The English programme to find more beginner golfers – get into golf – has had mixed success. Other initiatives such as the National Golf Month have fallen shy of their targets. Last year only 30,000 people tried out golf during the campaign, well short of the 100,000 that was aimed for.
The gold standard for drawing more participants into golf has been set independently by World of Golf whose three centres in England run the biggest learn to play programme worldwide, teaching 8,000 new golfers in the past 12 months. Their adult programme, which offers six completely free lessons, remains a blueprint for others to follow.
Jon Woodroffe, Group Golf Development Manager for World of Golf and current PGA Coach of the Year, is well aware that newcomers to golf can be easily deterred.
“As a PGA professional for 30 years, I have seen many beginners lose confidence and patience on the driving range or golf course, which leads to them giving up the game early in their golfing career,” he said. Jon sums up the success of this scheme: “What we have done is given beginners six free golf lessons in order to give them the basic skills, so they can enjoy the game of golf and get the ball going straight. The group lessons also allow beginners to play with other beginners and so they tend not to be embarrassed if they hit a wayward shot. Ultimately, this leads to World of Golf retaining them as customers and keeping them as golfers for a longer period of time.”
But following on from this they have developed something fantastic to ease the beginner’s transition from novice player through to fully fledged players. It’s called Fairways Club and offers a model that should be rolled out nationally to ease the beginner’s path into golf.
“Fairways is a club” explains Jon. “Its aim is to advise and guide on development after completing the beginner scheme. It’s £20 to join with benefits of over £150. These include 50% off range costs, four free one hour coaching clinics, a 7iron to practice with, half price green fee vouchers and importantly opportunities to play out on the golf course to introduce the beginner with players of the same standard guided by coaches and volunteers”.
These Fairways golf days have been held in welcoming clubs around Surrey and South London in the late weekend afternoons when the courses are quiet and fewer club members are around to intimidate the beginners. It provides a link between the first lessons and being golfers ready to play on the course and become club members. During the golf days volunteers help advise on shotmaking, club selection and course management. The fun, friendly environment encourages beginners to establish a network of people to play golf with in the future. Players are encouraged to join an golf club Academy with a view to becoming members and introductions can be made. Fairways golf holidays have also been arranged in Portugal and Spain.
Fairways joins together people who are just starting out in golf and supports them into the golf club environment. It’s been very successful in retaining beginners and turning them into golfers. It’s an idea whose time has come.