How some beginners were introduced to golf this summer

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick September 21, 2023 14:04

This summer has seen The R&A launch a digital pilot project to attract new people to golf with the help of a pop star, a charity donate appropriate golfing equipment to the school Matt Fitzpatrick attended, and children and adults with a disability, and volunteer leaders from the Muslim community, be introduced to the game at The Belfry.

With the help of the former member of the boy band One Direction, Niall Horan, The R&A is running an initiative to encourage people to learn to play golf at a diverse range of golf facilities across Scotland.

Launched at The R&A World Golf Museum in St Andrews, Golf.Golf has been developed using research into how to attract new people to the sport and is targeted specifically at those who already had or have an active interest in sporting activity but not necessarily in golf.

Its aim is to change the perception of the game and drive new players to a host of venues where the sport is played, from driving ranges to simulators to municipal courses, as well as existing facilities so they can learn how to play golf.

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND – JUNE 27: Niall Horan (left) (R&A Ambassador and Co-Founder Modest! Golf) and Ruaridh McCallum during the R&A Golf.Golf launch at St Andrews on June 27, 2023 in St Andrews, Scotland. Golf.Golf is being launched as a pilot in Scotland to encourage people to learn to play golf at a diverse range of golf facilities. Prospective players Ð from beginners to those who want to pick up the sport again Ð can use the platform to find their local venue and book sessions directly. It is the intention to expand Golf.Golf worldwide. (Photo by Ross Parker/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

The Golf.Golf digital platform provides a searchable list of all participating venues. Prospective players – from beginners to those who want to pick up the sport again – can use the platform to find their local venue and book sessions directly. Prices are set at an affordable rate so that cost barriers are reduced and venues can get involved at no cost and benefit from attracting an untapped source of first-time golfers.

Backed by a global social media strategy which includes a film starring Horan, Golf.Golf portrays the game as fun, inexpensive, easy to understand, a place to make new friends and a great way to stay mentally and physically fit.

Sessions are aimed at a wide range of potential players, from children to women-only groups and one-to-one coaching delivered by professionals and volunteers that will support them in learning to play golf in a fun and welcoming environment. Administration of the platform is done centrally leaving venues to focus on delivering fun and inexpensive golf experiences in welcoming environments.

Niall Horan said, “Next to making music, golf is a huge passion of mine, which is why I want to inspire people from all walks of life to give it a try. By supporting Golf.Golf and The R&A’s work to inspire more people to get involved in the game, I want to show people that learning to play golf is great fun, good for your health and can be enjoyed by anyone whether alone or with friends and family. This way we can begin to change the perception of golf and attract new players into the game, especially young people.”

Phil Anderton, chief development officer at The R&A, said, “We have seen golf’s popularity boom in recent years with more people playing golf more regularly. We must capitalise on this growth by promoting the many positive social and health benefits of golf and offer opportunities to learn to play that are fun, accessible and inclusive.

“We look forward to seeing the results of the pilot being run in Scotland and learning from the experiences of those people who take part in the activities.”
Sandy Smith, head PGA golf professional at Ladybank Golf Club said, “What has been proposed with the Golf.Golf programme is what I believe is a total game changer for the game of golf. I’ve been involved in this industry for 30 years and this is by far the best initiative that I have seen.”

The drive to appeal to juniors saw English golfer Matt Fitzpatrick’s former school, Tapton School in Sheffield, become the latest school to enjoy support from the junior golf charity the Golf Foundation, which is also aided by The R&A.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 30: Matthew Fitzpatrick of England meets children from the Junior Golf Sixes Academy at Ponteland Golf Club who won the Junior Golf Sixes Tournament held at Close House at the beginning of September, during the third day of the British Master at Close House Golf Club on September 30, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

This summer pupils and teachers at Tapton School received their Golfway kit bag from the Golf Foundation team to begin their own journey into golf, marking the start of training for teachers to deliver the fun and easy-to-learn golf games that can inspire children from all backgrounds to enjoy golf in school.

Fitzpatrick previously met groups of kids at Golf Foundation events, including a special meeting with some GolfSixes League winners at the British Masters back in 2017.

Year 8 pupils (12-13 year olds) at his former school have now got access to Golfway kit, which is designed for all abilities, offering adapted equipment, energetic team games and underpinned by mental toughness tools such as concentration, self-reflection and emotional control, all designed to promote mental wellbeing.

