A new generation of golfers are coming into the sport in England. Thanks to the initiative of England Golf and British Universities and Colleges Sport, golf has been made accessible and appealing to 16-25 year olds in colleges and universities. Since September 2012, University and College student activators have been trained by the County Golf Partnerships and now deliver golf activities on campus as part of England Golf’s Whole Sport Plan. As the new academic year begins golf activators will be at Freshers Fairs and social meetings at campuses across the country.
In Surrey development teams have been working with 3 universities – Royal Holloway, Roehampton and Kingston – and 2 Further Education Colleges, Reigate and East Surrey. Volunteer student activators have been trained to create fun and informal activities on campus to get peoples interest and provided funding. He has helped them to find local golf facilities to learn to play and taught them to use social media platforms to publicise the game. Branded promotional material from the national Get Into Golf campaign and Golf Xtreme equipment, including velcro balls and targets have been provided to use indoors and outdoors.
The success of the initiative has been due to some dedicated work from the student activators. A shining example is Fiorella Badin, a second year Law undergraduate at Kingston University, who bubbles with enthusiasm about golf. She has created a great buzz at the Freshers Fayre using Street Golf to get over 50 students to have a go. From this great start she has managed to retain a core group of students who regularly play. They have linked up with Lee Mackie, professional at Sandown Park Golf Centre, where they regularly take lessons and play the Par 3 course every Sunday. Fiorella’s creative skill in delivering the activity is that she has made golf part of a great social experience. The regulars go out for dinner, dancing and to the movies after golf. They all dressed up for Halloween on the range and have just had an enjoyable Christmas social. They are looking into new things to do in the winter such as playing on simulators and trying out Foot Golf. Fiorella understands that not only can golf provide challenge and achievement, it is also a perfect way to get people to socialise and make new friends.
The student activators receive good training and support and the experience they gain will no doubt help their future employability. Fiorella says:
“It is great that opportunities like this are given to us. I am really enjoying my time being Kingston University’s Golf Activator. It is a very relaxing sport you can play in the open air and great for socialising”.
Her fellow students are equally as enthused:
Luke Fitzpatrick says:
“Golf is a great sport to play. The people are very friendly, I’m starting to win as well and the prizes are awesome”.
Farooq Rahimi agrees:
“It is fun, enjoyable, creates good team skills and we’ve made new friends. The game is brilliant and exciting. This improves our motivation and enthusiasm to move up time and time again. Above all it is very great fun”.
The health benefits of golf, the exercise and being outside in the fresh air help students to study better and be more productive, are promoted as an incentive to try golf.
Omar Faruk Abubakar, a MSc Student in Health Information Management at Kingston also likes the longevity of golf:
“I have chosen golf as an ideal sport to follow in my youth and to progress through to my advanced age. Unlike most sports golf provides the needed short and long term opportunities for players to keep on playing the game at various levels all their lives”.
Surrey’s students have certainly become intrigued by golf. At taster events a great cross section of ethnicities, male and female and disabled young people have tried it out. This is has shown a much more diverse appeal than the national average of the student pilot which showed that mostly young men were interested. Indeed at East Surrey College the girls trying golf outnumbered the young men 2 to 1!
The student market is a large one. Each Autumn half a million young people start university in the UK and raising the profile of golf on campus also reaches large employers within further and higher education. So adults can also be reached to get into golf. But to engage students in the 16-25 age group the sport must be branded in a relevant, convenient and friendly tone of voice using media and social media to engage their interest. From these fun have a go events, more structured activities are offered at clubs and golf facilities in Surrey, opening the pathways to welcome young people into club memberships and life long playing.
England Golf’s goal to significantly increase golf participation amongst the 16-25 year old age group looks to be on a great course. It’s Five Point Plan to grow, sustain, help excel, work in partnership with golf providers and encourage students employability will continue for the next four years at least. A mini conference is planned for students at the end of next Summer.