The Wirral Golf Academy hasn’t been in existence for that long but already has close links with five golf venues, some of the area’s top junior coaches and more than 100 young people and families: it’s a mini golf boom made possible by the energy and creativity of Angela Dale.
Angela Dale took up golf as a hobby in 2017 after promising her dying husband Chris that she would play in order to socialise after his death.
She quickly fell in love with the sport, but realised there were limited entry level options for children in her area. Angela decided to do something about this, and with support and advice from the Golf Foundation, she has now created a thriving academy that is not actually reliant on one physical venue, instead drawing on support from a range of local clubs working together.
Angela (pictured, with some of her students) said: “When I was out playing I didn’t see any children playing so started to ask why, to be told it was too difficult for children to get into, and takes a lot of time. My time is free, and I am happy to give it.
“I was told it couldn’t be done, especially as we didn’t have any facilities. Well, it has been done and the families seem to like it. It’s a joy to hear the sound of children’s laughter on the golf course. Chris would approve.”
Angela worked towards her PGA level 1 qualification in golf coaching, and launched the Wirral Golf Academy (WGA), in March 2018.
The academy runs a tiered system for children of all ages, and now has over 100 children on its books working across a number of golf sites including Hoylake and Arrowe Park municipal golf courses and Moreton Hills Golf Centre. And though the academy has no actual ‘home venue’, it has been growing in scale: WGA has become a Golf Foundation HSBC Golf Roots Centre and utilises the Junior Golf Passport and the Box of Tricks.
The individual golf venues are all fully committed. Moreton Hills owner John Andrew and its PGA professional, Angus Law, are key supporters. Angus, who has been coaching children for over 30 years, takes the children through the first stage of their journey: the WGA calls it “Start and Learn”, teaching them the basics of grip, stance, posture and swing with a range of clubs.
Next stop is Hoylake Municipal, where PGA pro Simon Hooton takes the juniors through stage two, “Learn and Play”. Simon, who has taught at Hoylake for 35 years, takes them onto the course and covers the technical and tactical aspects while showing them how to behave and conduct themselves while playing golf.
Younger members of the academy, known as “seedlings”, are taught by Angela, who coaches through fun games. They progress from there to “grass roots” level, where European pro George Nicholson helps them transition to playing on the course.
When the children have gained enough skills they are introduced to playing on several Wirral golf courses so they can choose which golf club they would like to join. The WGA then helps the children join the junior sections of the golf clubs.
The academy children also get opportunities to play at other courses such as Styal in Cheshire and Old Padeswood in Flintshire.
One parent, Lucy, said of WGA: “The Wirral Golf Academy has given our son invaluable experience on the golf course. As non golf-playing parents we found it very hard to get our son onto a golf course.
“Being part of the academy, he has played on a number of different courses. Having coaching at both Moreton Hills and at Hoylake Municipal, our son has developed his golf technique and has built confidence on the course.”
The Golf Foundation has supported Angela on this unique journey, offering development expertise, and also discretionary funding. Foundation RDO for the area Andy Leigh said: “I can remember Angela talking through her ideas with me at her kitchen table before it had all got off the ground in 2018. I was able to offer her advice around our ‘Start, Learn and Stay’ strategy and some practical support too. We have been so impressed that Angela could create a golf academy, with no physical home centre, and make it work, while also encouraging along the golf venues in her area.
“I haven’t been at all surprised that Angela has been successful. She is brilliant at rising to the challenges of growing the game for young people, has a great imagination for what can be achieved, and her energy and passion really is inspiring.”
Andy added: “Our Golf Foundation team looks forward to helping Wirral Golf Academy continue to excite the next generation through golf.”
* To see more about becoming an HSBC Golf Roots Centre, click here.
* With thanks to the Liverpool Echo and Mark Thomas, where elements of this article first appeared – www.liverpoolecho.co.uk