Lottery chips in to help club’s kids to get into the swing of things

Innerleithen GC clubgolf coaches Alan Riddet (foreground) and Gregor Caine with clubgolf juniors from their coaching programme in the newly installed practice nets.
Innerleithen GC clubgolf coaches Alan Riddet (foreground) and Gregor Caine with clubgolf juniors from their coaching programme in the newly installed practice nets.
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A Borders golf club whose junior numbers had ‘faded away’ has been rewarded with two grants for its successful efforts to re-invigorate its youth section.

The funds have been invested into improving practice facilities, training coaches and buying equipment.

Innerleithen Golf Club has, just two years after signing up to offer local children the national junior golf programme, clubgolf, built its weekly junior coaching numbers from nothing up to 30.

“We are astonished by how quickly the clubgolf coaching has grown over the last two years,” said the club’s delighted junior coordinator, Alan Riddet.

The club has forged strong links with nearby St Ronan’s and Walkerburn primary schools, through the commitment of the sportscotland and Borders Active Schools network.

The club’s committee has backed the programme and the members are delighted with the outcome.

As a special offer last autumn, to encourage children to attend coaching and play in between sessions, the club offered junior members nine free coaching sessions. As a result, junior membership grew to 26, roughly 10 percent of the overall membership. Quite a few juniors joined on that basis and a few of their parents have joined also.

Riddet explained that at the recent AGM a further incentive had been agreed. If, in addition to the £50 annual joining fee, a parent pays £20, their child will have 20 coaching sessions (normally £2 a time).

“If you make full use of this it’s a bargain,” he added. “Rather than discounting the coaching sessions there is a payback for the club, which reinvests the money back into the junior section.

“At the same time, parents who bring their children regularly to coaching will more or less get all their money back.”

To help maintain the impetus, the club resurrected a competition involving club members playing with children in a pairs format, which had been abandoned years ago because of a lack of juniors. The event proved so popular that it has been put back on the calendar along with one other adult and junior competition. Further informal junior competitions will be run through the summer.

The club’s new challenge of junior growth is even beginning to outstrip its resources.

“We have very limited practice space,” said Riddet. “When we do our Sunday coaching we have to close three holes for two hours, which, fortunately, is something our members support. And having four qualified coaches, who coach on a six-to-one ratio, makes coaching the high numbers of children a bit tight at times.”

Fortunately there is a solution. The Big Lottery 2014 awarded £1,010, half of which has been invested in golf equipment, with the balance being invested into training new coaches and helping the existing coaching workforce develop their own credentials and experience.

An Awards for All grant of £6,000 has paid for practice bays, nets and mats installed on a patch of reclaimed land behind the clubhouse. Members have also built a practice bunker.

“Everything that comes in we reinvest in the junior section and with these grants we now have plenty of equipment and we will soon have dedicated coaching facilities,” explained Riddet. “The important thing is to get them here using the club, feeling welcome, and playing and practising.”