SCOTTISH golf will witness the creation of 50 Development Centres over the next three years with the mission of nurturing budding young talent and stemming the tide of dwindling membership numbers.
Inspired by a national survey conducted earlier this year, which indicated that Scotland’s lack of practice facilities and access to top coaches were failing the average club golfer, the programme is part of a £7.2m proposal to turn more children into golf club members.
Utilising the facilities of existing golf venues which meet special criteria - and which received favourable feedback from this year’s Scottish Golf Facility Plan, the SGU areas and the SLGA counties - youngsters in the latter stages of the national junior programme, ClubGolf, will be exposed to high-quality coaching and advice.
The survey, which consulted 1,300 golfers from 498 clubs, identified that while ClubGolf was successful in putting clubs into kids’ hands at the earliest stages of the programme, still too few - typically around the age of 12-13 - were maintained as club members. It also found 89% of Scottish clubs were seeking more members.
As a result of the Development Centres' establishment, it is also expected that more promising young talent will be recognised and cultivated into the nation’s next brood of successful professional golfers.
The centres will be funded by ClubGolf Scotland reserves and will be established in three separate stages. The Scottish Golf Union, Scottish Ladies Golfing Association and ClubGolf jointly named the first 21 clubs and facilities to gain Development Centre status during an announcement at the Gleneagles Hotel, venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Gleneagles, a major supporter of junior golf in Scotland and home to the PGA National Academy - Scotland, is among the Phase 1 venues.
Kevin Cademy-Taylor, Scottish Golf performance development manager, explained in detail the rationale behind the establishment of the Development Centres.
He said. “The Development Centres are open to boys and girls, aged between 11 and 17, who have a club handicap. They will also bridge a gap between ClubGolf Stage 2 and our Academy. They will provide structured coaching opportunities for young players to help them reach their potential.
“They will promote the improvement of a young golfer’s all round game, focusing on the fundamentals and skills development, with a particular focus on short game and putting.
“The facilities we have selected will provide an environment which will allow them to work on all these aspects, so it’s not just about hitting balls on a driving range.
“In addition, a series of educational workshops will be delivered that will allow players and their parents to gain a better understanding of performance development for golf.”
Players within the new programme will be entitled to 30 hours of golf coaching with expert advice on themes (around 10 hours each) such as fitness, nutrition and psychology.
Young players will continue to play the majority of their golf within their own club environment, alongside their own local coach.
Andrew Coltart, the former Ryder Cup player and European Tour star, who is now a member of the SGU’s Performance Committee, was also on hand at the launch to offer his backing.
“The Scottish Golf Development Centres will help more youngsters make the most of their talent,” Coltart said.
“We have some great facilities here in Scotland, so this gives us the opportunity to maximise them.
I’m very encouraged that the coaching focus will be on the short game, given the high standards at the top level.
“The success of the European team at last month’s Ryder Cup will undoubtedly be a great inspiration to all the youngsters in ClubGolf and the new Development Centres, and it’s a very exciting time to be involved in Scottish Golf with the Gleneagles event less than two years away.”