Golf Foundation

Golf’s Community Chest

Growing up is always full of challenges but the Covid pandemic, the cost of living crisis, child poverty rates… the list for our young people can look bleak at present. However, most would agree that the power of sport can certainly give confidence and inspire everyone. Can golf play its part? Most certainly, says respected children’s sports charity, the Golf Foundation. 

Golf is a game all about timing

The Golf Foundation has been welcoming more young people to the sport and protecting their interests since this national charity started in 1952. However, its more recent increased focus on helping to make children more confident and resilient through its programmes, with measurable results, could resonate with families given the significant challenges faced by so many young people today. 

National figures about young people present stark reading: one charity commission stated last year that almost 30% of all UK children live in poverty. In 2022 it was recorded that one in five children had a probable mental health disorder (NHS Survey); suicide is the largest cause of mortality for younger people (under 35) and appears to be on the increase, and children from disadvantaged backgrounds are two to three times more likely to develop mental health issues. 

Social/welfare and sports charities are needing to be imaginative (and resilient themselves) to face these pressures. All politics aside, a good many of us understand the positive value of sport and physical activity in encouraging young people and promoting their sense of wellbeing. Here, the sports bodies can help the welfare bodies in their good work. The Golf Foundation wants to assist in a targeted way in 2023, to provide innovation and resources to public partners in the welfare network.

Helping gain confidence 

The Golf Foundation seeks to reach youngsters from all backgrounds through its work. While a key aim is to increase participation and grow the game, over the last few years the Golf Foundation has been developing new ways to harness the unique physical and mental benefits of golf to help young people reflect on their own situation more positively, and gain more confidence in their lives. 

With this thinking in mind, all of the Foundation’s programmes in schools, communities and golf clubs build in take-away life skills such as resilience, self-control and respect for others, that can be used outside of golf: in the classroom, on exam day, in public speaking and in their peer groups. 

The evidence of this improved confidence and resilience is being recorded to add to, and improve, the recipe for a growing mental toughness programme the Golf Foundation is creating. A recent study at Chorley Golf Club found an increase in mental toughness in the juniors of 16% at the end of the course; another with Lincolnshire Golf’s Girls’ Squad recorded a 17% increase. Other regional projects are revealing similar figures at present (a first pilot study in Essex recorded the figure at 20%), while verbal feedback from children and parents is consistently positive. One school in Lincolnshire was so impressed that it is introducing the programme to all 600 of its pupils.  

The importance of enhancing children’s wellbeing was crystallised by the Foundation long before the Covid pandemic, but it came to the fore at that time: its team was delighted to support The R&A strongly in a successful ‘Golf at Home’ project in the Covid lockdowns, with the aim of boosting morale. 

‘Golf can be a piece in the jigsaw in wonderful community work’

Today’s young people now face a cost of living crisis. Fortunately, the flexibility of its programmes is such that the Foundation team is able to support a growing number of big community initiatives that seek to bolster the wellbeing of young people through positive activity of various kinds. Birmingham’s holiday and food programme ‘Bring it on Brum’, the city charity initiative London Youth, through to working with major sporting clubs in the community, such as the Liverpool Football Club Foundation and the Bath Rugby Foundation, are all timely interventions. 

“Our drive forwards with our work in schools and golf clubs to grow participation in the game continues as it has done in recent years, with some strong results we are delighted with,” said Foundation CEO Brendon Pyle. “But our popular programmes like GolfSixes League in clubs, our Golfway equipment in schools, and now our mental toughness programme, are all built to support the wellbeing of youngsters and therefore are highly adaptable. During this stressful year or so for all, we have been able to identify some very strong partners in the community and bring golf into wider public sport and welfare projects. Golf can be a piece in the jigsaw of some wonderful community effort, and we’re delighted it can be used to make children resilient and positive at this challenging time.”    

Golf Foundation President Nick Dougherty, Sky Sports Golf presenter and former tour professional, summed up what many in golf think in a recent interview with National Club Golfer magazine: “I struggle to be convinced there is any other sport that does a better job of teaching some key life skills.”

The Commission on Young Lives (2022) states that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are two to three times more likely to develop mental health problems than their peers who are more socioeconomically advantaged. Another charity survey states that 45% of children from diverse ethnic minority families are living in poverty. 

