The Oman Golf Committee have developed a strategy that will allow children from any background the opportunity that will take them from the first time they swing a club to becoming Tour Golfers. Obviously these goals are ambitious but the foundation will be created with a solid base with a clear progress that allows them to go as far as they want to with the support of the Committee. As with all elite structures the pyramid method will be adopted clearly showing that the opportunity is there for all to take.
The structure outlines the identified steps and although we currently have children in the programmes at various stages the focus is to develop from the bottom up and therefore the first 3 years focus will be to expand the opportunity to attract young children to the sport.
Target for first 3 years
The educational benefits of golf far outweigh any other sport for a child. For a start golf is one of the only sports that the sportsman is his own referee. The child is taught to respect the rules from day one and it is down to the integrity of the golfer to abide by them. Through the handicap system all golfers are equalised and therefore different ability of golfers can fairly compete. The true competition is between the golfer and the course which allows fellow golfers to socialise with each other and build or strengthen friendships. This in turn leads to the ability later in life to use golf as a gateway for business as golf has consistently been proven the best sport for business networking and completing business deals. Finally Golf can be played throughout your life and can be enjoyed with your children, parents and grandparents. Whatever your age, religion, physical fitness or ability you can take up golf.
Soft Golf is a ‘mini’ version of golf specifically for use by children in primary and junior schools in confined areas. This involves developing youngster-friendly equipment that has proved to be popular with children, affordable for schools, and easy for teachers to use. In addition, resources giving ideas for games and activities that can be linked with the PE and educational curriculum are provided. All of this has led to an explosion in the amount of golf activity taking place in primary and junior schools across the globe.
The skill set taught by golf:
Golf Oman is looking to work with the schools to introduce Golf into their curriculum. Initially this might be through an extracurricular activity but the goal is to have it as part of the PE education at the schools.
Once a school is keen to become part of the initiative with Golf Oman the programme will work as follows:
- The school will appoint a member of staff or members of staff who will run the programme preferably one of these members is from the PE department who will introduce it into their curriculum.
- Golf Oman will provide the golfing equipment and a golf “mentor”. The golf mentor will be a PGA golf professional who will teach the staff how to run the programme and the various games that can be played.
- During the term the Golf Professional is available to support the staff ensuring the maximum benefit of the sessions.
- At the end of each term the staff will select a certain number of the children who have shown promise and commitment to the sport and we will award them a Golf Oman scholarship. This will allow the children to attend the Junior Programme run by the school mentor at the cost of the Oman Golf Committee.
- As long as the child continues to develop and show commitment the scholarship will continue.
The Junior Programme was developed by the OGC back in 2011 and has seen consistent growth over the years. The Programme is run at the four grass courses in Muscat where the clubs offer four 6 week programmes every year starting in January, March, September and October. Due to its growth the OGC were unable to continue subsidizing every child and therefore limited the subsidies. As there was no selection criteria this proved a scatter gun approach and difficult to monitor.
Going forward the OGC will leave the clubs to grow their own programmes however the OGC will subsidize children who have been recognised through the school programmes. The PGA Professionals will be given a universal recognition structure for all the children that will allow the OGC to monitor progress and growth of the programme. This will be similar to the karate belt system but coloured wristbands will be utilised. Each child will be given a clear target at the start of the year outlining what is required to maintain the scholarship. This will not be strict allowing the coach flexibility to recommend if the child keeps the scholarship with the final decision with the OGC.
The focus is to ensure the children take the programme seriously and commit to the opportunity afforded to them. Should the child drop out or fail to attend the parents will be accountable to reimburse part of the cost for their child. The scholarship section of the junior structure will prove the most costly to the OGC and therefore the club will be approached to offer discounted rates to the OGC to support them bringing more children through.
Course access Initiative
This will prove problematic but with the support of the clubs and volunteers the OGC will approach the clubs and arrange for one afternoon a month they block tee off times on their course for juniors to play for free. The Clubs would put out junior tees to shorten the course and therefore accelerate play.
If coordinated properly this would allow access to the golf course at least once every week for the children. Using the universal wristband system each week will be set to a different level of difficulty and targeted to that standard of child. The tee times to the children will be done on a first to register basis. The OGC will invite volunteers from the clubs to help escort the children around the course. As the programmes grow the OGC will look to have availability every week from each course therefore giving course access for the children four times a week. The OGC will offer training to the volunteers the same way as the PE teachers and these volunteers will help escort the children around the course. The focus will be to give the children a taste of the game and push them towards gaining a handicap.
The handicap system is the yardstick for every golfer and what drives them to improve year on year. Pushing the children to achieve handicaps allows the OGC to see the benefit of their investment and the potential growth in future domestic golfers. It also allows the OGC to monitor the junior golfers’ improvements that give the National Team coach the opportunity to expand/improve the junior team.
Working with the clubs the OGC will look for an agreed amount of memberships to each club that will be given to children who are showing strong potential within the club’s junior programme. The goal will be to get them to single figures as quickly as possible. As long as the child continues to achieve the growth set out by the OGC then they will continue to provide a membership to the Golf Course.
Target for 3 to 5 years
Interschool /Interclub Competition
With the school initiative available to children at all ages and the clubs developing and nurturing their own groups this will lead to competition between the schools as well as the golf clubs. By creating competitions at this level will help develop a healthy environment where children can strive to be the best and develop a competitive edge.
This will create a strong marketing platform for the schools and attract a greater number of children into the initiative. It will also push the schools to strengthen the programme and strive to be number one.
Junior National Team
Currently the OGC funds training for both a Junior National Team and Junior Development Squad. Going forward this will be scrapped when the time is right and the clubs will take the responsibility to develop their own Junior Club Team. This will incentivise the clubs’ stakeholders to invest into their juniors and strive to become the leading academy of Oman.
This will give the National Team manager a more competitive squad of players to select from with a consistent flow of new blood constantly coming through.
The original OGC programme developing the Junior National Team has proved successful by bringing through a competitive group of children that have achieve unprecedented results for Oman and raised the benchmark for Golf Oman. Should these children continue with the sport they will form the backbone of the Senior National Team for many years and will also supported should they look to develop a career in golf or a golf related industry.
Target for 5 – 7 years
Senior National Team
As with all sports there is a large fall out rate when they leave school. Therefore it is critical that OGC create a large enough pool to absorb this decline. It is also important that representing Oman in golf is considered a huge honour and an opportunity that retains a larger level of interest. This success is down to a strong base of players coming through the pyramid along with a clear vision to what can be achieved with the OGC support.
It is important that the current National Squad receives the full support of the OGC and will continue to commit time and resources to strengthen the team.
University Scholarship Programme
The scholarship program is still a few years away as to qualify the junior should be reaching the pinnacle of junior golf and competing at the highest level. Initially the OGC will support them to compete in the major global junior competitions around the world. Should they show they are competitive at this level and doing well in school the OGC will fund a Golf Scholarship for the child to go to a recognised golf University.
Target for 7 – 10 years
It is the goal of the OGC to develop a touring golf professional. The support will be to make sure they have access to the best coaches in the world along with the right management team and support staff. Working through the MENA, Asian or Challenge Tour the support will be given to them to make it to the top of the sport.
The focus will also be to create a career path into a golf related industry whether PGA pro or Green Keeper the OGC will provide the necessary support to achieve these careers. When the volume of golfers reaches a level of consistency the focus will be to build a national coaching academy.