England Golf has launched a project with three counties to trial new ways of increasing the number of people who play golf and join golf clubs.

The project involves working intensively with clubs and county organisations over two years to grow the game in Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire.

Clubs will receive increased business support, including marketing and training, and will have the opportunity to test new ideas to see if they make the game more accessible and membership more attractive. These could include shorter and faster formats of the game, different types of membership and improved customer service. Projects include:

Staffordshire will tackle the time challenge by piloting a nine-hole strategy called Golf Express, promoting nine-hole green fees, after-work roll-ups and encouraging a range of nine-hole formats for golf club competitions.

Warwickshire will aim to open up the game to a wider audience by making it more accessible. The initiative will take the game from its traditional golf club setting out to families and would-be players in parks and clubs around the county. There will be free, fun beginner coaching sessions with a specially appointed PGA professional and a Play and Reward loyalty card to increase participation.

Northamptonshire will shape a unique project from the insights gained from research commissioned by the England Golf Partnership into current, lapsed and latent golfers. The research findings will be completed by mid-May. Northamptonshire will also support the Golf Foundation by piloting a junior retention programme.

David Joy, England Golf Chief Executive, said: “We are looking at ways we can do things differently by making the sport more relevant to today’s lifestyles and consumer habits.

“For example, people are often short of time so we will investigate new, quicker ways to play, such as nine-hole formats. We will also look at how to change the image of golf, making it more fun and friendly for families.”

“This exciting scheme will allow us to address some existing challenges, try some new approaches, test new ideas and share good practice. We hope that working intensively to grow golf in these three counties will yield vital information that we can then apply nationwide,” he adds.

The Increasing Membership and Participation (IMP) project is part of England Golf’s Strategic Plan 2014-17, Raising Our Game, which urges all who care about the sport to work in partnership to create stronger clubs, increase the number of regular golfers and to halt the decline in club membership

The programme is also being supported by Sport England and the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) and will be externally monitored and evaluated. If it is successful in growing the game in the three counties it will be rolled out nationally to increase participation across the country.

Image © Leaderboard Photography

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