Garon Park Golf Club in Essex has completed a remarkable revival by winning the prestigious title of GolfMark Club of the Year 2013, supported by COBRA-PUMA GOLF.
It’s a triumph for co-owner Alan Walker, who bought the club from the administrators in May 2010, and for his team. “We are absolutely chuffed, this is a wonderful achievement for a club which was in the doldrums three years ago.
“This will boost morale at the club and tell everybody that we are something special,” said Alan, a past captain of the PGA and a PGA Master Professional.
He was accompanied at the awards dinner by PGA professional Ben Jones and the club’s junior organisers Micky and Carol Pearson. They have all played key roles in the success of the 27-hole complex, which is now a thriving centre offering opportunities for all.
This England Golf award, which is now in its fifth year, recognises golf clubs that make an outstanding and innovative contribution to junior and beginner golf, showing a willingness to improve and develop.
The award was announced at the England Golf Partnership’s County Golf Development Conference at Holywell Park Conference Centre at Loughborough University. The conference also applauded the two runners-up, Upton by Chester Golf Club in Cheshire and Leamington & County Golf Club in Warwickshire.
Alan Walker told the audience how the GolfMark experience – which led to Garon Park receiving a High Achiever award – had been the foundation of the club’s success story. “Opportunities arose and we decided to take them,” he said.
Mr Walker’s connections with Garon Park go back to 1994, when he designed the course and ran the club for five years, before selling it. He jointly bought it back after hearing it had gone into administration and decided the way forward was to “get to the backbone of the game, junior golfers.”
In 2010 there were just five juniors, today the club has 115, encouraged by the “passion and commitment” of Micky and Carol Pearson, and enjoying protected fees and a range of coaching and teaching programmes, offered by Ben Jones and his team of professional coaches for the junior section.
Next the club turned its attention to beginner golf and set a target of bringing 100 novices into the game last year. They exceeded that by 50 players and have set themselves a target of 250 new beginners this year.
“Through the ‘Get into golf’ programme and our own version of ‘Get further into golf’ and ‘Get into playing golf’, we have made our market,” said Alan.
The club works closely with Essex County Golf Partnership and is committed to growing the game and their business. The secret, says Alan, is: “Doing the basics and seeing them through. We are passionate about people and we make them feel very, very welcome.”
Presenting the award, Craig Verrinder, UK Marketing Manager for COBRA PUMA GOLF, said: “We are delighted to be able to recognise Garon Park for their outstanding efforts in providing a golf facility that truly supports the development of the game.
“Golf is changing and the ability to offer venues that are inclusive and fun for golfers of all abilities is key to enhancing golf participation within the community.
“COBRA PUMA GOLF are proud to continue supporting the GolfMark programme and helping golf grow across the UK.”
England Golf is delighted that COBRA-PUMA GOLF support the GolfMark award scheme and provide prizes for the Club of the Year award and quarterly and annual prize draws.
Richard Flint, Golf Development Manager for England Golf, commented “It is great to see the success that GolfMark clubs can have, particularly in these challenging times. Garon Park has adapted, become more business and customer focused and with their flexible, welcoming approach have become a truly inclusive facility”.
“The golfing landscape has changed and it is important that golf clubs monitor and react accordingly. England Golf continues to invest in resources, such as GolfMark and their County Golf Partnership network, to ensure golf clubs can benefit to maximum effect.”
Contenders for the 2013 award were nominated by their County Golf Partnerships and a shortlist was drawn up by a panel of England Golf Partnership (EGP) representatives. Individual visits were made to the final three clubs to determine the winner.
Any affiliated golf club can apply to work through the GolfMark process and achieve the accreditation, by visiting www.golfmark.org There are currently 620 golf clubs with GolfMark and a further 545 working towards accreditation. England Golf is currently reviewing the GolfMark initiative to support and recognise golf clubs in both business and development. It is expected that GolfMark will be re-launched in late 2013.
GolfMark is an EGP initiative which is part of its ‘Whole Sport Plan’ for golf and an integral part of its vision to ‘Grow the Game’.
Caption: (from left) Alan Walker, Craig Verrinder, Carol and Micky Pearson, and Ben Jones.