Beginning on Tuesday, Royal County Down Golf Club will play host to the European Ladies’ Team Championships, a five-day event that hosts teams from all over the continent.
For any young Irish female golfers, it is always inspiring to see a major European competition held on these shores but for the junior members of Royal County Down Ladies Golf Club, the Championship will hold extra significance given it is happening right on their doorstep.
Royal County Down Ladies has a thriving junior setup that has reaped major rewards in recent years. It hosts coaching programmes and competitions not only for their own female members but for boys from visiting golf clubs. All of which is carried out under the guidelines of the Golf Ireland Junior Framework, as juvenile convenor with the club, Josephine Quinn, explains.
“At Royal County Down recruiting and supporting our young girls has been a priority through the years. At present, we have 31 junior members between the ages of seven and under 18.
“Over the year, we arrange golf coaching sessions for junior members and non-members in line with the four stages of the new Golf Ireland framework.”
Stage one of the framework introduces juniors to golf, helping them to develop character and skill, all while in a social environment. The next stage is all about developing those skills while encouraging juniors to become more self-sufficient in their practice.
During stage three, young, budding golfers will learn more life skills like how to set goals and plans, while the final stage allows them to become more independent in their progression and take control of their learnings.
Later this month, RCDL will kick off their coaching programme at stage one and will welcome recruits from other clubs.
“Stage one commences on July 14th and introduces juniors to golf, it’s their first taste of golf. This programme is for girls and boys and we recruit from the Mourne Golf Club, Royal County Down, and our own golf club, Royal County Down Ladies. They really enjoy this, in fact, we had a report from a parent whose child wanted to know on Christmas afternoon was the golf running! So it aims to get them to socialise and play the games.
“RCD professionals run the five-week course and are very supportive and make sure everything is done and more. We’ve recruited 25 children to date and the programme will be designed to meet the framework because some of the children will be seven and it’ll be their first introduction to golf, so stage one, while others will have played with parents so they’ve a bit of experience and they might be stage two so that all has to be worked out.
“A sample programme we designed for the first day is arrival and registration, ice-breakers, a putting competition while we wait for the coaching to begin, and then we finish with a two-hole scramble. They love that because they are playing real golf then, even if they are just hitting the ball two yards.”
As for coaching of their own members, RCDL have to juggle with juniors at various stages of the framework.
“At present, we have 31 junior members who are all at various stages of the framework. Working within the framework, the programme was designed to accommodate those on different levels so they were split into groups.
“They were chipping and pitching and learning about distances. Then they were learning about the long game and full shots, and then playing the five holes. We’re very fortunate to have the five holes down at the driving range. It’s excellent for young girls, they are achievable distances which give them confidence.”
The programme has turned out excellent results with one alumna even making it to Augusta.
“Our success over the years has been notable. Some well-known golfers have progressed through the programme as juniors. One of which is Olivia Mehaffey who came to us when she was eight and finished in Augusta.
“Many of our juniors are now playing routinely and winning the ladies’ competitions throughout the year. We have one junior aged 14, she has a handicap of 24, and plays on the Ladies’ Challenge Cup team and won her game and also won the school’s competition earlier this year. We also have another girl who is 13 and has a handicap of 35, and it won’t be 35 for too long. They are playing against the best in the ladies’ competitions on a Saturday morning.”
For this week, coaching is put on hold, as the course is closed for the European Ladies’ Team Championship. A day trip to the Open in Portrush two years ago provided great enjoyment for the junior members but they will no doubt get even more inspiration from the female tournament happening on their home turf.
“We’ve had the Open which was a great experience, but to have any competition held at Royal County Down… It’s such a magnificent course. There is a lot of work involved in preparing but we can’t wait to get down and watch the play. It’s all very exciting for the members.”