Low retention of young junior members was affecting clubs in the Scottish Isles. Without the guidance of a Pro, the number of people dropping out in some of Scotland’s most remote locations was on the rise and there was a real challenge to face in terms of general enthusiasm.
Eager to combat this, Allan Martin, PGA Coach Education & Development Manager, and Willie MacKay, Scottish Golf Club Development Officer, worked to bring the Roving Pro initiative, where a qualified PGA Pro travels to golf clubs without a Professional, to deliver coaching sessions and drive participation in some of Scotland’s most scenic, yet remote, golf clubs – Orkney, South Ronaldsay and Stromness.
Having each submitted individual applications to Scottish Golf’s Roving Pro fund to apply for visits by a PGA Professional, these were rolled into a collaborative package and funding approved.
Scottish Golf sought the guidance of Douglas Slater, a Junior Convener/PGA Level 2 coach at Stromness Golf Club in the Orkney Isles, to oversee the planning of the events. From there, the Roving Pro became not just a great idea but a reality – and one that worked very well.
Delivering the promise
For three years, Allan Martin, when at Callendar Golf Club, travelled from Scotland’s mainland to deliver the programme to juniors and beginner adults each year which made a huge difference to participation levels and encouraging wider interest in the sport.
Gary Lister, Teaching Professional at Nairn Dunbar Golf Club, has continued the development since 2017 and coach both the Roving Pro and Get into Golf, travelling to Orkney in April, June and August to deliver coaching sessions and spend a whole day at each club.
All the clubs maintain that the visits are imperative to retaining their junior members and developing their golfing ability.
More than 1080 people have received PGA Pro coaching across Orkney since the Roving Pro concept began, with 100 hours being delivered each year with Scottish Golf support.
During these trips the Pros delivered coaching to beginner adults as well as juniors and attracted many non-golfers to their Get into Golf sessions. The golf clubs set up a Buddy System with beginner being take onto the golf course to learn to play by existing club members.
Across the three golf clubs over 150 adults have taken up golf and the clubs have introduced an affordable beginner annual subscription rate to attract them into membership.
Development Academy Opportunities
Two promising youngsters, Ewan Foubister and Erik Park of Stromness Golf Club, attended a North District Talent ID session at the Scottish Golf Development Academy based at Nairn Dunbar Golf Club on the mainland. They received letters of acceptance, but logistically it was not manageable to make the 20 trips from the island to the mainland.
In 2016, Gary Dingwall, Head Teaching Professional at Royal Dornoch, with the help of Douglas Slater, travelled to the Islands and delivered six whole day sessions during the colder season. Although they were long days, the improvements made were instrumental to the juniors’ development.
Throughout the winter season, Gary and the youngsters used video clips to record swing techniques and make comparisons, emailing data from his home in the mainland to the island so they could continuously develop their skillset.
The volunteer PGA Level 1 coaches at the clubs then followed up on the coaching session with their own ClubGolf lessons and held junior competitions to keep the youngsters engaged and experience the competitive nature of the sport.
Willie MacKay, Scottish Golf Regional Club Development Officer said:
“The Roving Pro coaching would not have been as effective if the volunteer PGA Level 1 coaches at the three golf clubs had not followed up the coaching with their own ClubGolf coaching sessions and held junior competitions. They took turns in observing the Pro coaching and in between the visits they followed the coaching tips and work programmes that Allan Martin and Gary Lister created for them to follow.
“The winter sessions were phase 1 of a long-term plan. As well as expanding these sessions for next season, we also hope to see these juniors compete in some mainland events. Our plan is to have Orkney Juniors compete in regional events and build up to national competitions.
“Juniors such as Michael Schinkel, and Lee Finlay, have in previous years been heading up North District Order of Merit tables with this system in place. I see huge potential with these juniors and during the mild winter they play Stableford competitions to sharpen their competitive edge. I am delighted to see such positive support from Orkney Island Council for a bid to host the 2023 Island Games. Who is to say that a few of these juniors will not be winning medals in golf in future years?”
Clubs can apply to Scottish Golf now for funding, your Regional Club Development Officer will work with you to engage a local ‘Roving’ PGA Professional. We can help fund the cost of that PGA professional to deliver a 10-week coaching block at your club for your junior and adult coaching programme.
In order for a club to access the funding a planning meeting will be held, prior to any coaching taking place, with the Regional Club Development Officer for that area. This will ensure plans are in place to support the club’s current coaching workforce and explore a more formal arrangement with the PGA Professional. The club and Regional Club Development Officer will then make a joint ‘bid’ for Roving Pro funding.
To find out more about the support Scottish Golf can offer to help your club, please contact your Regional Club Development Officer.
Visit here for more information on the Roving Pro Fund