Do you really need to show the Par of a golf hole, on a scorecard? Glendale Golf, which operates seven golf centres in the UK, doesn’t think so – at least, not where family- friendly golf is concerned. The innovation doesn’t stop there: bigger holes, double tees and Family Parks have all been introduced at several of its venues, as Glendale Golf focuses ever-harder on attracting beginners and families with children to its golf centres.
All of its three Par 3 golf courses, at Duxbury Park GC in Chorley, Tilgate Forest GC in Crawley, and Edwalton GC in Nottingham, have been re-named The Fun Course, and have dropped Par numbers from their scorecards.
Each hole now has two tees, and two holes cut on each green. Forward tees play to FootGolf-sized holes for the easiest-possible golf experience. The tees further back play to special 8-inch holes on the green – almost twice the size of the sport’s standard 4¼ inch holes.
Easy-to-use SNAG Golf equipment for everyone from small children to adults is also available for free hire on the Fun Courses at Tilgate Forest and Edwalton. Lancashire venue Duxbury Park Golf Centre has gone a step further, and has also created a Golf & Games Family Park which mixes golf with other fun ways for a family to spend their time.
As well as a four-hole Pitch & Putt course with giant holes and SNAG Golf targets, the Fun Park also contains giant-scale versions of familiar games such as Snakes & Ladders and Connect 4, plus a large sandpit complete with pirate ship. Entry is free.
Tilgate Forest also has an added extra, but again it is another new approach. Part of its driving range has been converted into a Family Fun Zone, with brand-new colourful targets and a special points-scoring system which drives a variety of fun family participation games. Food and drinks are served directly to you in the bays, which are super-sized to enable safe dining while people are playing their golf games. And instead of paying for a bucket of balls, Tilgate Forest’s Family Fun Zone charges for the time you spend in the bay, with unlimited balls during that time.
The Family Fun Zone at Tilgate Forest Golf Centre has been part-funded by England Golf. Head of Club Support Abbie Lench said: “Our strategy at England Golf is to put the customer at the heart of everything we do and it’s so encouraging to work with Glendale Golf, who really listen to their customers in order to provide them with what they want – which is fun for all the family. July is England Golf’s Family Golf Month and the Family Fun Zone is a great example of golf as a game which all the generations can enjoy together. We’re looking forward to sharing what we learn with other clubs that want to be family-friendly.”
Glendale Golf’s Managing Director Tom Brooke describes why these changes have been made. “We took a step back and looked hard at how families with children, as well others new to golf, were interacting with our centres, and realised that we needed to take further steps to encourage more participation and interaction with local communities. For example, Par 3 courses are often aimed at beginners, but we asked ourselves – what does ‘par’ really mean? Is playing a 150-yard hole with a tiny cup to aim for on the green realistically achievable in three shots for a beginner? Not really. We’re making the sport easier, and emphasising enjoyment, so the name change to Fun Course from Par 3 Course seemed natural.
“We believe that simply running a few beginner golf lessons and relaxing dress codes won’t do enough to bring more people into the nation’s golf centres. Golf needs to be made far easier for children and beginners. It also needs much more of a fun element if we really are to break down the barriers to entry. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with England Golf on this.”
However, Brooke also has a point to make about the more familiar side of the sport: “Golfers who play the traditional 18-hole game are still well catered for of course, at every one of our seven golf centres” he said. “Clearly we feel it is key to involve newcomers and families in golf, but we also continue to focus our energies on providing the highest-quality golf experiences for the traditional golfer.”