After encouraging more young people into the sport last year, the GolfSixes League is set to expand significantly in 2019.
The Golf Foundation initiative reached 102 golf clubs in 2018 and will be enjoyed by more than 200 this year, as GolfSixes League proves highly popular with club management, PGA professionals, parents and – most of all – the kids.
National charity the Golf Foundation is “delighted” with the 2018 results, which have now been collated in an impact report to be shared with golf’s key stakeholders, including many golf clubs.
Since last May, 24 leagues were staged across 22 UK regions, involving 102 golf clubs and 1,160 juniors playing 161 fixtures. Some 25% of players were girls, and there was a 42% increase in membership at the England clubs involved (34% across the UK). Six county leagues in England were so popular they decided to stage their own extra winter leagues in the build-up to the 2019 season.
GolfSixes League was inspired by the European Tour’s GolfSixes model, the shorter-form, team competition held at Centurion Club for its first two years (to be held in Portugal this summer).
GolfSixes League means quicker six-hole matches against other clubs in a fun ‘Texas Scramble’ format – a great way of building confidence among new players. The matches are designed to create a sense of belonging in junior sections, while also forging a respect for practice among young players. In 2018, squads of 12 boys and girls represented their golf clubs playing weekly team golf wearing coloured team shirts with GolfSixes branding.
A new short video, which sums up the value of GolfSixes League, can be seen now at https://www.golf-foundation.org
PGA professionals, junior organisers and families have all responded to this fun, competitive team league against other clubs, with youngsters practising together before the key weekend matches, which are supported by regular high numbers of watching parents. According to Foundation club monitoring, 65% of all the participating children’s parents actively volunteered in the GolfSixes League, helping with scoring, caddying, managing teams, supporting the play and even catering (cake provision being a popular trend!).
Some 58% of PGA coaches provided additional practice sessions for GolfSixes League squad members. The average number of sessions attended by each player was 5.6, and 82% of children involved said they would like to play more golf as a result of GolfSixes League.
Iain Fulton, PGA Head Teaching Professional at Belton Woods GC in Lincolnshire, said: “The GolfSixes League has been a fantastic project and opportunity for the young golfers to play a different format, new courses and meet other young players. Everyone at the club has thoroughly enjoyed every game.”
Meanwhile, a young golfer aged 12, said: “I loved the GolfSixes as I played with different people and had a great time. I now play more golf and have played some new courses with my Dad.”
The leagues are supported by all 10 of the Golf Foundation’s committed team of Regional Development Officers, plus the RDOs from Scottish Golf and Wales Golf. The Foundation team was recently buoyed by news that The R&A is to provide £2m to the charity over the next four years to support its drive to inspire more youngsters into playing golf and to increase the retention of juniors within clubs, with a focus on increasing participation among girls.
This backing, plus the support of HSBC, Sport England and the Home Golf Nations, will enable GolfSixes League to be staged across more than 40 leagues in 2019, involving more than 200 golf clubs, with more than 2,000 young people taking part.
England will see an expected 36 leagues, including six that will be funded by County Golf Unions from Suffolk, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire. Thanks to support from Wales Golf and Scottish Golf, GolfSixes Leagues in these countries will also expand, with seven leagues in Scotland and three in Wales as the initiative grows.
Foundation CEO Brendon Pyle said: “We are delighted with feedback from across England, Wales and Scotland. Parents, PGA pros and club organisers are saying that GolfSixes League has helped build confidence in their new young players and the interest from all, including from the County Golf Unions, has been amazing. Recent excellent support from The R&A allows us to be confident in the development of a proven formula that sees boys and girls enjoying the game together. We are really excited about where GolfSixes League will take us in 2019 and hope to work with the European Tour Foundation to help grow the initiative across Europe.”
Caption: GolfSixes League players in action (Image copyright Leaderboard Photography).