Looking to grow the game? Try a club and ball

The Scoop

In his latest From the Clubhouse column, Steve Carroll argues that structured schemes are not the only way golf can 'grow the game'

A single swish of a 9-iron. That’s all it took. I’d swapped a guitar for the battered old stick – a club that had more than the suspicion it was being held together by superglue. I’d been handed a cut and shut. 

The boy laughed as he passed it over, clearly under the impression that he’d effectively stuck one on me. A deal, though, is a deal. I took the iron.

That club came everywhere. It hit shots which veered far too close to front room windows, over becks into baked bean can holes, on made-up courses that were school fields and town parks. It shanked Slazengers (always my favourites) and brought dreams of far away glory.

Four years passed before my first ‘set’ arrived, a ragtag collection of mixed blades. Lee Trevino said “God couldn’t hit a 1-iron”. I fancy he’d have had trouble with my 4 as well.

My favourite was an old Dunlop 2-wood. I can still perfectly recall the sweet thud of ball on persimmon. I cried like a baby when I cracked the head. 

For anyone whose eyes haven’t already glazed over, and is wondering about the point of this personal jaunt down memory lane, I recount this tale of how I got into golf to say there is always more than one way to increase participation – to set a youngster’s heart racing with the thrill of their first great shot. 

This is the era of persuasion. This Girl Golfs and Get into Golf – to name just a couple – are all designed to coax the new generation in a structured environment. Bring them here, and we’ll start them on the road. 

A fine job they are doing. But, sometimes, as I proved when I placed a plastic club in the hands of my two-year-old and watched her swing away with abandon, it can also be about letting children find their own way. 

Let’s not forget that when we’re next obsessing about how we try and grow the game.

My month in golf

from the clubhouse

My dreams of winning the club championship at Sandburn Hall are over for another year. This time I took it into the second day, after a creditable nett 74 in the first round.

I’d probably mentally started picturing the prize ceremony after I was four under handicap through four holes in round two. Then it all went south.

To get over the disappointment, a trip to The Open and a round at Trump International was the perfect pick-me-up. Whatever you think about the President, there’s no denying it’s an amazing course.

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