THERE has long been a theory, up and down the country, specifically across this region, that junior golf needed something of a helping hand. Regardless of the standard of the coaching on the driving ranges or on the putting greens, places for the youngsters to actually test their skills on a course have been few and far between.
More and more golf clubs are looking at different things to try to address the problem, while two of Durham County Golf Union’s leading golf coaches have teamed up this week to put plans in place for a new concept which could lead to more youngsters getting in to the game.
Brian Ridley and Mark Rayson are both working together, aiming to attract and improve up-coming talent on a new Junior Development and Performance Programme at Beamish Park Hotel & Golf Academy. With prices starting from £25 a month from Under-7s upwards, the duo want to establish a base for youngsters with an interest in golf to learn the basics of the game and have the opportunity to play competitive golf on the Beamish Park Golf Academy’s quaint nine hole, par three, course.
Rayson said: “If children go to play football they will train during the week and then on a weekend they will play for A, B or C on a weekend after they have paid subs. It’s exactly the same thing we are looking for in golf.
“But golf has never latched on to that and it’s desperate for it. We are thinking a little outside the box to overcome the problems. We want to do something about it. If we can offer a good value package to parents, golfers, to come on a regular basis to learn, develop and compete then that is the only way they will know if they are getting better. It’s an ongoing cycle.”
As a lead coach with Durham Union, Rayson has travelled around the North-East and believes golf clubs have good volunteer sessions with little structure. It is with such thoughts in his mind that his conversations with Ridley will see the launch of the Junior Development and Performance Programme during the week commencing April 21.
Rayson, 38, formerly of Ramside Hall, said: “Parents said they loved the junior tour, loved the county academy programme, but my experience has been that not every club is able to offer that.
“What proportion of those kids play golf on a course, though? The jigsaw didn’t come together when we looked at things. So what we are offering as a golf academy, rather than a golf club, by having competition, practise evening and coaching evenings, wrapped up in to one, encourages all of those things to come together. We won’t have that problem of having kids that don’t compete. It’s part of the programme.
“Right now we all have to be reliant on a talented kid having the desire in his belly and the passion from day one. There has to be some natural talent there straight away. If that kid doesn’t have that spark then we are all quick to think he is not suitable for golf.
“These are just young kids who can get good very quickly. They have to have the desire to do that. How do you do that? They might get lessons on a weekly basis but they don’t get introduced to a golf course. It has to stop at some point.”
The Junior Development and Performance Programme at Beamish Park Golf Academy also offers specialist services from psychology to biomechanics and from aimpoint green reading to gaining distance and accuracy with the different coaching qualities each of the specialist coaches can provide.
Ridley, 50, who has been the PGA qualified professional at Beamish Park Golf Academy for the last 20 years, thinks the combination will work to a tee – and he is convinced the nine-hole course near Stanley can be the perfect place to develop skills.
He said: “We decided to do this together and the idea in mind was with youngsters. It’s an ideal starting point for golfers. Here the holes range from 70 yards to 190 yards and as it has matured it is in great shape.
“We have 3,000 trees planted, we had 95 per cent uptake and in the summer it is fantastic. It’s ideal for young kids. We do have memberships available.
“It’s certainly not a pitch and putt, it’s a par three academy course and a place where golfers, young and old, can get the sort of coaching required to improve their game.”
* For further details on the academy programme or to join call Mark Rayson on 07927 754952 or email firstname.lastname@example.org