Girls Golf Rocks is back across the UK with thousands of girls getting the chance to try golf for the first time thanks to England Golf and The Golf Foundation
In the wake of the lionesses’ stellar performance in the women’s football world cup, and as England women cricketers ride the crest of a winning wave, girl power is also very much to the fore on the golf course.
In fact, thanks to our women footballers, cricketers and international golfers like Georgia Hall, Charley Hull and Bronte Law, international women’s sport has never been so high profile, and the huge success of a national programme designed to attract girls to golf promises to deliver its own boost to the women’s game.
Girls Golf Rocks is in its fifth year across the UK, attracting hundreds of girls to taster sessions and coaching at clubs across Northumberland, Durham, Cumbria and Yorkshire.
The programme, run by England Golf and The Golf Foundation, is now operating across 26 golfing counties, and here in the north, it is making its mark, as Durham county junior organiser Bobby Griffiths attests. “I’m absolutely over the moon with the programme,” says Bobby, who took on her role five years ago. “I’ve never had so many girls involved with the county system.
“When I took over as junior organiser five years ago, we only had our elite girls. Today the county has two coaching groups that come together nine times a year. Next year, we’ll need to host another session, which is fantastic.
“That growth has been driven by the work of England Golf and The Golf Foundation, and tremendous support from our clubs in delivering the Girls Golf Rocks programme.
“So many of the girls coming to our coaching have been introduced to the game through Girls Golf Rocks, and they’ve been inspired by the programme and the work of our ambassadors at their sessions.”
As well as having more girls in the county system, Bobby sees more girls at clubs too. She says: “Having the groups of girls at so many of our clubs is great. So many of them are staying engaged with golf after their introduction because they’ve now got other girls to play with.
“It’s really important to have those groups of girls in as many clubs as possible. With those, more girls will stay in golf and hopefully progress into long-term golfers. It’s a very exciting time for girls golf in Durham – from the youngest girls right through to our girls out in America on golf scholarships.”
In 2018, when 21 counties were involved in the programme, 1,650 girls aged 5-18 took part in free taster sessions. Of those, 1,210 went on to complete coaching sessions and 157 took up membership at a club.
This year, 1,800 girls took part in free taster sessions across the UK in May. Following the taster sessions, the girls are invited to take part in group beginners’ coaching over six weeks, and from there, many clubs offer introductory memberships and further instruction.
In Durham – which hosted its first sessions in 2016 – Castle Eden, Darlington, Houghton-le-Spring and Woodham are all taking part. Meanwhile, sessions are held at Barrow, Carus Green, Eden and Penrith in Cumbria. In Yorkshire, sessions are being held at Bedale, Cookridge Hall, Moor Allerton, The KP and other clubs across the county.
Meanwhile, in Northumberland, Bedlingtonshire, Matfen Hall, Morpeth, Ponteland, Tynemouth and Close House are taking part. PGA professionals Sally Hinton-Lewis and Will Robson are hosting more than 30 girls at Close House at the moment. Sally says: “It’s been really inspiring to see some of the girls from our first year taking part in my county academy coaching this year, the same system all the England internationals from Northumberland have progressed through. We’ve also got girls who’ve gone on to join clubs locally, which makes me really proud as we’ve inspired them to do that through Girls Golf Rocks.
“The elite level of golf in Northumberland is in a really good place right now and it’s fantastic to have the national support of England Golf and The Golf Foundation to inspire the next generation.
“We’ve also been lucky to have such great ambassadors in Rebecca Hall, Maggie Sandison, Rachel Gourley and Maggie Whitehead. Hopefully the girls will go on to follow in the elite girls’ footsteps. If they don’t, they’ll go on to play golf in clubs and from there they will inspire the next generation of girls to try the sport.”
Lauren Spray, England Golf women and girls’ manager, says: “Girls’ golf is an area with huge potential for growth. Our partnership with the Golf Foundation started with a pilot programme in Essex in 2014 specifically for girls and this year we’ve reached more than 1,800 girls with taster sessions.
“Our research shows that we need to provide girls with an environment where they’re with other girls. Some girls are prepared to compete alongside the boys from an early age, but so many aren’t and they miss out on the opportunity because there aren’t the same numbers of girls in our sport currently. This programme is all about enjoying the game and building friendships through golf, and creating opportunities for girls to play golf.”
The phased roll-out of the programme, which will grow further in 2020, has allowed England Golf and The Golf Foundation to ensure clubs are prepared to support the girls following the programme.
Lauren added: “From what we’ve seen so far, there is a real appetite from our coaches and clubs to grow the programme and make it an even bigger success. The passion from so many of the clubs, not just the coaches but the volunteers and the people around the clubs, is really inspiring. It’s great to see clubs driving this programme collectively – making sure things are in place for the girls and their parents to enjoy the sessions and feel part of the club.
“I’ve been the only girl in a golf club before and it’s very exciting to see thousands of girls trying golf. There are more hubs of girls coming through each year and it will continue to grow as we go forward.
“The aim of Girls Golf Rocks is to introduce girls to the game and make it as much fun as possible. Of course, some of the girls taking part will go on to competing and that is going to be one of the many benefits of having more girls playing golf.
“We’ll be really proud when we get girls on the national stage that have picked up a club through Girls Golf Rocks, but we’ll be equally proud to see more girls playing golf in every form having taken part in the programme.”
Sessions continue across the region in the coming weeks, with further sessions available at each of the clubs taking part. If you’ve missed the start of this year’s programme, contact a host club or visit www.englandgolf.org/girls-golf-rocks