THE Road to The Open will see 125 schools and 25 golf clubs across Kent take part in a string of events aimed at celebrating Royal St George’s hosting the 149th Open at Sandwich this summer.
The R&A’s Road to The Open will encourage young people to join the journey as golf’s oldest championship heads to Sandwich, in July.
As part of England Golf and the Golf Foundation’s pledge to work closely to increase participation numbers, the host county will be putting everything into the Claret Jug’s return to Royal St George’s for the first time since 2011.
The Golf Foundation charity and England Golf – the country’s governing body – will work closely with schools and clubs over the coming months.
The Road to The Open will involve fun events at adventure golf courses, four StreetGolf clubs, 15 school games events and 18 clubs playing in three GolfSixes Leagues.
Taking golf into new locations, supported by the famous Claret Jug on tour, the joint initiative aims to reach out to 10,000 children and young people and spark an interest in golf that can last a lifetime.
Golf Foundation chief executive Brendon Pyle said: “England Golf is one of our most popular, important, strategic partners and we collaborate well on several different initiatives that ensure an effective player pathway from school to club to membership.
“The Road to The Open is a perfect example of how the two organisations work well together for the benefit of growing the game in England.
“Based on trust and a recognition of each partner’s strengths, we look forward to a new era of joint working in England for the benefit of young people in golf and the future of our sport.”
“There is already a huge buzz around The Open heading back to Royal St George’s for the first time since 2011,” said an England Golf spokesman.
Now the 2020 Road to the Open will seek to involve communities across Kent and help create a lasting legacy for golf throughout the county, he added.
The scale of the project around an Open Championship is unprecedented.
England Golf’s chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson said: “England Golf and the Golf Foundation share a vision for the future of golf with young people at the very heart of our sport.
“At England Golf we are passionate about what we do and The R&A’s Road to The Open project allows us to showcase golf to the next generation.
“We now look forward to developing our relationship with the Golf Foundation in a way that helps encourage more and more young people to enjoy the social, sporting and health benefits associated with this wonderful game.”
The R&A has committed £2 million to the Golf Foundation over a four-year period to support its drive to inspire more young people to play golf and to encourage them to stay within the sport to boost membership.
R&A golf development director Duncan Weir said: “We are pleased to support the Golf Foundation and England Golf in their development efforts and the ‘Road to The Open’ project which aims to introduce golf to a new audience.
“Attracting new golfers is pivotal to the long-term success of the sport and the 149th Open provides the perfect setting for young people to learn about, try and experience golf.”
Pathway from schools to golf clubs
THE Road to the Open follows on from a number of existing, key initiatives which sees England Golf partner with the Golf Foundation to ensure a player pathway from school through to club.
GolfSixes Leagues have become a major project in growing junior memberships at golf clubs, supported by The R&A and the European Tour.
This year’s events will be enjoyed by 6,400 boys and girls at 475 clubs across the UK, having been introduced in the last three years.
Since 2015, Girls Golf Rocks has helped more than 5,000 beginners learn that golf can be a fun, sociable, cool and athletic sport.
With PGA professional coaching support at each club and the Foundation training existing girl players as ambassadors, the programme will be rolled out by England Golf and the Golf Foundation to 200 clubs across 35 counties in 2020.
Another collaboration involves a dedicated group of Young Ambassadors.
The team of 17 young people has also created the Hero’s Handshake project which recognises juniors who have made a positive impact at their golf club.
Wrag Barn’s Ellie Webster was the winner in November – the 12-year-old Wiltshire golfer used her Instagram account to spread the word about her club’s junior programme including Girls Golf Rocks and her dream to become a golf pro.
How golf is putting children’s welfare first
SAFEGUARDING issues are at the heart of all work carried out by England Golf and the Golf Foundation.
At HSBC Golf Roots Centres, the Golf Foundation carries out criminal record checks, safeguarding training and child protection policies.
England Golf’s network of club support officers are helping clubs and counties work to achieve SafeGolf status ahead of it becoming a mandatory part of the affiliation process from January 2021.
Together, England Golf and the Golf Foundation aim to ensure a vibrant and successful future for golf.
England Golf is the governing body for the amateur game promoting the sport as a fun and fully inclusive activity for all ages through its work with over 1,800 golf clubs, 630,000 golf club members and the wider golfing community.
National children’s charity the Golf Foundation changes the lives of young people by introducing them to golf. It provides opportunities for them to keep playing and developing the skills for life that the sport teaches them.