GolfSixes is encouraging more young children into the sport with new figures showing significant growth of the fun-filled format across the UK.
Just as the team element of the recent Ryder Cup at Le Golf National again captured the imagination, children are relishing the shorter format, team-based GolfSixes League at clubs up and down the country through the work of the Golf Foundation, which receives significant financial support from The R&A.
The new leagues were launched in May 2018 as a companion series to the European Tour’s GolfSixes, the shorter-form, team competition for professionals which was held for the second consecutive year at Centurion Club, featuring men and women competing alongside each other.
Figures show a notable expansion in the six-hole format across the summer, building on a pilot project in England in 2017 that featured six regional leagues involving 246 children from 27 clubs. Since May, 24 leagues were staged across 22 UK regions, involving 112 golf clubs and nearly 1,500 junior golfers. Early results show that nearly 30% of players have been girls.
The work in England has been supported by England Golf, helped by additional funding from Sport England. Six county leagues in England have been so successful that they have decided to stage their own extra winter leagues in the months before the 2019 season, in which GolfSixes nationally is set to enjoy further expansion.
Thanks to support from Wales Golf and Scottish Golf, GolfSixes League also expanded into these nations for the first time in 2018, through a pilot league in Wales and two in Scotland. These numbers are also expected to rise significantly next year.
Brendon Pyle, Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, the European Tour’s Official Delivery Partner for GolfSixes League in the UK, said: “We’re delighted with the expansion of the GolfSixes League in 2018 and our partnership with the European Tour.
“The activity is just finishing across England, Wales and Scotland and we have received great feedback, stories and images. GolfSixes is great fun and the perfect entry level competition. We are also hearing from parents that GolfSixes has helped build confidence in their children.
“The growth in GolfSixes illustrates that fun and shorter team formats encourage young players to practice and play at their clubs, while attracting the interest and support of their parents. “The Golf Foundation continues to look at new ways to entice more young people and families into golf, to grow participation numbers and retain more juniors.”
Lasting just over an hour, GolfSixes matches are fast, fun, provide a sense of belonging and a foundation for a long-lasting love of golf. This summer, boys and girls represented their golf clubs in regional inter-club leagues playing weekly team golf. Wearing coloured team shirts with GolfSixes branding, squads of 12 juniors played six holes against other clubs in Texas Scramble format. Youngsters worked with their club’s PGA professional during the week to prepare for the big matches at the weekend, supported by regular high numbers of watching parents.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “It is very encouraging to see how GolfSixes is capturing the imagination of youngsters in the UK, while we have also seen similar leagues launched across Europe, inspired by the professional competition, which featured men and women competing against each other.
“We saw at Centurion Club, and through social media engagement, that GolfSixes is attractive to spectators, and the success of these leagues show it is also an appealing format for participants of all abilities as a quick, fun way of playing golf.”
Iain Fulton, PGA Head Teaching Professional at Belton Woods Golf Club, added: “The GolfSixes League has been a fantastic project and opportunity for young golfers to play a different format, new courses and meet other young players. Everyone at Belton Woods has thoroughly enjoyed every game.”
GolfSixes League was created following Golf Foundation commissioned research which found that many young people wanted to play fewer holes, in team formats and at different courses, while parents expressed enthusiasm for active involvement in events.
The aim is to boost retention in clubs as a key part of the Foundation’s ‘Start, Learn and Stay’ strategy as a charity that helps young people from all backgrounds and abilities to enjoy the playing and personal benefits of the sport. GolfSixes also featured at The Ryder Cup, with the European and US Junior Ryder Cup teams taking part in an exhibition match at Le Golf National.
GolfSixes is just one strand of the Golf Foundation’s national HSBC Golf Roots programme which is reaching 500,000 youngsters a year in schools, communities and golf clubs.
England Golf has also partnered with the European Tour to promote GolfSixes to clubs in England, with 100 clubs already registered to hold a tournament. Club winners could then secure the chance to compete at the European Tour’s GolfSixes event in 2019.
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