If you are looking for ways to increase participation, take a look at the Roving Pro Robbie Stewart. The Buckpool director of golf, is a one-man juggernaut for growing the game…
Robbie Stewart must have a really reliable car – and a very understanding wife. Most nights you will find Buckpool’s director of golf hitting the road, taking teaching to a series of clubs in the North East of Scotland.
Stewart is from the area, having spent his childhood summers endlessly repeating Lossiemouth’s 9-hole loop with his friends, and was motivated to give something back after a successful career in golf. So through his business – The Moray Golf Academy – he started visiting six clubs, as well as Buckpool, and began coaching the junior sections.
Youngsters at Hopeman, Cullen, Spey Bay, Rothes, Dufftown and Keith all benefit from group sessions, with Stewart either leading or assisting Scottish Golf’s team of volunteer coaches. “Cullen would be the furthest away and they would all be within an hour’s drive of Buckpool,” he said. “All these towns and villages have all got their own course and they’ll all have 150 to 250 members each. They’re not huge clubs but they tend to be the centre of the towns.”
As the juniors progress, he then provides one-to-one and pairs’ coaching. Introducing new players to the game, though, is only part of Stewart’s role. “The big problem is keeping them in it. That’s been my focus. As they get older, you do fewer group sessions and more individual. I do a lot of pairs’ coaching where two pals will come together for half an hour or an hour – rather than get into a group of eight for an hour. “They get a lot more benefit from that and it allows me to take them out onto the course and coach them there, rather than just standing in a driving range or in a simulator. The coaching is very much based on getting the kids onto the golf course and enjoying that, rather than just pure instruction.” The benefits of that approach has been far wider than merely seeing a group of willing youngsters getting some great coaching.
Participating clubs have not only been able to keep much needed junior talent within the ranks, but have inadvertently added another potential membership stream. Stewart explained: “It was always the mums dropping off for the coaching so we booked in a Get into Golf ladies’ class. “We first did this at Buckpool about four or five years ago and that programme has really grown at each of these clubs. “It’s been great for increasing membership.
It’s usually a minimum of between 50% and 70% of the ladies starting the six-hour programme who will join as members of the golf club. That has been a great success. Each of the clubs have probably got 10 extra lady members over the last couple of years, just purely as a result of the group coaching we have been doing.”
With a minimum of a dozen juniors at each session, and as many as 42 at Buckpool when a new programme began last year, Stewart is providing a constant stream of new faces. “I do a different club each after school. My schedule might be Buckpool on a Monday, Cullen on a Tuesday, Spey Bay on a Wednesday, Hopeman on a Thursday. It’s a different club each night. Typically, a 10-week course goes with the school term and I’ll start again in August.
“I’ll do a session from Easter to summer, and slightly shorter from end of summer to the start of the October holidays. With a couple of clubs last year, we had a great winter session as well. The kids would come as a group to Buckpool and the instruction would be indoors on the simulator and indoor putting.” Stewart sets aside Fridays to ensure he still plays but, otherwise, he is reaching out across the Moray area.
But why do it? He laughed: “I’ve been lucky to have a really happy and long career in the game of golf, purely because I loved the game as a kid. “I would like the kids to get the same enjoyment out of the game I had. That’s where I get my satisfaction. That’s why I get up in the morning. You are teaching them about life at a micro level. It’s about behaviour, attitude, integrity and a love of the outdoors. “If they learn these skills through golf then fantastic.”
Who is Robbie Stewart? Scottish PGA trainee of the year in 1982, Robbie Stewart spent eight years as the pro at Largs before joining Cruden Bay as head pro in 1992. He stayed at the world top 100 venue for 20 years, spending the last two as director of golf before teaming up with Paul Lawrie at his new golf centre in 2012. Four years ago, Stewart set up the Moray Golf Academy, based at Buckpool, and doubles up at the Buckie venue as director of golf.