Clubs desperate to future-proof game

Lyndsey HewisonNorfolk golf will celebrate a year of progress this weekend - and look ahead at plans for the future of the game in the county. The Norfolk County Golf Partnership, which works with clubs to develop the game, will hold its annual meeting at Barnham Broom tomorrow afternoon.Lyndsey Hewison

Norfolk golf will celebrate a year of progress this weekend - and look ahead at plans for the future of the game in the county.

The Norfolk County Golf Partnership, which works with clubs to develop the game, will hold its annual meeting at Barnham Broom tomorrow afternoon.

It's hoped that at least two or three representatives of each club will attend, together with their professionals. They'll learn about the achievements of the past year - and about an initiative to help clubs cope with the challenging economic climate.

The Partnership has bought each club a copy of the EGU/EWGA Recruitment and Retention Toolkit and these will be distributed at the meeting. The �15 toolkit is designed to help clubs to encourage more players to join and to make sure that they have a positive experience and stay as active members.


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County development officer Karen Young said: "Clubs need to think about how they can attract new people to come and play and to stay playing. Times are changing and they can't afford to be static.

"Often clubs don't see a way forward other than the conventional, which usually means increasing subs. But, they are starting to think outside the box and how they can link with the community and particularly with schools."

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The Toolkit is a comprehensive, adaptable guide which includes best practice examples and templates offering practical guidance. It also contains the EGU and EWGA 'Tee to Green' Introductory Programme and 'Welcome Booklets', both of which can be used by clubs to provide additional support for new member golfers.

Maintaining and increasing membership has been a challenge for many clubs, but 80pc of those which have increased their membership over the last two years have taken advantage of one or more EGU/EWGA development initiatives.

At tomorrow's meeting there will also be an appeal for clubs which are prepared to take part in events to attract women, girls and families to golf. Karen hopes to run these simultaneously at a number of venues and says: "The interest is there and we want to focus on these target groups."

Professionals also receive support from the Partnership. A workshop plan has been devised to help them upgrade their skills without having to travel to PGA headquarters at The Belfry.

Three courses were run before Christmas, which were also attended by pros from Essex and Suffolk. It is hoped that local take-up will increase over coming months.

Clubs will also be encouraged to discuss ways of encouraging more volunteers to come forward to support their activities and to help run events and projects.

"Golf clubs have a lot of volunteers, although they don't always see themselves as that, but they always need more," said Karen.

"This is about getting them to spread the jobs out so lots of people do little bits. It's also to get them to think outside the club environment and find the people and places who will help them."

Progress over the last year includes the county's rapid gain of the GolfMark awards. Thetford has just become the latest club to receive the national award, which recognises junior and beginner-friendly facilities, and this brings the county total to eight, with several others in the pipeline. A year ago, just two Norfolk clubs had been GolfMarked. "That's been great," said Karen. "We've been highly successful."

The Partnership has also set up a Coach and Player programme which has identified talented U12s and U14s and supports them with training. This programme is aimed at youngsters who are not picked up by established county coaching schemes - they may not be members of golf clubs or have a handicap but have been introduced to the game at school and shown an aptitude for it.

Norfolk's system, which is believed to be unique, is to identify the youngsters and then attach them to one of six contracted coaches who will work with them over a 24-week period. Currently around 25 youngsters are involved and more talent-spotting is going on in primary schools. It is hoped to increase the number of coaches.

The annual meeting of the Norfolk County Golf Partnership will take place tomorrow at 2.30pm in the Kimberley Suite at Barnham Broom Golf Club. Representatives of all clubs are welcome. Clubs will also be invited to appoint a Partnership representative to be responsible for cascading information to their members.

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