“Reduced access to sport and physical activity is an important feature in the lives of young people growing up in a low-income neighbourhood”, says the Chiles Webster Batson Commission on Sport and Low Income Neighbourhoods (2022), a point reinforced by the Youth Sport Trust’s young ambassador group (Young Changemakers) who wrote in late 2022: “…We are extremely worried at how many are missing out on something that should be part of every childhood. Less than half of young people are physically active for 60 minutes every day, as the Chief Medical Officer recommends.”

How golf can be used in schools and community to help ease pressure

The Golf Foundation is supporting a range of regional charity partners in giving access to the game. The charity’s new, easy to learn and play Golfway format is quickly becoming a hit in many of our schools, having the flexibility to be enjoyed in schools, at a community golf festival, a multi-sport festival, or even as part of a holiday food programme. 

  Golfway offers lots of high energy games for boys and girls, is great for early achieving (very easy putting and chipping to start), while the format teaches life skills like breathing, good concentration, calmness under pressure, respect for others and self-reflection, which are proven to be particularly helpful for wellbeing. For 2023, a growing number of schools are signing up to deliver golf in PE in this manner. The Foundation’s lead on its mental toughness programme Andy Leigh said: “I have been having many conversations with heads of PE, senior leaders in schools and pastoral leads who have commented on our mental toughness programme as being on-point and a great off-the-shelf product for PE teachers to deliver against mental health pressures, promoting wellbeing while being able to measure and evidence impact.”

Similarly, starting this year, the six-a-side, six-hole, GolfSixes League, will be offered in a ‘Mini’ format for a range of community events wherever there is demand, creating fun games for new young players who can bond together through golf as a team sport.  

Bring it on!

In Birmingham, last August, 77,000 young people across the city region were eligible for a free school meal. In ‘Bring it on Brum’, 26,000 youngsters took part during the summer holiday from 16 community and faith groups. Many were enjoying a new game – golf – one of three sports featured in the programme by the Foundation’s charity partner StreetGames.  

Area Lead for StreetGames Matt James said: “I thought the colourful, fun and easy to play Golfway format offered instant appeal for the youngsters, and everyone could enjoy some good shots together. It was wonderful to see so many smiling young people who were enjoying golf as just one of the activities across a few hours, while also learning new arts and craft skills, picking up nutrition and health advice while also enjoying a meal together. Enjoying golf and then sitting, chatting and eating lunch in the park meant children were making friends too, which was especially nice to see after the recent times of Covid.”

From Liverpool FC to Bath Rugby, to HSBC Golf Roots Plus…

Golf has been catching the imagination of many youngsters new to the game around Merseyside, thanks to a dynamic local golf partnership between the LFC Foundation and the Wirrall Golf Academy. Meanwhile, the Foundation team has been working with London Youth, a charity that has enabled golf to be introduced to children from 10 community and faith groups from across the city. The city of Bath may appear to be a wealthy place but like most cities it has its share of disadvantaged families and young people. The Golf Foundation has been working with the Bath Rugby Foundation in its Hi5! Golf Club and on a ‘GoSketch’ project that links golf and design for youngsters. 

  A big chunk of the Golf Foundation’s work is in the golf clubs and schools around us but no one recognises the power of golf to inspire youngsters in local urban areas more than the charity’s community lead Tom Sparks.

Tom said: “The Golf Foundation has a huge focus on life in the golf club and encouraging more young people to get started there for the good of everyone. This was demonstrated in 2022 when our now established GolfSixes League programme, supported by The R&A, created thriving inter-club leagues among 542 golf clubs and nearly 7,000 boys and girls in GB & Ireland. But we think that the power of golf can also make a significant impact in some of our communities that are crying out for positive activity by welcoming good sport and health projects. So it is really exciting that golf can play a part in helping the wellbeing of youngsters while introducing the game to a new audience, including in our cities. 

“This same thinking is reflected in our nationwide school programme of course, which we want to make available to all children. Many of the youngsters may enjoy having a go at golf but not play again of course, some will, and others will have more of an idea about it if they return to give the game another try in their twenties, thirties or onwards, which is all great. Golf is a game that is good for you, for life.”

Tom added: “When our team of Regional Development Officers are on the ground in the community, helping at projects like Bring it on Brum and London Youth, watching kids who have never even thought of golf before, having a go; the joy and smile on their faces when they get the ball in the air, you realise just how important all sport is. At this time more than ever, it’s priceless.”

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