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A-Z of school sport

G IS FOR GOLF

Who plays it?

About 3.2 million people in the UK, 1.2 million of them regularly. Eighty-four per cent of golfers are male. The majority are aged 35 and above, but five per cent are under 18. With Tiger Woods as a role model, the second group is likely to grow. What is less likely to change is the socio-economic profile: 70 per cent of golfing takes place on private courses, with the biggest concentration of players in Scotland and the Home Counties.

Time needed to develop skills

The Golf Foundation , which is responsible for developing the sport in schools, suggests that a minimum of six hours is required before you can even try to hit a ball. It offers groups a discounted coaching programme.

Extra-curricular

To develop competitive golf, at least an extra two hours a week.

Physical benefits

Hand-eye co-ordination and wrist-to-shoulder control. A five-mile walk in the fresh air.

Physical risks

Strained muscles ("golfer's shoulder") and the odd whack from a misplaced golf ball. Getting very wet recovering golf balls from assorted streams, rivers, lakes and ponds. Getting very cold waiting for others to play shots.

Social benefits

You meet a nice class of person at private clubs, but golf is also being used, with some success, with children from disturbed backgrounds: 100 out of 2,000 schools and groups belonging to the Golf Foundation serve such clients.

Social disadvantages

Over-competitive; too much time spent walking along scanning the ground for a little white ball.

Kit

At school, trainers and trousers (legs can get cold standing around). On courses, smart casual wear, collared shirts with v-neck jumpers and slacks (no jeans), proper golf shoes.

Equipment

A beginner's half set of woods (for driving), four irons (for different length mid-shots) a wedge (for getting on to the green) and a putter (for putting - you know, the one you get at seaside crazy golf) could cost Pounds 100-200. Or you might get one from a more advanced golfer who has gone on to an adult full set. Golf balls are three for Pounds 2.

Suppliers

Sports shops, high street specialist outfitters, warehouses. Also little boys who flog off old golf balls.

Premises

Practice is free on school sports fields or club practice areas. Green fees, which cover the cost of one round, on public courses cost Pounds 10-20, with concession sometimes for juniors. Membership of private clubs starts at Pounds 200, green fees extra.

Insurance

Clubs have their own, but schools going off-site need to check with their insurers.

They love it because

It's hard to beat the thrill of the ball rolling into the hole.

They hate it because

It's always their ball that rolls off into the grass, sand, mud and water.

The Golf Foundation, Foundation House, Hanbury Manor, Ware, Hertfordshire SG12 0UH. Tel: 01920 484044

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