Capturing a child’s imagination 

by | Jun 20, 2019 | 0 comments

Conor Gallagher on the Annesley Links in Newcastle

Paul Gallagher

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Our four-year-old son Conor picked up his first tennis racquet this month. He’s at that age where, like many households, kids are cutting their teeth with all kinds of sports and activities. It got me wondering where in the grand scheme of things will golf capture his wee imagination. 

It’s been a busy introduction to sport of late; football Fridays, tennis on a Saturday and of course golf at every opportunity. Selfish dad; the sooner son plays the better chance dad has of hitting the fairways! 

But there’s so much other noise out there too. Scooters down the promenade, endless time in playparks, walking the dog, not to mention obligatory screen time where Paw Patrol and PJ Masks still vie for attention in this house. 

On face value, football is probably the easiest of the sports mentioned to pick up and run with. A ball and open space will pretty much do at this stage. Tennis commands greater technical nous, but not the level golf does. 

What are the main challenges or prohibitive factors to golf, especially for the youngest generation? Expense has to be a top consideration. Junior clubs are still an outlay even though nowhere near the cost of adult equipment. Difficulty is an obvious challenge, which in turn has influence on a young mind’s attention span. And let’s not forget time. The time it takes to play a full round of golf is surely the biggest stick golf currently gets beat with – at every level. 

It’s for these reasons and more, the likes of the R&A work tirelessly to make golf more appealing to everyone and reach new audiences.              

Ahead of last week’s Women’s Amateur Championship at our home course, Royal County Down, the famous amateur trophies (Men’s and Women’s) did the rounds at some local schools. There’s no question it’s a great PR exercise, but more than that, it helps plant the seed for golf, particularly for kids who may not have played the game yet. 

Conor’s older cousin Ruairi came home from school that day and spoke about the R&A visit to St Mary’s Primary in Newcastle. Something resonated and such a visit can have an immediate spring effect or perhaps something more latent. 

The aim of the trophy tour is “to provide a history of both events, stir the interest of children and encourage spectators along to watch the action unfold,” explained Hannah Fleming, Museum & Heritage Assistant Curator from the British Golf Museum.  

With the Men’s Amateur Championship taking place at Portmarnock and The Island this week, the trophy tour also visited St Oliver Plunkett’s National School (Malahide), St Marnock’s National School (Portmarnock), Donabate Portrane Educate Together National School (Donabate) and Pope John Paul II National School (Malahide) in recent weeks.  

Ruairi and some of his school friends enjoyed handson experience too with a trip to Royal County Down last week for some fun coaching adjacent to the Annesley Links plus the chance to see some of the players in action. 

Speaking from experience, however, getting young children to focus on 18 holes is nigh on impossible. Our time on the links is usually slashing furiously down the first and up 18 or 1,2, 17 and 18 at a push. Simply getting them out there is the win. 

Those of like mind who are fanatical about golf can easily forget the very real barriers to entry the sport faces. The R&A and other governing bodies recognise the need to think outside the box. Shortened formats, more relaxed dress code, a revolutionary new global handicapping system coming down the track are just some of the measures to help golf appeal to wider and younger audiences. Golf simply has to move with the times or it risks being left behind.      

Golf competes in a busy marketplace and any activity will only grab a child’s attention for a certain period of time, which means golf needs to be fun and the impact and satisfaction needs to be immediate. 

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