By Gregor Wright
Where it all started…
I took over the Junior coaching at Ladybank in 2011 and whilst there were decent numbers attending coaching, numbers taking part in competitions were dwindling. Feedback suggested that the section was lacking new ideas, partially due to being run on a solo basis by one Junior Convenor.
In 2015, Ladybank Golf Club in conjunction with Sandy Smith (Head Professional) took the decision to review and re-launch the junior section, asking me to take up the post of Junior Golf Co-ordinator, alongside my role as the Assistant Head Golf Professional.
Building on the existing foundations, I developed a plan with the objectives of;
- Increasing membership
- Increasing competition participation
- Engaging with Local schools
- Creating a Junior committee and team of helpers
- Enhancing communication via social media; eg. Whatsapp group / Facebook / Newsletter
- Seeking out funding / sponsorship opportunities
I met with the Club committee to discuss the plan and agree KPI’s (Key performance indicators), which were set as;
- New member figures
- Coaching Figures
- Competition participation levels
- Handicap Figures – All levels (Club / CONGU)
- School coaching figures
Details would be reported to the Club committee on a monthly basis with an end of year report on progress and growth.
Increasing competition participation: Create a fun environment, which welcomes all levels of ability no matter their age, reducing the focus on ‘competition’.
Competitions were along the following lines:
- 9 hole formats / Optional 18 for established players
- All abilities encouraged to participate
- Stableford – pick the ball up if you have a bad hole
- Fun Formats / Events: Shortgame league / Footgolf / Flag Event
- Equipment supplied – all sizes
- More suitable course lengths (5 different course lengths), maintaining use of ‘Championship Course’.
- Family events – Mother / Fathers ‘Day’ texas scrambles
- Resurrection of old un-used trophies
As a result, we increased our competition attendance by 50%. Interestingly I discovered that the junior players who did not have a handicap started to question how they could get one… it transpired this was a direct result of playing with older juniors who had a handicap.
Has it worked?
- 2015: 15
- 2016: 28
- 2017: Currently 34
- 2015: 12
- 2016: 15
- 2017: Currently 20
Local ties with schools – Pool of potential budding golfers… Contact your local education authority; I’m sure they would welcome you with open arms if you are wanting to offer some golf coaching. You can do this in the school hall, playground or invite them up to use the club facilities if you have that option.
Administration: Don’t let it put you off!
- PVG – Ensure your coach has an up to date PVG
- Governing body approved for schools
- Child protection policy is up to date
- Coaching qualification
Starting the schools initiative in 2016 and running into 2017, we exposed around a 100 new golfers into the game, with a ‘family ‘golf club visit to finish the block off. This was arranged around the Easter holiday break to ensure the families would be available. We showed the families around the facilities; provided some ‘taster’ coaching and then distributed an information pack about membership, which contained an application form which we could track – the result was a 15% uptake for new memberships.
We aim to carry this tie on with our local schools and expand into more as we develop.
Create a team of Junior helpers / Committee – You can’t run it by yourself – To run a successful junior section, you need support. With juniors, you have parents, who are always around when their child is playing golf. All you need to do is ask them if they are willing to help. Once you have them on board, you must organise the following for them to maximise their support:
- PVG’s – Any person working with children must have a PVG check carried out by your Child Protection Officer (CPO) – If you don’t have a CPO, you must appoint a suitable person.
- Child Protection – Ensure your CPO is up to date with the most recent Child Potection laws. This will help you avoid any difficult child protection situations.
- Helper training – Level 1 volunteer coaches – Get your coaches up to speed, get them some training, so they can work with you and lead sessions by themselves. Contact your local governing body to see who can provide training. We luckily had Alan Martin, another PGA Professional and Level 1 coach tutor who provided training to our helpers.
- Get them involved – Let them take the reins on certain days, giving them a sense of ownership of the section.
- Say thank you, arrange an away golf day at a local club. They can’t give up their time for nothing.
Communication channels – Whatsapp group / Facebook / Newsletter
Keeping in touch with your Juniors / Parents is key; you must gather up to date data each year at your membership renewal to ensure it is correct. From this, you can then create a whatsapp group for reminders, questions and last minute updates / facebook page for posting what’s going on / newsletter for monthly results, updates and dates for the diary.
Seek out funding to help you expand… It doesn’t have to be all expense on your part, seek out possible funding options locally. We were able to get some funding through our golf governing body, local authorities and local businesses. You never know who will help unless you go and ask them for support. Our funding was used to purchase coaching equipment and sets of golf clubs to ensure no one missed out because they couldn’t afford a set of golf clubs.
Seek out sponsors – Companies are always trying to look for ways to sponsor the future of the game. Approach local business owners, even your members, they may be able to help you out. We have numerous here at Ladybank: Callaway, Nandos, Mkids Golf, Golphin and Golf Fit LTD.
Where we are now… 2017…
- Monday group coaching – Almost full subscription of 50
- Tuesday skills coaching – Introduction of an additional nights coaching to accommodate the established players
- Winter Coaching: November – February – Maintaining interest through the winter
- Seasonal Golf Camps – Easter / Summer / October holidays
- End of season prize giving – family event.. clubhouse packed out with 50 to 60 attendees
- Family orientated…
Benefits to having your PGA Professional or Assistant Professional running the Junior section
Your PGA staff can be the key to unlocking the potential of your Junior section, as they are;
- on site daily to create a rapport with junior members/parents/potential new members
they are the first point of contact regarding the junior section
- can deliver the coaching
- manage the day to day running’s of the section; handicap / competition results
- Take away the admin pressure from the volunteers, which will help keep them engaged.
- They also have a wide range of contacts which can help speed up some on the points stated above.
- They will strategically plan ahead, aswell as review and implement new ideas.
Take the plunge… grow your Junior section now with your PGA Professional before it’s too late!
Juniors are the future of all golf clubs and if we don’t engage them now, we may lose them to other sports.
All of this is geared towards seeing more juniors at the golf club and progressing into the adult section of membership. From the initial figures, we are on track to achieve this target.
For more information you can contact Gregor on [email protected]
Gregor started his PGA Professional training at Ladybank Golf Club in 2010, and qualified in 2015, as a Class A PGA Professional. He was also placed in the top 10 of the 2015 Titleist Trainee of the year – Finishing 9th in Europe / Overseas and 2nd in Scotland. Throughout Gregor’s time at Ladybank, he has always looked for ways to improve his knowledge through CPD. After attending a number of courses, Gregor undertook CMAE’s – MDP1 in Dublin – October 2015 and then MDP Golf Management in December 2015. Both of which have helped him to develop the junior section at Ladybank Golf Club.