Jason Budd, the Regional Development Officer employed by the English Golf Union, has been working hard in his role and has been instrumental in the formation of the Durham and Northumberland County Golf Partnerships.
Jason told Golf North East: "Basically, from the English Golf Partnership which is the English Golf Union, the English Women's Golf Association, the PGA and the Golf Foundation, we are now trying to mirror at county level what we do at a national level. This will produce a more localised approach so we can work a lot more effectively. In Durham for example, we now have a partnership with the Durham County Golf Union, Durham Ladies and the North East PGA with support from myself and the Golf Foundation.
"What we've actually done is set up a steering committee with two representatives from each organisation. We've signed a constitution with terms of reference and we have allocated £24,500 over the next three years to help golf in County Durham. Our aim is to introduce more people to the game of golf regardless of age, gender or background, to have a more co-ordinated approach to working with local schools, colleges, universities and local authorities and also golf clubs.
"We want to sustain and increase participation in golf and to try and fill those shortages within the membership categories which are so apparent at the moment and basically to get more people playing the game. Golf has to be marketed properly so we can try and fill those gaps in the memberships.
"I think golf clubs have to look at a more flexible approach to memberships and maybe consider staggering membership fees. I know there is a massive gap in players from juniors to about the age of 45 which is a national trend and I know a lot of golf clubs are looking at staggering their fees, just to try and make it a lot easier for people to get into the game and become golf club members. You have to look at filtering the juniors through and if you get them young when they are still enjoying the game, a flexible approach should produce sustainability in golf.
"If you look at the figures, 28% of golfers are members of clubs and 72% are nomads such as pay and play golfers, society members and it is up to us to show these players the benefits of becoming a golf club member - it is especially difficult is this current climate with the credit crunch and the country going into recession.
The grant awarded to Durham County is to be used in a number of various ways. Jason said: "There are going to be Open Days and 'Taster Sessions' to attract people into golf and we will be co-ordinating a series of these around various clubs within the County Durham area and offering these 'Taster Sessions' which will all be free of charge.
"One of my main aims at the moment is to try and increase participation with women and girls because there is a lack of that in golf and sport in general. We are putting a big project together in the Durham City area leading up to the British Open for example, Open Days at Cocken Lodge, Ramside Hall, Durham City and also some work in the central area which is separate. The women and girls taking part will be provided with equipment, free balls and follow-up sessions with the professionals whom we will be subsidising through our grants.
"And then we will be working with these clubs to maybe organise some sort of membership package which is more flexible or further practice sessions where they can really get an insight into what the game of golf is all about. The social side of the game is also important and I think for women and girls to get involved, it very much needs that aspect, so we will be promoting that as well."
The Durham Golf Partnership website is currently under construction and should be available towards the end of March - www.durhamgolfpartnership.com. This electronic mail database will allow for direct e-mailing to golf clubs and relevant personnel, regular newsletters, an annual partnership conference and supplementary meetings and liaison with local press and the appropriate leisure activities to promote CGP activities.