Meet the golfing missionary taking the sport to the masses
Robbie Stewart must have a really reliable car – along with a very understanding wife.
Most evenings you will find Buckpool’s director of golf hitting the road, taking teaching to a series of clubs in the North East of Scotland.
Stewart is from the area, having spent his childhood summers endlessly repeating Lossiemouth’s 9-hole loop with his friends.
He was motivated to give something back after a successful career in golf that saw him spend two decades at Cruden Bay and a couple of years working at Paul Lawrie’s Golf Centre.
So through his business – Moray Golf Academy – he started visiting six clubs, as well as Buckpool, and began coaching the junior sections.
“Cullen would be the furthest away and they would all be within an hour’s drive of Buckpool,” he said.
“All these towns and villages have all got their own course and they’ll all have 150 to 250 members each. They’re not huge clubs but they tend to be the centre of the towns.”
As the juniors progress up the ladder, Stewart then provides one-to-one and pairs’ coaching.
Introducing new players to the game, though, is only part of his role.
“The big problem is keeping them in it. That’s been my focus. As they get older, you do fewer group sessions and more individual. I do a lot of pairs’ coaching where two pals will come together for half an hour or an hour – rather than get into a group of eight for an hour.
“They get a lot more benefit from that and it allows me to take them out onto the course and coach them there, rather than just standing in a driving range or in a simulator.
“The coaching is very much based on getting the kids onto the golf course and enjoying that, rather than just pure instruction.”
The benefits of that approach has been far wider than merely seeing a group of willing youngsters getting some great coaching.
Participating clubs have not only been able to keep much needed junior talent within the ranks, but have inadvertently added another potential membership stream.
Stewart explained: “It was always the mums dropping off for the coaching so we booked in a Get into Golf ladies class.
“We first did this at Buckpool about four or five years ago and that programme has really grown at each of these clubs.
“It’s been great for increasing membership. It’s usually a minimum of between 50% and 70% of the ladies starting the six-hour programme who will join as members of the golf club. That has been a great success.
“Each of the clubs have probably got – as a round figure – 10 extra ladies members over the last couple of years, just purely as a result of the group coaching we have been doing.”
And with a minimum of a dozen juniors at each session, and as many as 42 at Buckpool when a new programme began last year, Stewart is helping to provide a constant stream of new faces with each new term.
“I do a different club each after school. My schedule might be Buckpool on a Monday, Cullen on a Tuesday, Spey Bay on a Wednesday, Hopeman on a Thursday. It’s a different club each night.
“Typically, a 10-week course goes with the school term and I’ll start again in August.
“I’ll do a session from Easter to Summer, and slightly shorter from end of summer to the start of the October holidays.
“With a couple of clubs last year, we had a great winter session as well. The kids would come as a group to Buckpool and the instruction would be indoors on the simulator and indoor putting.
“They would come out every Saturday for a six-week run in the middle of the winter.”
Stewart sets aside Fridays to ensure he can still get time to play but, otherwise, he is reaching out across the Moray area and helping clubs engage with players and boost their numbers.
But why does he do it?
He laughed: “I’m probably going to give you a cheesy answer. I’ve been lucky to have a really happy and long career in the game of golf, purely because I loved the game as a kid.
“I was encouraged and helped as a junior. Every day of my childhood was on the golf course, loving every second of it with my pals.
“I would like the kids these days to get the same enjoyment out of the game that I’ve had. That’s where I get my satisfaction. I feel I am making a difference. That’s why I get up in the morning.
“You teach golf to kids and you are teaching them about life at a micro level. It’s about behaviour, attitude, integrity and a love of the outdoors.
“If they learn these skills through golf then fantastic.”