Surrey golf professionals have been leading the way in bringing new and returning golfers to the sport. Surrey Golf Partnership's highly successful GolfMIX project, which offered free beginner golf lessons and brought in over 2,000 participants each year 2010-11 proved to be the blueprint for the national Get Into Golf scheme now run by England Golf.
Surrey's Get Into Golf sessions have been running at 14 clubs and golf centres since 2012. The impressive figures just returned from the clubs show they are already at double the yearly participation target set by England Golf and that is at the half-year stage. In total nearly 3,000 golfers! All this is a testament to the hard work from the coaches who have not only delivered the lessons but have also invested time and money in finding new golfers through their own efforts.
Surrey Golf have supported their professionals with small grants and have assisted them through social media campaigns on twitter. Surrey Golf have 2,825 followers collated amongst the SGP staff, but the real driving force for Get Into Golf has come from the professionals themselves, through investment in digital marketing to cold calling in person, to approaching companies to find employees to teach. They have worked incredibly hard to raise numbers and attract potential golfers into the scheme. In some cases, such as Strawberry Hill Golf Club, these efforts have been considerable and have resulted in finding beginners who have gone on to become full club members.
Each of the Get Into Golf
Centres have been doing things to engage with and reach the public. This year Surrey professionals have been giving taster sessions at events across the county such as the Surrey Youth Games, the Reigate and Banstead Golf Festival, the Merrist Wood Summer Show and the Reigate and Runnymede Youth Festivals. One of the most successful of these was Party In The Park in Woking. There Hoebridge Golf Centre Assistant David Nickson taught over 150 people and said he thoroughly enjoyed meeting with the participants and explaining all the coaching that his centre offered. Several centres such Horton Park have run successful open weekends at their facilities which have encouraged visitors to return regularly.
In an effort to draw a younger age group into the sport, County Development Officer Richard Shaw has been working with East Surrey College and three Universities - Kingston, Roehampton and Royal Holloway. Get Into Golf sessions have been set up on the campuses using Street Golf as a fun activity and these sessions have proved very popular. Golf Societies have now been set up with student co-ordinators in charge of developing golf activities such as visits to local clubs and driving ranges to develop their interest in the game. A broad spectrum of students have got involved from all ethnic backgrounds and a high proportion of female participants have joined in.
Disabled people who wish to try out golf have had special sessions offered to them at Redhill Golf Centre, where 20 people have joined in so far this year, and at Hampton Court Palace Golf Club. In addition Pachesham Golf Centre offer a special club fitting service for those with a disability. Club professionals at Pachesham and World of Golf have also been doing sterling work with the On Course Foundation to use golf as a rehabilitation for injured ex-service people.
An innovative Get Into Golf project has been running in three golf centres in Croydon using golf as a rehabilitation of former youth offenders. Run by Surrey Golf volunteer Sue Mawhinney, a former prison governor, these sessions are ongoing and have been undertaken with great enthusiasm by the young people several of whom are now regular players.
A derivation of the game which has proved very popular is Foot Golf which Addington Court Golf Club are keen to develop, having set aside part of their 9-hole course during Their Open Weekends. These events drew big crowds from the visiting public. Foot Golf is also played at Pirbright Golf Club and this may be the start of a phenomenon.
The real success of Get Into Golf can be seen through the eyes of the beginners, some of whom describe taking up golf as a "life changing experience". At Surrey's World of Golf sites in Croydon and New Malden not only are six free lessons offered there is also a follow on programme called Fairways Club. Through this Head Professional Jon Woodroffe takes beginners from his groups to local golf clubs and teaches how to play on the golf course. Fairways Club members have also been on golfing holidays to the Algarve and Spain.
Some of Jon's pupils have the following to say about their experiences. First, Gill Hinton, who has gone on to become a member at Aquarius Golf Club:
"My journey began with the click of the 'send' button on the World of Golf website two years ago. I signed up for a beginners course of 6 free lessons. What had I got to lose? And so began the most fun time learning how to play golf in a structured, supported environment on the range and then out onto the golf course under the watchful eye of Jon Woodroffe. First in England and then 6 months later in Portugal. As a result firm friendships have been made and further golfing holidays planned. Jon had a vision and with his knowledge and expertise and the support of his lovely wife Lynne his vision inspired a whole group of would-be golfers into we-are golfers. I would like to think my golf is improving too. I still have a long way to go, but oh boy I am so enjoying the journey".
Next Chris Cain and then his wife Claudia who now regularly play at Moore Place and Beckenham Park Golf Club:
Chris: "To me golf has always conjured up images of Brucie and Tarby, something old TV celebrities do before they die. So when my wife raved about her lessons with Jon at World of Golf I had to meet him. Starting any new activity can be daunting but from day one Jon's relaxed style put me at ease. I soon knew my woods from my irons and was driving, chipping and putting along with everyone else. Jon's organised breaks have made exploring the world of golf a joy and introduced us to challenging courses and fantastic new friends. We can't recommend them highly enough".
Claudia: "I was introduced to the beginners lessons at World of Golf through work. Nothing to lose, six free lessons. From the start I was hooked and I signed my husband up for some lessons too. We then joined Fairways and took some improvers lessons with Jon as we weren't entirely confident to get out on the golf course ourselves. Fairways was a great way of introducing us to the golf course, we had a pro showing us which club to use and how to get out of any tricky situations while telling us about the rules of the game. We were so encouraged by our game that went on the Fairways coaching holiday in Portugal. Fantastic. We had a brilliant time, combination of coaching and playing on beautiful courses and also the opportunity to socialise with others new to the game. We have now been on three trips and going on the next one later this year. We now play golf once a week and I am delighted with the improvement I have made since I started two years ago".
For more information please visit the Get into Golf website - Click Here
Clubs see the benefit of Midlands Golf Week