At the end of last year we met with the team behind the golfing revolution taking place on the island. We heard about the state of the art new centre and all its facilities and about the drive to change the perception of a sport too long reserved for people of a certain age and class.
Nine months after it’s launch, we met with golf coach Beki Le Cheminant to find out how the Guernsey community has taken to the golfing rebrand.
Beki started playing golf as a child and was one of very few young female golfers playing at that time. She had an adult handicap by the age of nine and is now passionate about opening up the sport to more people, especially juniors and female players.
‘I want everyone to see just how fun it can be. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and exercise and it doesn’t have to be competitive – you can make it as serious or relaxed as you like. It can also be an inter-generational activity as it’s gentle enough to be open to all ages. We get children, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents all playing together,’ she said.
At The Golf Club @ St Pierre Park there are a number of entry points for people to dip their toe in the golfing world. The Pirate Bay Adventure Golf course is a 12-hole Adventure Golf course complete with moving rafts on which you pull yourself along, gallows, a firing cannon and a smoking volcano. (Islandmums members can enjoy Pirate Bay Adventure Golf parties at 10% discount.)
It is colourful and interactive and is proving to be the enticing starting point that the developers hoped it would be.
‘We get a lot of people coming to Pirate Bay who then become curious about what else is on offer. We also get people coming for a drink and a bite to eat at Nineteen and when they watch others on the Driving Range they want to have a go,’ said Beki.
The restaurant Nineteen Bar & Grill boasts a varied menu from ex-Fregate head chef Neil Maginnis and its funky atmosphere spills on to a relaxed Driving Range where you can practice your swing, listening to the latest music and having a drink at the bar tables.
Each bay comes with Top Tracer technology which monitors exactly how far your ball goes and where it lands. This enables a variety of games you can play, including virtual golf on a course of your choice from around the world.
‘Kids just love the games. They hit their ball and immediately turn to the computer to see whereabouts it’s landed. On certain games you can steal points from other players which gives the sport a totally different dimension,’ said Beki.
‘We see a lot of people come to these relaxed social activities and when they realise how much they enjoy it, they start to want to improve their game,’ she added.
This is when the Guernsey Golf Academy comes into its own. It runs courses for every age and ability and even has a video monitoring capability for people to record, playback and fine-tune their swing.
‘We want to take all the barriers away from getting people interested in golf, so there are options that don’t cost the earth,’ said Beki.
She believes that golf has a lot to teach children about manners, turn taking and etiquette.
‘No one is allowed to talk while someone is taking a swing and we also teach care of the course like repairing divots or raking the bunker. To be honest all the kids actually love raking the bunker and we have a job getting them to move on!’ said Beki.
There are holiday clubs and term-time courses for children, with Islandmums members receiving 10% off.
At the end of each term-time course there is a competition where parents are invited to caddy, so they can come and see what the kids have been learning.
‘The children love it as they get to boss their parents around, asking them for different clubs and telling them where to go. It’s a lovely opportunity for parents to join in and it’s also gotten a few of the parents interested,’ said Beki.
The Academy runs mixed adult classes and classes just for the ladies.
‘It has traditionally been a male dominated sport so I am really keen to encourage other ladies to join me and get out on the golf course,’ said Beki.
Islandmums members receive 10% off ladies adults beginners classes, or 10% off mixed gender adult beginner classes. Once hooked, there is no end to the possibilities available for your golfing progression. The simulator facility provides additional options for practice, as does the Driving Range for people who want to take it more seriously or just have some fun. Golfing enthusiasts will not be disappointed by the beautifully landscaped par-3 golf course.
‘We really do have something for everyone. But our main goal right now is to make golf accessible. It used to be that you had to have the right clothing, no jeans allowed, but we’ve got rid of all of that. At its heart golf is a really sociable sport. We have had work dos and corporate functions and even a hen do where their high heels punctured the range mats! We’re open to absolutely everyone,’ she added.
Giving golf a face-lift seems to be working. The facilities are buzzing with people from 9am to when the floodlights turn off and the doors close at 9.30pm. Hats off to the directors who made this possible. Golf is here to stay as a popular and positive part of the Guernsey community.