Golf clubs across England are being offered new support to encourage more people from diverse ethnic communities to get involved in the game.
It is the result of a two-year project in Birmingham, run by England Golf and course operator Mytime Active, to discover how to involve Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in golf.
The project successfully attracted 140 people from a range of backgrounds to take a six-week beginner course and now, with the support of Sporting Equals, a toolkit has been created to help clubs engage with local communities to grow the game.
It’s part of the England Golf strategy to create a healthy future for golf by encouraging clubs to offer what their existing and potential customers want. Chief Executive Nick Pink said: “Our aim is to be customer focused. We want clubs to respond to the needs of all players and encouraging minority ethnic communities is an area with huge potential for growth in the sport.”
England Golf is committed to showing that golf is a game for all, to encouraging clubs to offer inclusive programmes which appeal to their local community, and to challenge perceptions by using diverse imagery to portray golf.
The Birmingham project centred on three courses: Hilltop Golf Course, Pype Hayes Golf Course and Hatchford Brook Golf Centre. Jason Stanton, Operations Director of Mytime Active remarked: “Over 40% of Birmingham’s population is from a non-white background and Mytime Active operates seven golf courses across the city, making us ideally placed to engage with the local population.
“The three courses we chose for the project already had links with the local community and we were able to build on these to develop relationships and discover how to involve more people from BAME groups in golf.”
The project involved local community groups and leaders and looked at everything from the make-up of the communities to the image of the game and the barriers to playing.
These included the usual difficulties, such as time and money, as well as cultural restrictions. For example, a group of Bangladeshi Muslim women were keen to learn but needed a female-only session, taught by a male golf pro with a female assistant, and a relaxed dress code so that they could wear headscarves and saris.
With these barriers overcome, 15 women completed the six-week course, with 12 others attending for between three and five sessions. There are plans to include more golf opportunities in the summer programme at their community centre.
The project first offered golf at trial and taster sessions in the community before signposting the six-week beginner courses at the golf centres. Encouragingly, the average age of the 140 participants was 32, compared to the national average of 46; and 35% were women, compared to the national average of 15%. The largest ethnic group was from a Bangladeshi background, with 32 participants, followed by 30 with a Pakistani background.
The project was supported by Sporting Equals, which promotes greater involvement in sport and physical activity by the BAME population. The organisation provided advice and insight and eight members of the West Midlands staff went even further, by taking part in golf activities in their lunch breaks.
They also modelled for pictures to promote and market the project. Their images help to dispel stereotypes by reflecting the local community and portraying the mixed group in casual, comfortable clothing – and having fun.
They later went to play nine holes at Hatchford Brook and regional officer Dan Allen commented: “Golf was not an accessible sport in the area where I work and live. There were no role models that align themselves to the community groups I surround myself in, therefore I have struggled to play. However, the offer from Mytime Active to participate with my colleagues really appealed and gave me the pathway to get into the sport. Knowing the basics of the technique of how to hit the ball from these lessons has given me the confidence to go to a golf course and not look stupid – which was a definite barrier!”
Sporting Equals Chief Executive, Arun Kang, urges clubs to reach out to and welcome customers from diverse backgrounds. He says: “Golf is an inspiring sport which has produced some great champions from a range of backgrounds; however, there still remains a worrying shortage of BAME engagement.”
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