Castle Barna golf club has seen a steady flow of juniors over the last number of years growing from just 22 juniors in 2017 to 90 in 2019. We got talking to junior convenor Mark Kelly about their junior programme and what they have done to keep the programme growing.
How did you get involved in the junior section?
My son played basketball and hurling, and I always got involved in helping and coaching. My son was a keen golfer, so I was keen to get involved in the club as well. In 2017 my son won the Junior Captains prize with only seven playing in the competition. I knew that Castle Barna G.C was a great resource to the town and surrounding areas and that our junior club should be a lot bigger and better.
How has the junior section grown over the last number of years?
There were always juniors in the golf club, back in 2017 we had 22 members with seven or eight playing on junior captains’ day and about 35 taking part in the summer camp. With the support and input of the junior committee, we set up and ran Easter and Summer camps. The camps were advertised on social media, in the papers and in schools. Easter camp was run over two days from 10am-2pm and were free of charge. The club is easily accessible in from the town and we wanted to give everyone the opportunity to try golf for free. This year we had 150 kids taking part in our Easter camp.
Every Saturday throughout the summer our volunteers run fun non-technical golf activities for all junior members and non-members. We keep our Saturday sessions open so that anyone can come along and try golf and if they enjoy it, they can join as a member. Over the course of the summer we had 50 juniors turn up for our academy sessions (4-7 year olds) and 110 turn up for our other junior session (8-18 year olds).
We currently have 90 junior members. This increase in members allowed us to appoint two Junior Captains, a boys and girls junior captain for the first time in the club’s history. 85 juniors took part in our junior captains prize this year playing in a variety of 3, 9 and 18-hole competitions.
Do you offer different categories of membership for juniors?
Yes, we offer three different junior memberships with no membership costing more than €55 for the year. This year we introduced an academy membership for four to seven-year olds which has proved to be popular with 25 new members signing up. All our juniors have full access to the golf course.
- Academy 4-7 years old
- Juveniles 8-14 years old
- Juniors 14-18 years old
Did you find it difficult to recruit volunteers?
No, we’ve never been stuck for volunteers. We started off with around 10-12 volunteers and now have 25 that we rotate between the lessons with a PGA pro, Saturday sessions and the camps. Once the members could see the junior section starting to grow, and with an overall interest in the junior section amongst general membership, we have seen an increase in the number of members expressing an interest in volunteering.
Justin from CGI ran a leaders course earlier in the year with our volunteers and this was very informative and showed us how to set up various warm up games using fundamental movement activities, how to create fun engaging sessions using a variety of chipping and putting games using activity based learning with no technical instructions and also how to cater for small and large groups and amend the activities for different abilities.
How have your current members got involved?
As well as the volunteering, members have been a great help as they donate golf balls and old clubs for our sessions. We have several sets that juniors can borrow if they want to go out and practice or play a few holes that they can just return at the end of their game. The juniors love being able to come down and play a few holes with their friends and have fun. Kids change their mind about sports every week, so allowing them to “try before they buy” for a couple of weeks helps to put parents minds at ease in that they don’t have to buy all of the equipment before they are sure if their child enjoys it or not.
Have you found using the Golf4Girls4Life booklets and boy’s framework useful?
Yes definitely. They are a great resource and give structure to the sessions and we know what we are going to be doing each week. The different drills and activities are varied and fun and gives the juniors responsibility for keeping track of their scores. We pair them up and allow them to keep track of their progress each week.
Did you run any other events during the summer?
We work closely with New forest golf club and run the two junior sections together. As we don’t have a resident PGA professional, the pro from New Forest delivers the lessons for our club also. Their juniors play here during the week and then our juniors get to play their course as well. It’s a great opportunity to allow them to play different courses and to meet more juniors.
We also ran golf sixes over the summer which proved very successful and popular. It is a great format especially for our younger players as there is no pressure on them as they have a partner and the six holes is enough at that age. We ran a mini qualifier every Monday with New Forest which the juniors loved. There was great excitement for the regional qualifier in Royal Tara as it was most of their first times to play another golf club and to represent the club.
Do you have any plans to keep the juniors engaged over the Winter?
We try to keep the juniors engaged over the winter months by running several different events including our Halloween and Christmas fancy dress competitions. The juniors dress up as they wish and play a competition over six holes. After we go inside and have a party for them with fun activities. We also plan to run our Junior Ryder Cup where we divide Juniors into 2 teams and play different formats including Singles, Fourballs and Scrambles over 18 and 9 holes to accommodate juniors that have a handicap and don’t have a handicap. It was a huge success last year
We ran a six-hole winter league last year where we had 20-30 juniors taking part. We plan to run it this winter with New Forest GC and alternate venues.
Our juniors who have handicaps are part of the men’s winter league. There are two juniors on each team and the adults are happy to play with them. There are no obstacles or issues as the members know that they are the future of the club and will be the members in 15-20 years. It’s also a great experience as the juniors learn off the adults and the adults are learning something new off the juniors as well. It’s a win win!
What advice would you give to other clubs looking to grow their junior section?
My main advice would be to make it as fun, enjoyable and as accessible for everyone as possible. We want everyone to have the same opportunity to experience golf. We have old washing machines that the juniors can chip into so that they can pretend they are like Rory McIlroy. With the recent success of Stephanie Meadow and Leona MaGuire gaining their LPGA tour cards, and with Shane Lowry from only down the road, the juniors have a great range of role models to look up to.
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