IT'S all systems go at a County Durham golf complex. After taking on its first full-time professional in Julie Welch earlier last year, Cocken Lodge Golf Club has just invested in a new state-of-the-art driving range.
And with more improvements planned for the nine-hole course, the club is really going places.
Cocken Lodge, situated just outside Durham City, is becoming an excellent all-round golfing centre with its short nine-holer, newly-built clubhouse and range.
The range has just been fitted with the very latest automated tees, which magically tee up the ball without you having to move a muscle.
One of Julie's main aims when she moved to Cocken Lodge in early 2007 was to bring her teaching skills to hundreds more players - and she's certainly doing that.
The 41-year-old Teessider, who was previously at Dinsdale Spa, near Darlington, said: "I'm very keen to encourage more beginners, ladies and juniors, to not only take up the game but to continue playing for many years to come.
"We have established a junior academy here with competitions every week and group coaching for both boys and girls. We've also instigated a ladies club where ladies can come and meet other ladies and widen their circle of playing partners and attend social events.
"The nine-hole course is ideal for beginners and those wanting to sharpen up their short game. The atmosphere here is very relaxed and friendly and the perfect place to try out golf.
"We regularly run free taster sessions so people can try the port without making any financial commitment."
And Julie, who also spent four years as an assistant to one of the top women club professionals in the UK, Pat Smillie at Wilton Golf Club on Teesside, is delighted with the changes to the range.
She added: "The piece de resistance is the fully automated driving range, the first and only one in Durham at present. There's no more bending to place your ball on the tee, the machine does it for you.
"The quality of mats is also excellent with the simulation of real grass giving a cushioning effect to all shots. The benefits are many and include less likelihood of strains, less tiring and more effective practicing."
Julie regularly takes charge of young hopefuls involved in County Durham's coaching scheme and believes the new facilities at Cocken Lodge will really come into their own.
She added: "It's great to be able to teach really young children and ensure they get the basics right when they are still quite new to golf. I find it enormously rewarding."
Julie came late to the sport herself, only taking up golf when she was 18, and is well aware of the benefits of catching youngsters early.
She said: "I just didn't get the opportunity to play when I was younger. Luckily, I took to golf straight away and got my handicap down to single figures very quickly. I'd like to ensure that young people get the chance to have a go at the game at Cocken Lodge - I think that's really important - and I'm absolutely sure that we now have unparalleled facilities here."