Golf has often been labelled as one of the toughest and costliest sports for young people to break into due to club membership fees, price of equipment and the scarcity of participation opportunities in comparison to other sports. 

Research from Sports Direct revealed that golf is the third most expensive sport for young people to get started in, with an average first year cost of £374 becoming a worry for the overall game’s growth impacting the potential next generation. 

However, Laura Yapp, Junior Participation Manager at England Golf, spoke to Insider Sport on how the organisation is creating affordable and fair practices for more young people that would ensure golf’s next superstars are being provided with the right opportunities. 

Insider Sport: Firstly Laura, how encouraging is it to see women and junior participation in golf on the rise?

Laura Yapp: It is really positive and great that participation for women and juniors is on the rise. Get into Golf Rookies and Girls Golf Rocks have been designed to provide young people with an opportunity to try golf in a fun and social environment. 

They provide activity in groups which provide social interactions too. It’s encouraging to see that the work being done to get more young people playing is having an impact. 

IS: Rory McIlroy on a recent appearance on Stick to Football recognised the shift in mentality when it comes to increasing participation. What do you feel has helped contribute to this shift?

Yapp: I agree with Rory McIlroy in that having facilities like Top Golf, which offers that fun and social introduction to the game, has contributed to this shift. Engaging with facilities and providing an environment which makes people feel more comfortable can only be positive for the game and provide the right first experience.

I think having more role models that young people can relate to has an influence on them wanting to continue to play and develop into golfers. 

There is still work to be done to break barriers down and change the mentality of the game, but if we can work together as an industry, to keep shifting perceptions and working to create the right opportunities, we can hopefully encourage the next generation.

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IS: How much of the barriers blocking grassroots participation can be attributed to old golf club memberships and cost of equipment?

Yapp: Cost can be one of the barriers to participation in the game, but there are a number of clubs who are taking positive steps in breaking this down to make it more accessible. 

Get into Golf Rookies provides six hours of golf activity which means that young people can give golf a go with follow-on offers and opportunities to join coaching sessions at the club.  

There are many clubs that offer introductory or academy memberships which are centred around coaching and using the practise facilities. Junior membership also is generally a lot lower than the full membership fees, making it more accessible.

In relation to equipment, there are clubs who provide equipment for those who don’t have it, meaning that you can wait and see if you enjoy it before making the commitment to buying equipment.  

IS: What measures can be taken to help golf become more inclusive and open to junior players?

Yapp: We are already seeing a lot of steps towards golf being inclusive for young people. With adapted equipment like Golfway, which can be used in schools, community settings and golf clubs, it means that golf can be taken away from the golf club and delivered in an environment in which young people feel comfortable. 

With dress codes being relaxed at golf clubs, it means that when starting, there is less pressure to have all the equipment and clothes to play.

With the new facility affiliation with England Golf, it means there is support and engagement with facilities that can provide a different and, sometimes, less daunting first experience, which can lead to transition to club membership as and when ready. 

IS: How feasible would it be for schools across the UK to implement golf as a sport of interest and would this require the support of the government?

Yapp: With the Golf Foundation’s Unleash Your Drive programme for primary schools, there is a great opportunity for schools to get golf as part of their curriculum. It provides access to training and resources so teachers can deliver it themselves, and also discounts on equipment designed to be used by young people in schools. 

Alongside the practical element, the programme also looks at nine mental toughness tools and supports the development of these. It would be great to get the government’s backing to get golf into more schools and ensure that as many children and young people have the opportunity to pick up a golf club for the first time, in an easy, accessible environment. 

credit: England Golf

IS: Can you explain how England Golf is contributing to the promotion of grassroots golf with the Get into Golf Rookies campaign?

Yapp: Get into Golf Rookies has been introduced and developed in 2023 with young people in mind. Applications are now open, providing six hours of golf activity, with the emphasis on fun and social sessions, providing the opportunity for young people to give golf a go. 

It is important that we support clubs and facilities to bring more young people into the game and a programme which they are able to run alongside the current activity they are delivering at their club. 

The programme gives golf clubs a ready-made national programme to support them in recruiting more young people into their golf club. It’s been designed so that clubs can use it as an introductory opportunity which then leads and supports integration into the club’s junior offering. 

IS: Lastly Laura, and thank you for your time, how fundamentally important is it that young golfers are provided the right opportunities to help the sport usher in a new generation of players? 

Yapp: Providing the right opportunities means that young people will get a positive experience of golf and hopefully want to continue to play. 

England Golf wants to work with and support golf clubs to ensure they feel able to provide the right opportunities for young people, right from picking up a golf club for the first time through to lifelong participation. 

Ensuring opportunities are accessible for all ages and abilities will support the next generation coming into golf. 

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