Kanturk golf club has seen a steady flow of juniors over the last number of years with 120 juniors to date. I got talking to junior convenor John Duggan about their junior programme and what his advice to other clubs is.
How did you get involved in the junior section?
This is my third year in the role as junior convenor in the club. I played golf as a junior and kept playing socially when I became a teacher. I am quite competitive and have always played football and rugby. About five years ago I played in a club match play competition, and I started to get the same buzz that I did when I played a rugby match. As a junior, the club was always there for me and this has given me a sense of ownership and a way of giving back to the club that gave me so much from the game.
How has membership grown in the last few years?
We currently have 120 juniors, nearly 40% of which are girls. When I first started, we held a fun open day and had approximately 90 junior members the first year. We have seen very little dropout in the last few years and have a steady membership. Due to the large number of junior members that we have, we currently only accept juniors who have a parent/ grandparent/ relative/ guardian in the club to join. From this we have also seen an increase in our adult membership as a number of parents joined so that their children could also join. We are hoping to open up membership to more children and have a few irons in the fire around this.
A lot of our lapsed members have also re-joined as they were already bringing their children down or supervising on the course so they thought they might as well get in on the action and join and play too. We also started running a number of parent and child competitions which have proven popular as it brings out everyone’s competitive side.
We take our cadets from eight years old and their activities are based on ability not age and not split into boys and girls. We want to ensure all our juniors’ progress at their own rate.
What has been the best piece of advice you received to help develop the junior section in Kanturk?
The biggest help we have received is the support and advice from CGI participation officer Jennifer Hickey. The main thing that Jennifer advised us to do that we found very beneficial was shortening the course for the juniors as outlined in the Golf4Girls4Life and boys framework booklets. The juniors must match or beat a benchmark score from each shortened tee before they progress back to the next tee, all the way until they reach the appropriate ladies/ mens tee boxes. At first we found some of the juniors were moving back too quickly so we decided that they must match/ beat the benchmark score twice before they can move back. Below are the shortened courses that we have:
- 100 meter marker- five holes
- 150 meter marker- seven holes
- 200 meter marker- nine holes
- Red tees – Girls begin playing 9 or 18 holes from here, boys play 9 holes
- Boys progress to the mens white tees then start playing 9 or 18 holes.
I think the idea of the shortened course is great as it offers constant rewards and progressions for the juniors and their rounds are slowly getting longer as they build up their stamina to playing a full round.
Image: Kanturk and Doneraile golf sixes teams at the regional qualifier in Doneraile last year.
What activities do you run for the juniors?
I am a primary school teacher so the junior activity is limited during the year however, we are currently looking at arranging more lessons in the coming months. During the Summer, we run eight weeks of junior activities with a combination of both lessons and fun activities on and off the course.
Jennifer also made the suggestions of having food as an option at the end of the activities to allow juniors to socialise. To be honest we found this quite daunting at first as we weren’t sure what to expect, but the reaction from the juniors has been great. The social aspect of golf is so important to implement from a young age and makes their whole golfing experience more enjoyable. The club have been a great support to allow us to do this and we offer a small plate of food such as goujons and chips for €3 and a larger plate for €5. The juniors can’t wait to have their food catch up with the rest of their friends after their round.
How did you find the Golf Sixes last year?
I thought the golf sixes format was a great way to get everyone playing together and introduce them to competition at an early stage in a fun environment. The format was very successful and popular, especially for the younger players as it taught them to work as a team. There was also no pressure if they hit a bad shot as their partner had a second chance. They all learnt from each other and they picked up a second opinion and a new way of looking at things. The fact that there are no handicaps is very appealing and allows everyone to play off a level playing field. The juniors loved it and had so much fun. There was great excitement for the regional qualifier in Doneraile as it was the first time many of them played another golf club and represented the club.
Did you find it difficult to recruit volunteers?
Yes, we found it difficult to get enough volunteers involved at the beginning. The members are great and help in a variety of ways. We have volunteers who help supervise and bring the juniors out onto the golf course and we have others who help the bar with the food after the activities and ensure that all the juniors get fed. We can find something for everyone who wants to help.
Once the members could see the junior section starting to grow we have seen an increase in the number of members expressing an interest in volunteering.
What advice would you give to other clubs looking to grow their junior section?
All juniors get something different from golf, so allow them to do that. We have a grading system which gives them something to aim for and a sense of achievement. The onus is on them to practice and work their way up the grading system. We are very lucky to have Mairead Martin as a member of the club and she has been great offering up her time to help with our juveniles. She is a great role model for the juniors to look up to and aspire to be the best they can be. She can showcase what is possible if you put the work in. Some juniors love the social aspect and team elements of the game while others want to be the best. No matter what someone’s goal is, we just want to ensure that everyone is having fun.