GolfSixes League - a short format of golf for young players, that is inspired by the European Tour’s GolfSixes model - is set to expand significantly in the UK in 2019 after encouraging more players into the sport last year.
The Golf Foundation initiative, in association with the European Tour, the R&A, England Golf, Wales Golf and Scottish Golf, reached 102 golf clubs in 2018 and will be enjoyed at more than 200 clubs this year, as GolfSixes League continues to prove popular with club management, PGA professionals, parents and – most of all – the kids.
The European Tour’s GolfSixes tournament was launched in 2017 as a fast and fun two-day event played over six holes. Held at Centurion Club in St Albans, England, for the first two editions, the event will enter a new era in 2019 when it moves to continental Europe for the first time, with the Municipality of Cascais and the spectacular Oitavos Dunes in Portugal set to host GolfSixes Cascais from June 7-8.
The GolfSixes concept has also been rolled out to junior golfers in Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands
GolfSixes League means quicker six-hole matches for young players against other clubs in a fun Texas Scramble format – a great way of building confidence among new players. The matches are designed to create a sense of belonging in junior sections, while also forging practice among young players. In 2018, squads of 12 boys and girls representing their clubs played weekly team golf wearing coloured team shirts with GolfSixes branding.
The Golf Foundation, a registered charity with the aim of bringing golf to young people, is delighted with the 2018 results, which have now been collated in an impact report to be shared with golf’s key stakeholders, including many golf clubs. Since last May, 24 leagues were staged across 22 UK regions, involving 102 golf clubs and 1,160 juniors playing 161 fixtures. Some 25% of players were girls, and there was a 34% increase in membership at the clubs involved (42% in England). Six county leagues in England were so popular they decided to stage their own extra winter leagues in the build-up to the 2019 season.
PGA professionals, junior organisers and families have all responded to this fun, competitive team league against other clubs, with youngsters practising together before the key weekend matches, which are supported by regular high numbers of watching parents. According to Foundation club monitoring, 65% of all the participating children’s parents actively volunteered in the GolfSixes League, helping with scoring, caddying, managing teams, supporting the play and even catering.
Some 58% of PGA coaches provided additional practice sessions for GolfSixes League squad members. The average number of sessions attended by each player was 5.6, and 82% of children involved said they would like to play more golf as a result of GolfSixes League.
Iain Fulton, PGA Head Teaching Professional at Belton Woods GC in Lincolnshire, said: “The GolfSixes League has been a fantastic project and opportunity for the young golfers to play a different format, new courses and meet other young players. Everyone at the club has thoroughly enjoyed every game.”
Lester McCalmon, Club Coordinator from Swansea Bay GC, said: “This is a fantastic format. You can see the increase in confidence and enjoyment of all who took part. Many parents noticed an improvement in their child’s social skills.”
Meanwhile, a young golfer aged 12, said: “I loved the GolfSixes League as I played with different people and had a great time. I now play more golf and have played some new courses with my Dad.”
The leagues are supported by all 10 of the Golf Foundation’s committed team of Regional Development Officers, plus the RDOs from Scottish Golf and Wales Golf. The Foundation team was recently buoyed by news that The R&A is to provide £2m to the charity over the next four years to support its drive to inspire more youngsters into playing golf and to increase the retention of juniors within clubs, with a focus on increasing participation among girls.
This backing, plus the support of HSBC, Sport England and the Home Golf Nations, will enable GolfSixes League to be staged across more than 40 leagues in 2019, involving more than 200 golf clubs, with more than 2,000 young people taking part. England will see an expected 36 leagues, including six that will be funded by County Golf Unions from Suffolk, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire. Thanks to support from Wales Golf and Scottish Golf, GolfSixes Leagues will continue to expand, with seven leagues in Scotland and three in Wales as the initiative grows.
Golf Foundation CEO Brendon Pyle said: “We are delighted with feedback from across England, Wales and Scotland. Parents, PGA pros and club organisers are saying that GolfSixes League has helped build confidence in their new young players and the interest from all, including from the County Golf Unions, has been amazing. Recent excellent support from The R&A allows us to be confident in the development of a proven formula that sees boys and girls enjoying the game together. We are really excited about where GolfSixes League will take us in 2019 and hope to work with the European Tour Foundation to help grow the initiative across Europe.”