In the past Wales has suffered from a shortage of low-cost golf facilties
The next generation of potential Ian Woosnams are getting a head start with free lessons and access to golf facilities paid for by the Ryder Cup Legacy Fund.
Grants to golf clubs, schools and driving ranges have made training and equipment available for thousands of children across Wales.
“They get a taster, it’s a bit of fun and there’s no pressure,” said Catrin Jones Hughes, deputy head at Anglesey’s Ysgol Bodedern secondary school where a golf practice area, equipment and training worth a total of £17,500 have been provided by the legacy fund.
“Some instructors from Rhosneigr Golf Club come in and do sessions during the lunchtime,” she explained.
“During the summer term we had all the primary school children in so they had a taste of playing golf.
“They also targeted female players. Our girls have had the opportunity to have lessons on their own, apart from the boys.
“It’s open for everyone who wants a go during the lunchtime and we have long-term plans to open it to the community so local people can come in after school.
“Being a member of a golf club you have to take it seriously and it’s expensive to buy all the equipment.
Matthew Wharton has been invited to the Ryder Cup opening ceremony
“This is all free of charge and we’ve got all the equipment already so they can get a taste before signing on for a club membership.”
She expects the facilities to be well-used, but added: “It depends on the weather because it is a field and it does get muddy.”
Aberdovey Golf Club in Gwynedd has got round the weather problem, as assistant secretary Ann Gray-Jones explained.
“We had a grant to convert an old billiard and snooker room into an indoor putting area with four holes and Astroturf and some Wii stations, so the children can come in if it’s wet when they’re supposed to be doing Tri-Golf and use the Wii stations.”
Treborth Golf Complex in Bangor has been able to create a par 3 course made up of six artificial greens and 18 tees, thanks to a £22,500 grant.
It opened in 2009 and the centre’s golf professional, Matthew Wharton, said: “It’s designed to develop juniors and beginners groups, as well as local golfers.
“I have a juniors academy here and they use it every week. That’s what pushed me to apply for the grant, because we didn’t have anywhere the juniors could practise their skills.
“It’s definitely developed them better and quicker.”
The facilities are also used to train people teaching golf in schools, while groups of children from the Ty Cegin Centre on Bangor’s Maesgeirchen estate have had free lessons.
“It’s a stepping stone to bigger golf. Long term it will definitely have an effect on the number of people playing golf,” said Matthew.
And while the Ryder Cup is taking place in Newport, the village of Dolwyddelan in the Conwy Valley will have its own golf competition.
A grant of almost £20,000 from the legacy fund paid for a community golf practice area on the school playing field.
Helen McAteer, Menter Siabod community project officer, said: “We’re having a fun day on 2 October and we’ve got the golf incorporated in that.
“We’re going to have a nearest the pin competition with golf balls as prizes.”
The practice area consists of two greens and four places to chip from onto each green. There are golf clubs available to suit all ages.
“It gets used quite a bit, but we haven’t got anyone here full-time to rent out the equipment,” said Helen. “But people do come down here with their own equipment quite a bit and there’s been a lot more of that during the holidays.
“The school use it and I’m looking for funding to try and provide free coaching for people.”