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Scottish bid, youth strategy
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Plan to make every Scots child a golfer
Ambitious project linked to nations Ryder Cup
Mike Aitken, The Scotsman, 14 December 2000
A Scottish golf tsar is to be appointed who will be charged
with the responsibility of implementing the ambitious plan to introduce every
child in the land to the game before the age of nine.
While theres a kind of fairytale ring to the Scottish
Executives pledge, which some critics have deemed fanciful and unworkable
in a sport where equipment can be expensive and access to private golf clubs is
restricted, officials insist they are in a position to deliver on that
Having made the commitment to youth as part of the
nations bid to host the 2009 Ryder Cup match against the Americans, moves
have been started to enlist the services of an individual who can lead the
newly-formed Scottish Junior Golf Partnership.
During the recent past, the development of junior golf in
Scotland was often held back by factionalism. A variety of governing bodies
with vested interests in pursuing their own agendas meant progress in promoting
golf was slow compared to the more dynamic programmes at work in countries such
as Sweden and Australia.
It is an alarming, but true, statistic that the average age
of a golf club member in Scotland is close to 60.
Now the games legislators have put their differences
to one side and come together to form a new body, which includes
representatives from the Scottish Golf Union, the Scottish region of the PGA,
the Golf Foundation, the Scottish Ladies and sportscotland, in a bid to make
the game more accessible to young people.
"All of these organisations appreciate they have overlap on
the same agenda and agree they should work together to put in place a strategy
to develop golf in Scotland," said Colin Pearson, senior development officer
"We will appoint a youth sport co-ordinator for golf to
lead this group and help to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together."
The expectation is that around 500,000 young Scots will be
given the chance to try the game during the lifetime of this scheme, which is
due to be up and running by 2002.
Its a massive exercise, with every boy and girl in
Scotland assured of a chance to play golf before the Ryder Cup match in
In spite of the scale of the task - hundreds of new coaches
and leaders, thousands of sets of junior clubs, and any number of golf courses
and driving ranges will be required to make the scheme work - Ian Robson, the
chief executive of sportscotland, is adamant the goal can be achieved.
"The most important thing to say is that the commitment to
give every child an introduction to golf was never intended to be just a
soundbite," he said. "Yes, there are challenges in making this happen. But
thats how we see them - as challenges, not as impossible obstacles."
Pearson added: "It will only happen with a lot of hard work
and by getting everyone pulling together in the same direction.
"We see it not so much as a commitment to golf as a
commitment to Scotlands children. Its not just about swinging a
club. We want to see the game of golf come alive in the schools.
"Three things underpin our plan. One, is our overall youth
sport framework at sportscotland. Well be going into the primary schools
and making the links with golf clubs.
"Secondly, weve been working with the Scottish Golf
Union on a review. Thats part of our agenda to modernise governing
bodies. Were working on bringing them up to date for the 21st
"Third, which is the most significant, is the newly-formed
Scottish Junior Golf Partnership."
One of the many tasks facing those charged with making this
plan work is how to teach the teachers so that they, in turn, can help the
Golf professionals will be the key to the success of this
programme. "The pros will be essential in terms of coach education," agreed
Pearson. "I think the club pros are more likely to be involved in that area
than teaching the children themselves."
Of course, its unrealistic to expect the under-nines
to be able to cope immediately with the complex and daunting challenge of
completing an 18-hole round.
Thats why some purpose-built mini-courses will be
required to give youngsters a flavour of the game. John Gilmour, the head of
the Scottish Executives sport policy unit, believes that the finance for
capital investment in these new facilities is already in place.
"The capacity to do things like that is already available
through Scottish Enterprise," said Gilmour. "Whether at some stage were
going to need a special programme is another matter. But there already has been
a huge investment of £150 million in golf facilities in Scotland over the
last ten years. We see no reason why that shouldnt continue."
Resources wont just come from the public purse. The
Scottish Executive believes that the potential for growth in the game will also
persuade private enterprise to make their own contribution.
In many respects, introducing golf to children at primary
school wont mean much unless a pathway can be created which allows pupils
at secondary school also to play the game.
"Thats part of our broader aim to re-establish the
habit of playing all sports," added Robson. "Then we need to grow strong links
between playing golf at school and the clubs. Golf is perhaps one of the last
sports where the principle of being a member of a club is still valued by
people who are active into their later years.
"The obvious contrast is with swimming where one million
people swim each year, but only 20,000 are members of a club. In golf, the
percentages are virtually the other way around.
"Overall, though, the concept of being a member of a sports
club is disappearing. So part of the challenge for golf is that their clubs
need to rethink their approach.
"If, for example, you had a golf club with a dying
membership located close to a school, youd like to think that common
sense would prevail and they can work together. Older members could mentor the
kids during the week and help to teach them the etiquette of the game."
While some youngsters will have their first experience of
the game on a course, others will pick up a club on a range or at a practice
"We wont have a single model," explained Gilmour,
"but we will give everyone an opportunity." more
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