The Whitecraigs - RBS Junior Club of the Year nominee

The Whitecraigs was shortlisted for the 2013 RBS Junior Club of the Year Award as the club offering the best provision of facilities for juniors. This case study focuses on how these facilities have allowed the club to continue to deliver ClubGolf successfully.

1. The Challenge
The club successfully implemented ClubGolf in 2008 to boost its junior membership, which was described by Eddie Livingston, Junior Development Officer, as "the best thing we've ever done to develop the juniors".

As the junior section grew, the issue faced by the club was how to deal with increased junior numbers in terms of available golf facilities and how to ensure each child was given the same opportunity to develop.

2. Requirements
With the growing popularity of its introductory 'Wee Wonders' category, (ages 5-10), established in 2010 and the growing numbers of new juniors requiring coaching, the facilities provided at the club were no longer sufficient in order to ensure appropriate coaching was being delivered. Therefore, the club made the decision to extend its golfing facilities.

3. Approach
The first decision taken by the club was to extend its six-hole par-3 course to nine holes, which is described as "more suitable for the beginners whilst also being challenging for the older juniors".

This included building two bridges to access new land to accommodate the extra holes. The total cost of the project was in the region of £30,000, which represented a significant investment by the club.

To provide year-round coaching opportunities, the practice range was also extended to include all-weather mats that can accommodate up to nine juniors at a time. It is planned that the new nine-hole wee course will also include all-weather mats and improvement of the tees. This will greatly enhance the coaching experience for the Wee Wonders and the juniors.

The club has also introduced an innovative payment structure for the Wee Wonders category where £36 a year provides them with unrestricted use of the nine-hole wee course, Level One coaching during the season, and practice balls, kindly donated by the members.

It is mandatory that when boys and girls in the Wee Wonders category play or attend a coaching session, they are accompanied at all times by a parent/guardian. At coaching sessions, parents are asked to listen carefully to the coaches, so they can continue the coaching process during their own practice sessions.

Care has also been taken to ensure that a sufficient number of coaches are present for each coaching session. This produces a better coach/pupil ratio, thus making it possible for the Wee Wonders to improve and gain confidence sooner, and for the new juniors to gain a 'club' handicap on the nine-hole wee course by demonstrating their required golf skills, knowledge and understanding of etiquette, course management and pace of play. It is a fact that new juniors can't wait to play their first medals on the main course, thus gaining their 'competition' handicap.

It is extremely important to build good relationships with parents. The club understands the need for parents to receive regular feedback on their child's progress. "The relationship with parents is vital", said Eddie Livingston. "You have to be approachable, you have to listen, and you have to empathise with where they are coming from. They have paid money and they want a return on their investment and you have to understand that."

4. Results
The most positive outcomes of the above are as follows:

a.    The nine-hole wee course will continue to benefit from being improved. It has graduated from an under-used six-hole course to a well maintained golf and practice facility.

b.    Being on first name terms, juniors can consider themselves as being on equal terms with the coaches. It is their club and course as much as anyone else's.

c.    As a coaching group, they make new friends with whom they can practice between sessions.

d.    Combination of the nine-hole wee course and the Level One programme facilitates good practice. They enjoy the different skills to be learned and the opportunity to improve in a more suitable environment.

5. Benefits
The club is now one of the best provisioned in Scotland, going from 110 juniors in 2009 to 155 juniors in 2013. In the same period, by introducing the Wee Wonders category, it has introduced golf to the 5-10 years age group that has 70 current members and 53 on the waiting list.

With a healthy number of juniors moving through the ranks and over 225 members under the age of 18 in total, the club can be happy that the immediate future is secure.

6. Future
It is important to continue the process of inviting members to become Level One coaches and three more are set to undergo training for this in May 2013. As it is the club's aim to maintain the maximum membership for Wee Wonders and juniors, it is vital not only to continue recruiting coaches but also to continue developing its facilities.

With the help of ClubGolf, Livingston, a former P.E. teacher, hopes to visit a local primary school to enquire if they would like to be invited to use the new nine-hole course. Livingston envisages teaching Primary 7 pupils the basic skills over several weeks in the summer term, with a view to holding a competition based on their ability. This would form part of their P.E. curriculum or, more likely, as an after school activity.

This venture would allow youngsters the opportunity to play golf perhaps for the first time. It would also 'showcase' the club and so attract possible new members

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