THE number of juniors taking up golf across the Highlands is at an all-time high as a result of the national junior programme ClubGolf.
In 2011, SportScotland’s active school network worked with the region’s PE and teaching staff to introduce over 2300 primary five pupils to golf in a flourishing schools programme.
This year, a new year primary five year group will be initiated to golf for the first time through the scheme, joining some 220,000 children nationwide that have been introduced since 2003.
It is hoped this new surge in numbers will have a direct and long-term impact on the health of local clubs throughout the area.
This year in Highland nearly 1400 juniors participated in ClubGolf coaching at golf clubs, contributing to a national statistic of 12,675 children in ClubGolf coaching programmes at 311 clubs.
The initiative itself has proven to be a great success at Inverness Golf Club, with numbers taking part continually on the rise.
"Our programme has gone from strength to strength each year," said Inverness Golf Club manager Ewan Forbes.
"Our volunteers are very important to us as they are giving up their free time to manage the very basics of coaching and to make the juniors first experience of the club very enjoyable, which will hopefully encourage them to remain as members of the club."
ClubGolf’s transition rate of children moving from schools to club coaching is over 20 per cent. To meet the growing demand in 2012, however, at least 40 new volunteer coaches will be needed in Highland to maintain safe coach-to-junior ratios.
Local clubs also need more helpers to assist with their juniors learning the game of golf, to assist coaches delivering skill sessions and to supervise juniors as they play on the course.
"Our volunteer coaching workforce is the grassroots that ClubGolf development at clubs depend on," said ClubGolf regional manager Willie MacKay.
"With so many juniors participating in ClubGolf coaching, Scotland does not have enough PGA professionals. Volunteer coaches provide a vital role in coaching juniors who have played the introductory game at school want to progress to club coaching."
To cater for the number of new coaches needed across Highland’s 38 golf clubs two PGA level one courses have been planned for Loch Ness Golf Club on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th March 2012, and on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd April at the same venue.
The PGA has a closing date for applications six weeks in advance of the course. Those interested should contact their golf club in good time.
Information about the ClubGolf junior golf programme can be accessed from www.clubgolfscotland.co.uk