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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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."
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.