Chairman Stephen Lewis commented: “Our important job as a charity is to ensure young people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to try and enjoy all the game’s superb benefits, while our programmes are all designed to offer life skills and enhance their wellbeing. It is a great sport in teaching us how to improve ourselves and Matt is a wonderful example for everyone and thus is a real credit to all at Tapton School.”

Kevin Hooper, PE teacher at Tapton School, said: “I was fortunate to teach both Matt and Alex [Matt’s brother, also now a tour professional] and they were always an absolute pleasure to work with. We have a large photograph of Matt in a montage of inspirational sports players to show our pupils what can be achieved. We are really excited to work with the Golf Foundation and to adopt the new mental toughness programme. I can’t think of anyone who exemplifies these golfing life skills better than Matt; he is a fantastic role model for everyone at Tapton School.”

Also this summer, children and adults with a disability and volunteer leaders from the Muslim community tried golf as a new sport with the expertise of EDGA and the support of the DP World Tour at The Belfry.

EDGA (European Disabled Golf Association) is an integral part of the G4D Tour @ Betfred British Masters, where 10 of the leading world ranked golfers with disability were teeing it up on the same course and in the same week as the household names in professional golf on the DP World Tour.

Children and adults with a disability, and volunteer leaders from the Muslim community, trying golf as a new sport with the expertise of EDGA and the support of the DP World Tour at The Belfry this summer

EDGA staff and volunteers were able to introduce the game to new players (samplers) with a disability so they can benefit from the physical and mental health benefits of golf.
In a series of sessions, EDGA head of instruction and education Mark Taylor had 22 individuals with disabilities, the majority being new samplers, sign up for the session when invited by the Muslim Golf Association (MGA) to the West Midlands venue.

The brand-new golfers had a range of impairments, including physical, sensory and intellectual, and were introduced to EDGA’s ‘D3’ first-touch format using safe, light, colourful, adapted GolfWay chippers and putters with soft balls, that can be used in non-golf venues, from schools and hospitals to faith and cultural centres.

This D3 programme was also introduced to nine volunteer community leaders from the MGA. They in turn can now deliver sampler sessions in their community and EDGA will provide further support and education refreshers to MGA volunteer coaches in the future.

Participants included GB&I Paralympic rugby player Muhammed Islam, while newly registered EDGA player Mohmed Mukhtar Adam was delighted to receive a putting lesson from G4D tour player Kipp Popert while at The Belfry – the same week Kipp won the G4D Tour @ Betfred British Masters.

These sessions were part of EDGA’s work to encourage 500,000 new players with a disability into the game.

Amir Malik, founder of the MGA, said: “The Muslim Golf Association was very grateful to the DP World Tour for welcoming our new golfers and volunteers and were delighted to link up with EDGA for these sessions. We brought nine community volunteers who have all now been trained by EDGA and can go back to nine locations around the country, helping others to try golf. Many people face barriers to starting at a golf club, and for those with a disability it can seem harder still. Everyone in golf needs to get smarter at bringing golf to people first in their community, introducing them to the joy of the game in a comfortable space that will promote the confidence to become a regular golfer.

Children and adults with a disability, and volunteer leaders from the Muslim community, trying golf as a new sport with the expertise of EDGA and the support of the DP World Tour at The Belfry this summer

“Mark Taylor is an innovative coach who helped us to experience a little of how it would be to play the game: not being able to see for example, or playing off one leg, or balance impaired, or from a chair. He created a feeling of empathy for those with an impairment who we wish to introduce to the game. The Muslim Golf Association wants to make golf a far more inclusive sport and Muslims with a disability, like in all cultures, are too often at a disadvantage. Working with EDGA and the DP World Tour can help us to bring positive change.”

Mark Taylor said: “These sessions underline the value of creating outreach opportunities inside communities. It was a privilege to work with the team at the Muslim Golf Association.

“Well thought-out community delivery like this can spread a powerful message about the health benefits of golf for people with disabilities. If links can then be made to local golf facilities where new participants can continue with their journey in the game, that is the ideal for all of us. We hope to help make this happen.”

D3 is a first step in the D369 resource developed by EDGA and also supported by The R&A: a three-step system that takes the player through the sampling stage of the ‘player pathway’ (sample, participate, and compete). Although D369 can be delivered on course by qualified PGA professionals, equally it can be delivered in locations and at non-traditional golf facilities.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick September 21, 2023 14:04
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