Golf’s policy of freely exporting education around the world was dramatically emphasised in two months of widespread activity recently when NINE emerging countries were visited as the Golf Development Programme gathered yet more pace.
New golfing nations – spread between South and Central America, the Caribbean and the Far East – benefited from the joint initiative between The R&A and the PGAs of Europe as highly qualified consultant coaches were funded in helping fledgling golf cultures to adopt best practices as they grow the game.
Between mid-October and December golfing missionary-style trips were undertaken to Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Republic of the Union of Myanmar (more commonly known as Burma), Panama and Trinidad and Tobago thereby taking the number of countries receiving such aid past the 50 mark funded by R&A surpluses from the staging of The Open Championship.
As a result, the wealth of knowledge accumulated from these new nations, and the most favourable ways in which they can be integrated more comfortably into the world’ family’ of golf, is beyond measure.
Local coaches in Costa Rica are doing ‘a fantastic job’…custom-fitted clubs for juniors are urgently needed in Myanmar…golf professionals burst with enthusiasm in Columbia…Panama’s challenge is to teach its juniors to play…Argentina needs a long term strategy…all this and very much more is recorded by the PGAs of Europe consultants.
Alison White, Assistant Director – Golf Development for The R&A commented, “For more than ten years The R&A has worked with the PGAs of Europe to manage the delivery of much of our worldwide “Working for Golf” development programme. During that time we have seen a number of enhancements to the original programme and we are very happy with the structured way in which the various missions are organised.”
She added, “The skills, knowledge, aptitudes and experience of the specially selected pool of Golf Development Professionals which The PGAs of Europe has assembled, ensures that we can offer the most suitable package of help regardless of where the country is on the development curve.”
Brief samples from their report to The R&A and the PGAs of Europe follow, showing the extent to which the consultant’s forensic examination of the various countries’ golfing needs have identified how growth may be encouraged:
ARGENTINA: Johan Hampf & Henrik Lundqvist (October 29-November 4): “The AAG (Association of Argentine Golf) appears to be making excellent progress in their efforts of enhancing the knowledge of the coaches in Argentina… a long term strategy is recommended to create a structured and sustainable development plan. Parallel to this a continuing development of the basic training program is needed to build good professionals for the future.”
BRAZIL: Tony Bennett (December 2012): “The development of a national junior programme together with the identification of an elite performance pathway has been the focus of attention for the Confederation of Brazilian Golf (CBG) over the last year… the PGA of Brazil have been working hard for several years to raise the standard of coaching across the professional workforce….Golf is still a relatively exclusive sport in Brazil and only when all stakeholders, CBG, Federations, PGA of Brazil and industry specific suppliers work together will there be a significant growth of players”.
CHILE: Johan Hampf (October 22-29): “The level of knowledge is mixed…golf is still a small sport and the cost of being a member is high which limits the target groups for golf players. Many of the clubs are private or semi-private and give little access for beginners and non-members to get on the course. The only public course is located just outside Santiago. It is an 18-hole high-class facility with a modern design. The green fee is high and you need to be a skilful golfer to play the course due to the design… it not suitable for the recruitment of new golfers.”
COSTA RICA: David Gosling (November 3-13): “Much progress has been made in the past 12 months. I was proud and delighted to see that the soft golf equipment was having such an impact and that the clubs and coaches had taken the ideas and training on board and were doing a fantastic job. This is having a knock-on effect with more youngsters getting involved, more parents and teachers becoming aware of the opportunities. This is delivering new players and families to the clubs and the Association is able to plan and build for the future knowing that this growth is only just beginning.”
HONG KONG: Tony Bennett: (Last quarter of 2011): “The Golf Association is working closely with the Hong Kong Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau Golf Club and the PGA of Hong Kong on the redevelopment of a national golf development plan to this end it is important that the skills and knowledge that each partner can bring to the table….with a lack of available space and new developments on the horizon, it is important that all parties take their responsibilities seriously to ensure a sustainable future for golf in Hong Kong”.
MYANMAR: Kevin Flynn (November 29-December 12): “I would strongly recommend further support for the Myanmar Golf Federation Myanmar National Squad is in need of further training and would benefit from another visit from a top coach. This visit would provide the players with more correct technical information on their golf swings. MGF is in desperate need of custom fitted clubs for the juniors. I felt too many players were making compensations in their golf swings, due to the poor equipment being used.
COLOMBIA: Alasdair Barr (November 10-18) “I am convinced that, as a result of this visit, the professionals will be better instructors with good knowledge and improved communication skills. This will give them greater recognition and hopefully people will take more lessons and help to grow the game. The guys were so enthusiastic I had to be careful not to give too much information over a relatively short period of time.”
PANAMA: David Kearney (December 4-11): “The state of golf in Panama has improved a lot since 2009. Nearly double the pros with some new golf courses almost complete see it in a strong condition going forward. The challenges such as integrating the ‘working man’ into golf are not unique to Panama and a constant challenge will always to be to coach as many children as possible. A PGA development programme run by APA would help to train the trainers and whilst there would be no immediate feedback this would be beneficial in the long term to improvement in the local game and hopefully this would follow on into international success.”
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: Martin Westphal (December 8-18): “A general profile of the Coaches/Professionals for Golf in Trinidad & Tobago is needed. Based on this profile the country will be able to write the necessary curriculum and by referring to the curriculum all parties will be able to identify where the support of the R&A and the PGAs of Europe can be effective. The TTPGA needs a closer link to the amateur body. Perhaps it would be good if the TTGA were to take the lead, to ensure at least in the beginning, that a proper administrative side is put in place. This would positively affect the strength the PGA and raise the credibility both organisations which is needed for the future.”