Shanghai, China in October 2013.

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