Lessons from South Africa on how to take golf to the masses

  • September 8, 2021
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Affirmative action is always necessary to even up matters in society. Kenya, like South Africa has its fair share of inequality perpetrated by income disparities. This has seen the sport of golf become a preserve of a few in the country as talent from less-privileged segments of the society is locked out.

It is this unwelcome state of affairs that motivated the Kenya Golf Union, KGU to set up the Golf Talent Foundation (GTF). After a promising start, GTF has sadly become moribund- a victim of competing interests and a tunnel vision. To date, KGU is still toying with various initiatives in her quest to make golf a mass sport which, sadly, have barely taken off.  

The scenario is different in South Africa. Alive to the devastating effects of racial segregation perpetrated by the apartheid system, the golfing fraternity formed the South African Golf Development Board, SAGDB, in 1999 “to build the nations’ golf skills, to grow the sport and to eventually produce champion golfers from all walks of life in disadvantaged communities”.

Twenty years later SAGDB has made tremendous strides, chief among them initiating more than 30 000 players in to the game through the grass-roots programme with several going all the way to turn pro.

T-OFF News singles out the key pillars that have been instrumental in the success of the affirmative action programme as spelt out in the SAGDB strategy document:  

Run a national coaching programme with regional structures

In order to reach the masses adequately, SAGDB introduced a regional structure executed by a team consisting of full-time and contract administrative staff, a development manager per region, and contracted development and head coaches. Through its PGA-approved LTAD coaching programme, the board currently has the capacity to coach 3,500 children per week in the regions. The programme targets children between ages seven to 18. It is solely designed to integrate children from poor backgrounds into the elite golf system.

Develop a defined Curriculum

SAGDB has a progressive curriculum which ensures that though many children are introduced to the sport, a tiered approach propels excellent talent to the apex. The curriculum is divided into four levels- 0 to 3. Level 0 is aimed at mass participation and encourages fun and enjoyment. The primary aim is to identify learners who possess the right attitude. Successful learners advance to Level 1 where they are introduced to coaching fundamentals of the sport before proceeding to Level 2 where they are introduced to the golf course and the competitive culture of golf. Those who make it to Level 3 for advanced development are expected to maintain single figure handicaps and demonstrate commitment. They are monitored through an Order of Merit system.

Pro Jeff Kubwa: a graduate of the Golf Talent Foundation

Invest in a network of qualified coaches

The success of any affirmative action in golf depends on the quality of instructors. Since its formation in 1999, the SAGDB has grown a network of coaches and officials who work across the country to develop the game in the cities and the most remote areas.

The programmes are taught by development coaches who teach the prescribed coaching programme according to defined standards. The coaches are coordinated by a regional coach whose responsibility is to ensure that coaching standards are maintained. Currently the programme has more than 48 contracted development and head coaches. All coaches are skilled golfers from the PGA or local communities.

Involve members’ clubs

Since inception, SAGDB has tried various models to obtain support and funding from active golfers in South Africa. Some of the initiatives include:

Each region supports member chapters which are all adopted by a local club within a radius of 30km of the chapter.

Some clubs run a “Rand-a –Round” programme which levies one rand for every round played by members at participating clubs.

Adopt-a-golfer programme where members adopt a SAGDB player by covering the costs of membership and playing fees.

Obtain government buy-in

The South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) is a non-profit organization with section 18A donations tax exemption status. The South African government has endorsed SAGDB work and fully supports its programmes. The Sports Department provides grants towards SAGDB operations and also provides community facilities, equipment and supports the regional coaches. This recognition has also enabled SAGDB to attract support from The R&A and South Africa Golf Association which provide annual grants.

Accountability is key

Activities must be run transparently and open to scrutiny at all times. SAGDB is fully audited by an independent audit firm and compiles monthly management accounts. The board endeavors to ensure that resources are properly utilized and has a 70:30 ratio for operation costs to administrative costs.

Development Managers submit monthly reports which track the progress of the programme in their respective regions. Development Coaches are constantly evaluated against well-defined performance parameters in the national coaching programme.

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