Four brilliant schemes that help people get the most out of the game of golf have been revealed at the finalists for England Golf’s new Innovation Award, sponsored by Players 1st.
The finalists are:
- AL Junior Academies from Hatchford Brook Golf Centre, near Birmingham, who have created a new way to keep junior golfers engaged
- Golf Access, which encourages beginners to learn on the course, not just the practice ground
- Mytime Active which has pioneered a scheme for GPs to prescribe golf at its Bromley and Orpington Golf Centres, Kent
- Slinfold Golf and Country Club, near Horsham, Sussex, where the women’s section has come up with a new, modern experience
Nick Pink, England Golf Chief Executive, commented: “When we launched this award we expected to hear great things, but we’ve been bowled over by the brilliance of these four schemes. It’s so encouraging to know that people are working so hard to make golf relevant and to give it a great future.”
The winner will be announced at the England Golf Awards 2019, sponsored by adidas Golf, on Thursday 21 March. The glittering black-tie event at the Royal Lancaster London will be hosted by BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker.
Will these innovations change the game of golf as we know it?
The AL Golf Junior Academies has no problem attracting children to its junior coaching programme at Hatchford Brook Golf Centre, near Birmingham. The challenge is keeping them attending and ignoring the lure of other activities and sports like football.
The solution – and the innovation – is a new system which rewards golf and life skills demonstrated during lessons. Badges and certificates are awarded at the end of the sessions, not necessarily to the best golfer, but to the golfer making the most effort to improve.
The emphasis on life skills has also helped some youngsters behave better and be more attentive in the hope of receiving one of the super sparkly badges.
The results: The children like it, the parents like it, it’s a big hit on social media – and it seems to be working.
The nomination says: “Despite it being early days, we have already seen a great improvement in retention. This is over the autumn/winter months, so we are excited to see where it will take us in the coming years.”
Pay and play golf operator Mytime Active, and its centres at Bromley and Orpington in Kent, has pioneered a scheme for GPs to prescribe golf to patients to improve their fitness and wellbeing.
The project grew from a survey carried out among almost 4000 golfers at nine Mytime Active centres, showing a need to make use of golf’s health benefits.
The next step was to offer people referred by their GP a six-week programme of 12 sessions to teach golf skills and change behaviour. The results have been very positive, showing improved grip strength, reduced blood pressure levels and an increased sense of wellbeing.
This year the programme is also running in Mytime centres in Bexleyheath, the New Forest and Birmingham. It’s hoped it will be rolled out across the country in 2020 by golf operators and local authorities.
Mytime Active, which worked with England Golf and uk active on the project, has 16 courses in London, the Midlands and on the south coast. It aims to make the game fun and accessible to all.
Golf Access encourages beginners to learn to play on the golf course, rather than just on the practice ground or range.
It has nine different bands for players to work through and they move up as they achieve each band score, playing from forward tees. Their progress through each stage is rewarded with a coloured wristband and certificate for juniors and a coloured poker chip ball marker for adults.
It’s the brainchild of Simon Wood, a former PGA professional who used to be England Golf’s development officer for Cornwall. It’s being used by 85 clubs in the UK and Australia and involved over 1000 players last year. In Devon alone, 24 clubs and over 300 juniors used the system.
“It’s wonderful how Golf Access has encouraged golf clubs to make their course more junior/beginner friendly. The transition from a Tri-Golf or Get into Golf event, to enjoying time on the course is much easier and more enjoyable for the fledgling players,” said Tiffany MacKenzie, Director of Coaching at Saunton Golf Club.
The go-ahead ladies’ committee at Slinfold Golf Club was quite clear about its plan: to offer a 21st century golf experience which appeals all ages and fits into contemporary lifestyles.
It succeeded with three innovations. The first was to be very welcoming to new golfers, with two committee members acting as buddies. This year, all the women members are getting involved.
The second was to extend their online scoring system to include pages of pictures, news, information and e-honours boards. This has brought them a bigger audience.
Finally, they built on the appeal of short format golf by offering nine-hole qualifiers which are popular among a wide range of women, from seniors, to those who are short of time and those who simply like nine holes!
The results is busy start sheets and happy members like Linda, who joined in 2016 and says: “If not for the support and encouragement of the ladies when I was new and trying for a handicap, I might have given up.” Now the committee has many plans to build on its successes.