Development Centres offer stepping-stone to higher levels in the game, says Project Manager Colin Bell
Devlopment Centre Project Manager Colin Bell has seen a massive shift in attitudes towards junior golf around Scotland since the ClubGolf programme began and insists there is still more to come as funding was confirmed until 2018.
Speaking exclusively to Scottish Club Golfer, Bell says he is pleased with how the Development Centre programme has performed as it heads into the final year of its three-year rollout to create centres at clubs and facilities across the country.
“A big part of where ClubGolf came from was introducing kids in schools to golf and it was initially targeted at primary five kids around nine-years-old,” said Bell. “We want to help get kids from non-golfing backgrounds and families into the sport. We want to change their perceptions.
“The Development Centre programme was created to more effectively deliver Stage 3 of the ClubGolfprogamme across the whole country. There were pockets of delivery happening but we wanted to ensure it was accessible to more young players aspiring to develop their skills.
“Over 30 clubs and facilities around the country deliver an all-weather group coaching programme in the off-season. The aim was to access the right facilities, build on the quality of the coaching delivery, and more broadly, engage PGA professionals in supporting the ClubGolf programme.
“It offers kids a stepping-stone between enjoying playing the game, accessing area and county competitive opportunities, and potentially being accepted onto the SGU/SLGA Performance Development programmes. For 2013/2014, 48% of players who were accepted onto the Academy programme came from the Development Centre programme.”
Bell started as the Argyll and Dunbartonshire Regional Manager for Scotland’s national junior golf programme ClubGolf in 2007, and moved to his new role working specifically with Development Centres at the beginning of 2013. The role has allowed him to work hands on with clubs as kids as young as 11-years-old join Development Centres.
“With Development Centres , we’ve kept it restricted to 11 to 17-year-olds at the moment because players need to have a handicap to get into the programme, and also because we’re doing some extra education within the Development Centres.
“In addition to the 30 hours of group coaching, approximately 10 hours of modular learning is accessed by the players through a range of resources from practical workshops, to worksheets, and online information. We’re trying to ensure players understand the importance of being an all round athlete, but steer them away from seeing it as more schoolwork or homework to do.
“We want to teach kids all aspects of golf and tell them about the impact goal-setting, keeping a practice diary, strength and conditioning, nutrition and understanding golf equipment can all make to their game.
A recent Development Centre player survey highlighted the quality of these courses. The survey showed 92% of players saying that the centres had improved their game either ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’, as well as all members reducing their handicap since joining the programme. Perhaps most important, though, would be all players remained a member of a golf club and all players remained as a member of their same golf club they were at when they joined Development Centres.
Bell works on a weekly basis with Development Centre coaches and the centres themselves, and he says he has seen a big change in the way clubs view juniors in recent years.
“There’s been a massive shift in attitude in golf clubs. It may be a result of dwindling memberships, but many have started looking at what they can do differently. ClubGolf is one approach they’ve used to say we can transform this game and make it more interesting for kids. It gets a large base of players coming in to golf clubs for the first time and, from there, they can progress into Development Centres.”
So far, 32 Development Centres have been established at existing ClubGolf Delivery Centres, with applications for the final group ending on March 31.
“We’re looking for the right centres to deliver these programmes, and the right coaches. If necessary, we can put the two together. That’s part of my role to manage that relationship. If that facility has a pro who chooses not to take part, we can arrange for a visiting Development Coach to deliver the programme from that facility.
“This positive endorsement from the players in the first year of Development Centres now gives us great confidence of what we can achieve with this programme, building on the great success of the ClubGolf programme so far.”