A CHESTER club has been nominated for a top national award in recognition of its efforts to encourage a new generation of golfers.
Upton-by-Chester is one of three clubs in the running for the GolfMark club of the year.
GolfMark is a national seal of approval from England Golf for clubs that go the extra mile in trying to attract both juniors and beginners.
A total of 20 clubs were nominated for the award – now in its fifth year – with Warwickshire’s Leamington & County and Garon Park in Essex joining Upton-by-Chester on the shortlist.
The winners will be announced at a special presentation night held in February next year at the County Golf Development Conference.
“It’s brilliant news and we are absolutely delighted to be on the shortlist,” said Upton-by-Chester’s junior organiser Jenny Turner.
Judges from the England Golf Partnership have visited the leading contenders to hear first hand about the work they do in running taster sessions for beginners and coaching programmes across all ages.
“Being visited by the judges was a bit like an Ofsted report,” added Jenny, “but it gave us the chance to show the kind of coaching we offer and the environment we have created for newcomers to golf.
“Club member Saul Peake, who is helping us on the marketing side, helped put together an excellent presentation.”
Rather than a dry run through the club’s achievements in the committee room, club officials took the judges out on the course.
Pupils fromUpton Heath primary school and Upton High School represented the juniors, some of the club’s adult beginners showed how they are getting to grips with the game and one-armed golfer Dave Waterhouse demonstrated how it is a sport for all abilities.
“We walked the judges round a few of the holes on the course,” explained Jenny, “and they had the chance to talk to different people about their experiences of getting involved with golf. We wanted to show that we are a friendly, welcoming club and that the GolfMark is not just about juniors. We had put various prompts up on trees around the course as reminders of what we do. We thought it would make for a more interesting visit and hopefully the judges were impressed by what they saw.”
The club, based in Upton Lane and founded in 1934, has taken a proactive approach to attracting potential new players for the future.
“We aim to be in the middle of the local community and make the best use of our facilities,” adds Jenny.
The club staged a family fun day this summer, which attracted more than 130 people, runs a three-day golfing holiday to Wales for the juniors as well as film nights and ten pin bowling evenings and is looking to visit even more schools and local groups, like scouts and guides, in the future. Children can join from as young as six.
It has already created a successful junior legacy with players like Michael Jones, Iain Robertson, Emma McBride and Steve Priest going on to become professionals.
The club’s chairman of the board, Gareth Owen, is a former junior member himself, former Cheshire girls champion and junior Kate Whitmore is now working at the Belfry while Laura Jones is back at the club after a successful spell in America. The club’s head pro, Steve Dewhurst, plays a key role in the delivery of the kind of projects which originally earned the club GolfMark.
“Steve does a tremendous amount of work in coaching both adult beginners and juniors,” adds Jenny. “We aim to get players out on the course as soon as possible, whether that be juniors, people in their 60s who have never played before or mums who have dropped off their children.
“We also offer a special trial membership category, which gives adults the chance to sample what being a club member is all about for just £105 for three months. It is a great way of starting out in the sport and getting to know people.”
The drive to find new golfers is backed nationally by the Get into golf campaign and, in Cheshire, by the county golf partnership which brings together the men’s union, ladies’ association and the PGA professionals along with other sporting partners.
“Golf is a great game to get involved with,” adds Jenny. “It is very sociable and teaches the juniors in particular about etiquette, behaviour and how to mix with other people of all ages. We play lots of team competitions to encourage that.”
Upton-by-Chester’s juniors won the President’s Shield this summer, which is contested by the four Chester clubs, also including Vicars Cross, Chester and Eaton.
GolfMark was first launched in 2006 and Filey recently became the 600th club to achieve the award.