Golf's breath of fresh air
Golf is not one of the easiest sports to get into.
Regarded as a somewhat elitist pastime; stuffy clubhouses, strict dress codes, archaic rules and membership costs means the game itself often remains a mystery to many.
Even in 2017 the sport struggles to escape its antiquated status.
Three months ago Scotland’s Muirfield golf course needed a second vote - and the threat of losing the Open championship - before allowing women members to join the club.
Fortunately the narrow-minded is slowly making way for the more open-minded.
Professional golfer James Goddard, based at Burnley Leisure’s Prairie Sports Village, is somebody who understands the importance of growing the sport.
Since James took up a role as Quest Golf Academy alongside fellow professionals Rick Shiels and Peter Finch, he has made a concerted effort to ensure golf nurtures and embraces all newcomers.
His ‘Getin2Golf’ sessions for women and children especially, held on Monday evenings, have been overwhelmingly well received.
“Working with the youngsters; that is always something that has been big on the agenda. I was fortunate enough as a junior golfer to be part of a great junior set-up. Unless you have a parent who plays golf or has an involvement in the sport, where do you start?
"I've had people tell me that even driving up to a golf course and approaching somebody there can be a daunting prospect. So we want to take a different view and have a different approach really.
“The learning side of things is done in a clever way because it’s done via fun and games – not grab a club and this is how you grip it.
“I don’t even advertise it as golf tuition, I’ll advertise it as exercise, fun, fresh air. It’s all done in a fun way. It’s been really well received. The kids are like sponges. You tell them to do something and they are so receptive.
“The sessions are six weeks long and I’ve had quite a few stay on for individual lessons once the course has finished. There’s some real potential there, seriously, some real potential.”
James is refreshingly candid about golf’s issues and is a fir believer that clubs could do a lot more to help the situation.
“Golf has taken a plummet; it is most definitely in a slump. I think in 2008 it peaked and then since the financial crash it’s just been on a downward trajectory.
“Money is a massive factor. There is not a lot of disposable income available to families these days. You think of somebody new trying to get into golf. You’re brand new to the game. You’ve got to get clubs, then there’s the whole attire thing.
“I know they are relaxing rules at a lot of clubs; maybe they should offer a day where there is a relaxed rule for dress code. So people who are interested in it, they don’t have to go out and buy a pair of shoes, a pair of trousers, a collared shirt because that is a massive outlay of expense and that’s the barrier. I definitely think clubs can do more.”
Towneley Golf Club recently held an ‘Introduction to Golf’ evening for women hosted by James. More than 30 participants enjoyed a few holes of pitch and putt before sampling the club’s social side afterwards.
Events like this can only help according to James.
“It’s an introduction to golf; a sort of welcome meeting looking for new members and even for existing members as well. It’s about getting the general public to come up and see what it’s all about.
“Tuition is great and to get the basics down is a necessity in my opinion but there is no substitute for getting out on the golf course.
“There’s a big social side to golf as well which I don’t think a lot of people realise. Yeah the golf bit is great and we all want to get out and play but at the same time it’s nice to get out of the house and enjoy meeting new people.”
Elaine Stuttard, who only picked up a club for the first time a few weeks ago, was one of the golfers pitching, chipping and putting their way around Towneley.
“I’ve been having some lessons. I’m four weeks into the six-week course with James. I saw a sign in Towneley Park and I thought, ‘I’ll have a go at that’. I did feel a bit nervous at first but what have you to lose? You don’t have to buy any kit, the course only cost Â£25 for six weeks and the tuition is really good. I’m enjoying it so much.”
Fellow participant Carolyn Wormwell said: “I did the six-week course just before Christmas and I really enjoyed it. I wanted to come out onto a course for a real and put what I had learned into practice. It’s very different being on a course but I would recommend giving it a go to anyone.The ladies I have met through it have all been really nice.”
James will be carrying on the workshops for the foreseeable future and is determined to show people that golf can be enjoyed regardless of age or ability.
“It is a game and it should be enjoyed. It’s important that we give people an opportunity to experience it.”
The six-week beginners‘ course for children aged five –14 runs on Mondays from 5 – 6pm with the women’s course 6 – 7pm.
For more details, visit www.burnleyleisure.co.uk and www.questgolfacademy.co.uk.