No ordinary Mr Jones

All golf pros need to ensure they engage with the older population and make it clear that age is no barrier to playing better golf than ever before, writes Karl Morris. 

I recently had the pleasure in presenting a YourGolfChallenge evening to the members at Royal Lytham and St Annes. It was a wonderful evening with a packed clubhouse: men, women, juniors and seniors of all levels and abilities coming together curious about how they could look at their game in a different way to improve. At this point though I must declare a special interest – Lytham does have a very special place in my golfing heart. As a youngster I can vividly remember being entranced by golf for the first time as a dashing young Spaniard called Severiano Ballesteros won his first major championship on the windswept Fylde links. At times during that 1979 Open Seve carted the ball to all points of the course but played some remarkable recovery shots and beat American Hale Irwin into submission in the final round with his wizardry. Ballesteros was the epitome of passion and excitement that fuelled my then young golfing mind to want to play more of the game.

The evening session I conducted at Lytham for the club members took place in the most fabulous of rooms. Oak panelled and steeped in golfing history the club room pays homage to some of the great golf played at Lytham over the years, both amateur and professional. There is a wonderful tribute to former club member Mike Noon a local dentist, who won over forty three gold medals at the club and, perhaps most famously as a 56 year old, led the 1992 British Seniors Open after two rounds in a stellar field and played his final round with the great Arnold Palmer. Perhaps most memorably in the room there is a magnificent painting of the great Bobby Jones on the wall and hung beneath it lies the actual club with which Jones played his miraculous second shot from a fairway bunker onto the green on the 17th hole.

Bobby Jones founded and helped design the Augusta National Golf Club, and co-founded the Masters Tournament.

Bobby Jones founded and helped design the Augusta National Golf Club, and co-founded the Masters Tournament.

This was during the final round of the 1926 Open and Jones lay 175 yards from the green. It is worth going to Lytham just to see the mashie iron Jones used to fly the ball into the centre of the green and secure his first Open win. He then went on to secure 13 of the 21 major championships he entered. The highlight of which was his famous Grand Slam in 1930 when he won the Open, The US Open, The British Amateur and the US Amateur He retired from competitive golf at 28 years of age. How many majors could Bobby Jones have won if he had played until his forties?

Jones wasn’t finished with the game though and perhaps his greatest legacy was his part in creating the US Masters at Augusta. All of those memories we now carry around with us, from Jack’s back nine in 1986, to Faldo’s victory over Norman in 1996 to Tiger’s chip in on the 16th; all of these memories have a link back to the great Bobby Jones and his legacy to the game.

Even though Jones retired from competitive golf at such a young age he clearly wasn’t finished with the game. One of the most fantastic aspects to the game is that your best golf could be still in front of you. That year could be in coaching, it could be in setting up new programmes at the club, it could be in organising new events.

It is very much up to you to decide what could be possible. In terms of playing, as people get older they may not be able to hit the ball as far as they once did but, with the technology now available, we can still help people find a way of getting the ball around the course in low numbers. One of the strongest messages that came through on the night at Lytham was how golfers of all ages can still be incredibly competitive. People of all ages still want to improve.

Well into their sixties, seventies and even eighties it was clear to me that, at almost any age, people will respond to a challenge if you put it to them in the right way. Every single person sat in the room that night agreed that it could be possible to have a good year this year and their golf could be better than the previous twelve months. To help them do that they need your services, your passion and your inspiration. Help them paint a picture of what could be possible.