Girls Golf Rocks – the recruitment campaign which got over 600 girls swinging last year – is going to get bigger and better in 2017.
The number of counties taking part will grow from nine to 15 – all aiming to get more girls playing golf, by offering coaching with PGA professionals and using young ambassadors from county squads to show that it’s a fun and sociable game.
The new counties are: Bedfordshire, Cumbria, Kent, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Wiltshire and Yorkshire. They’ll join Buckinghamshire, Cheshire, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Gloucestershire, Norfolk and Nottinghamshire.
Taster sessions will be held by PGA professionals in March and April, when ambassadors will be on hand to encourage the new girls. They will all then be offered five weeks of group coaching, leading to a fun day with the ambassadors featuring multi-skill challenges and the chance to play on a golf course.
During 2016, the nine counties involved attracted over 600 girls to taster sessions. More than 500 went on to take coaching courses and over 230 have already taken out some type of club membership. This coincides with a growing number of clubs and counties reporting an increasing girls’ membership.
The project, run jointly by England Golf and the Golf Foundation, started in 2015 with a trial in Essex. Ambassadors and new players from the county are now featured in a Girls Golf Rocks video, which captures all that’s special about the programme. Bella Jay, 14, sums it up when she says: “Golf has done so much for me, I love it. You should come and join us and see how much fun it is.” Click here to view the video.
Meanwhile, Ringway Golf Club in Cheshire has the distinction of attracting more girls than any other club in the country.
Thanks to a link with local Loreto Grammar School 38 girls attended their taster session, which took place in a torrential downpour. Despite the weather the youngsters enjoyed it so much that they encouraged even more friends to come along and 49 took the coaching course.
Already, eight have joined the club’s junior section – more than doubling the number of girl players – while one has achieved a handicap and three are well on the way to getting theirs.
Head professional James Salt said: “The girls have all been fantastic and really got into it, they’ve been very eager and it’s been very enjoyable.”
Elsewhere, nine-year-old Isabella Bleaken, from Westonbirt Golf Club in Gloucestershire, became one of the youngest ambassadors when she turned out to help, alongside other players from the county girls’ squad.
Isabella, who plays off 25, showed the new players how she can hit the ball, then helped and reassured them as they got into the swing. She’s also been interviewed on BBC Radio Gloucestershire about the experience and her father, Mark, reports that her own confidence has rocketed. Isabella is also an ambassador for the England Golf Trust which helps young people in financial need to play the game.
Lauren Spray, the England Golf Women and Girls’ Participation Manager, commented: “Girls Golf Rocks has been an amazing success and we’re looking forward to working with more counties and clubs and seeing many more girls come into the game.
“We’ve got to say a special thank you to Isabella and all our 110 ambassadors who have been just brilliant at encouraging new girls to play. We couldn’t have done it without them!”
As part of the jointly funded programme, girls taking part in coaching will be given a US Kids Golf 7-iron to help them get started. US Kids Golf is the official equipment supplier to the Golf Foundation for the Girls Golf Rocks projects and have additionally donated clubs for use at the taster sessions.
Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, Brendon Pyle, said: “The Golf Foundation is delighted to be working with England Golf on this key initiative to introduce more young girls to golf in England.
“The expansion of the Girls Golf Rocks into 15 counties will ensure that more girls enjoy the opportunity to ‘Start, Learn and Stay’ in golf. The key ingredient has been the willingness of the county squad girls to embrace the concept and inspire new young girls into the sport by helping as leaders and ambassadors.”
Caption: Selfie time for Cumbria Girls Golf Rocks ambassadors (image © Leaderboard Photography).