Everyone in the world of golf has an opinion on how to grow the game – introduce shorter formats, relax the dress code, make it cheaper – but few are really focusing on the real future of golf – juniors.
This year especially has seen one campaign after another, desperately trying to attract more people, and in particular more women and girls, into the game. Martin Slumbers from the R&A made the multi-million-pound promise of the Women in Golf Charter and England Golf relaunched their Get Into Golf initiative with bright colours, casual clothing, and the thumbs-up from various social influencers. Later in the summer, The R&A, England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf and the Irish Ladies Golf Union united to bring about Women and Girls’ Golf Week with a worldwide campaign, #WhyIGolf.
But in a day when children would rather pick up an iPad than a driver, are golf clubs really doing enough to safeguard the future of the game? Are there programmes in place to actively support junior golfers through the club's ranks, are members encouraging children (instead of sniffing at thought of their prime, Saturday morning slot being taken)? With clubs the world over facing the same issue of an ever-ageing membership, it would appear that no, they’re not, and it is undoubtedly at the detriment of the game.
Move over Gen X this is more like Gen X-Box, and with it comes even more hurdles, but there is hope.
The Golf Foundation is a registered charity that works with schools, communities and clubs to get more children playing golf. By promoting the benefits of the game and creating more opportunities for children to get involved regardless of their background or ability, they’ve developed a ‘Start, Learn and Stay' pathway to golf.
The charity has also recently introduced a GolfSixes League; a fast and fun team format whereby young golfers, girls and boys, compete in inter-club matches. The format is designed to foster a sense of team spirit and belonging for young golfers, with the sole purpose of helping to grow and maintain junior sections at golf clubs around the country.
Find out more at Golf-Foundation.org
Who else got their first taste of golf with a set of hand-me-down clubs that felt like they were a few kilos too heavy and definitely way too long? The already unnatural movement of a golf swing is made even harder with the wrong equipment, and it no doubt plays a big part in juniors giving up so early on. Luckily, Rory McIlroy has put his fame to good use and has teamed up with TaylorMade to create sets of golf clubs specifically engineered for junior golfers. Available in ages 4+ and 8+ for both boys and girls, the sets are designed to be easier to hit thanks to their weight and length, and they’ll make hitting the ball a lot more fun.
It's not just TaylorMade who have thought of adapting their sets into pint-size equivalents though. Callaway, PING, Lynx and Cobra all offer different variations of their sets specifcally for junior golfers.
The British Junior Golf Tour is leading the way in creating more opportunities for boys and girls to play golf up and down the country – and even further afield. The tour’s events are a fun and affordable way for children aged 5 to 17 years to enjoy competitive golf.
The next season will resume on February 24 with the first tournament of the year at The Bedford Golf Club. To read the full schedule or for more information about the British Junior Golf Tour, please visit JuniorGolfTour.co.uk