The number of young girls playing golf in Scotland is now well above par thanks to the ClubGolf initiative introducing children to the sport.
First Minister Alex Salmond today announced that over 260,000 youngsters have been introduced to the game since the inception of the scheme in 2003.
Participation rates are continuing to rise with a recent audit showing ClubGolf is having an outstanding impact on attracting talented young girls to the game.
The survey shows that golf courses delivering the programme have, on average, 77 per cent more girls than those who don’t and that 61 per cent of new girl members at Scottish courses are being introduced through the initiative.
Mr Salmond revealed the figures as he practised with the youngsters taking part in the ClubGolf Big Chipping Challenge at the Scottish Open today where 78 teams of children entered the event at Castle Stuart in Inverness.
He said: “Scotland is not only the Home of Golf, it’s the lifeblood of this magnificent sport - and we need to introduce the players and champions of the future to the game at an early stage. ClubGolf has been doing exactly that.
“Today’s figures are extremely encouraging and exciting, showing more and more young people participating in the game. I congratulate all those at ClubGolf who have been involved in getting a club into the hands of our young people across the country, laying the foundations for a love of the sport and Scotland’s incredible courses.
“To see more girls enjoying the sport is extremely encouraging. Scotland is the Home of Golf and if we are to continue to be the future of this great game then we must ensure it is open to all of our youngsters.
“We have some fantastic inspirational champions who can inspire young girls and boys:– Catriona Matthew, Scotland’s first ever women’s major winner, and Paul Lawrie, a star performer in Europe’s triumphant 2012 Ryder Cup side being just two. I can think of no better way to inspire the next generation of Scottish golfers than to watch a home grown player clinch victory at Castle Stuart and lift the Scottish Open Quaich.”
The First Minister was joined by top Scottish golfers Martin Laird and Scott Jamieson, the European Tour chief executive George O’Grady, Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, the sponsors of the Scottish Open, Richard Hills, Ryder Cup Director, world renowned French pro , Jean van de Velde and ClubGolf manager, Jackie Davidson.
Speaking at the Big Chipping Challenge, ClubGolf manager Jackie Davidson, said:
“Everyone at ClubGolf is delighted to have confirmed what we always knew to be true; that the ClubGolf programme has made a huge difference to the developing landscape of Scottish golf since its inception ten years ago.
“In particular, having more than half of all junior members now joining a club following ClubGolf coaching in schools or at their local delivery centre, shows the programme is going from strength to strength and we expect these numbers to increase as we continue our efforts to improve the opportunities for young people in Scotland to play golf.
“I’d personally like to thank all of the people who help to make our programme a success. Without all of their hard work, such progress would not have been possible.
“Everyone involved in the programme, however, knows that we can still do lots more to grow the game at grass roots level and our focus over the next few years will be to continue to build on what has been achieved and improve the health of junior golf in Scotland.”
ClubGolf is Scotland's national junior golf programme which is delivering its Ryder Cup pledge by introducing children to golf and supporting the early development of young golfers through structured coaching. By creating opportunities for every child in Scotland to access golf, strong foundations are being laid for the future health of Scottish golf clubs and Scottish performances worldwide.
The Scottish Government has given a further commitment of £2 million to support the core ClubGolf programme from 2014-2018.
ClubGolf has been successful in supporting volunteering through a coaching workforce of over 1,500.
The ClubGolf programme is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is supporting the development of golf at a community level in Scotland for the next two years. Its sponsorship also features the RBS Junior Club and Volunteer of the Year Awards, which rewards clubs and individuals making an outstanding contribution to the game at the grass roots.