Bawburgh’s big achievers

Bawburgh has joined an elite group of England's golf clubs – by becoming the first Norfolk winner of the High Achiever GolfMark award.

GolfMark is the badge of honour for beginner and junior friendly clubs. It is a national accreditation scheme run by the English Golf Union (EGU) and English Women's Golf Association (EWGA) – and it has just passed a national landmark with the 400th award being made to a Yorkshire club.

But here in Norfolk, it is Bawburgh who are setting the standard. They won their first GolfMark award three years ago and, when renewal time came round, they were able to prove that they had moved on and up to the high achiever level.

Karen Young, Norfolk's county golf development officer, said: 'Bawburgh have done a fantastic job on their three-year review.'

She praised their efforts to engage with their local community, with Active Norfolk – through the Get Back Into programme – and with the Norfolk County Golf Partnership, which has funded a number of introductory opportunities.

'These included coaching sessions for groups of adults with hearing impairments, adults with visual impairments and young people with a variety of learning difficulties,' said Young.

'The club has plans to increase opportunities for both adults and young people of all abilities to come along and have a go. They are particularly keen to encourage more women and girls to take up golf.'

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Bawburgh managing director Robert Barnard brought together a GolfMark team who put enormous effort into the paperwork and which included junior organiser Greg Gladwell, general manager Ian Ladbrooke, assistant secretary Allard Hudson and professional Mark Spooner.

Barnard's wife, Jo, became the junior girls' representative and the club has increased numbers from one, back in June, to nine now. The club's target for 2011 is 50 boys and 20 girls.

'We were all delighted that we achieved our ambition and everyone involved was a credit to Bawburgh Golf Club,' said Barnard.

'I think at Bawburgh we have proved to the judges that we have the right 'stepping stones' for getting into golf, with the progression of having coaching on the driving range and short game areas, to moving onto the nine-hole course.

'Here novice golfers can take time getting acclimatised to playing the game in a more relaxed situation than most 18-hole courses can offer. After a number of months, or years, they can progress to become full members of the club, which allows them to play both courses,' added Barnard, who pointed out that the club's driving range is almost always open, whatever the weather, and the yellow balls show up on any snow.

Norfolk now has 11 GolfMark clubs and the Norfolk Premier Golf driving range at Blofield has achieved RangeMark. Another four clubs are actively working towards the award.

Several clubs will be coming up for their first and second year reviews during 2011 and Young advises them to keep their evidence files up to date as the golf season progresses. By the time a club comes to its three-year review, they should have an updated file of recent evidence including updated procedures and new developmental initiatives.

She said: 'The GolfMark process equips clubs to think about increasing golf opportunities to encourage more people to play and to continue to look at new ways of attracting people to become members through initiatives such as different membership packages.'

If any club or non-affiliated facility such as a driving range wishes to find out more about GolfMark or Rangemark, please contact Karen Young on 01603 732335 or by email: karen.young@activenorfolk.org