Cox reflects on England Golf award nomination

Cox reflects on England Golf award nomination


‘At the start we had eight juniors, we have now had 250 kids come through the door’.

Aaron Cox explains why he’s been nominated for England Golf’s Participation and Development Coach of the Year award.

If you were a junior golfer then Aaron Cox is precisely the type of pro you would want to come across when starting out in the game.

The Aussie has had a circuitous route since doing his PGA training on Phillip Island in Victoria. He grew up playing with Jason Day, he played in the 2010 and 2011 Australian Opens, hitting balls next to Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson, and he is now coaching and running a very successful ACED (Aaron Cox Elite Development) junior academy at Blackwell Grange in Durham.

He’s sparky and full of initiative which is why he’s been shortlisted for the England Golf award and why so many juniors are enjoying the benefits of all his hard work. Here he takes us through how he’s built such a large following. 

1. How to get it off the ground

"I moved to Blackwell Grange at the start of 2019 and it fell on me to start up a junior academy – we had two kids as members and six were getting coached so we had eight in total. We have now had 250 kids coming through the door at some stage and we currently have 100 kids every week coming for lessons and playing golf.

"At the start there was a lot of hard work and I tried a loss-leader approach. I sent an email to 15 primary schools offering free lessons for four weeks. In three hours the first group of 15 was full. That night I had a second class full and the following week we had filled a third class. The question then is how do you retain them and keep them involved? We kept 38/45 and then word of mouth kicks in and the parents are talking to one another and they have to think that it’s going to be worth it. Most of the kids are between 5 and 11 and you have to show them the product that you’ve got."

2. Build it and they will come

"I’ve had some great support from Peter Raine and Blackwell and I’ve had a free rein to create what I want to do.

"When I first arrived there was a spare fairway next to the 18th, 207 yards long by 40 yards wide. I went to the club and asked if I could have it and they said yes. So we built a six-hole junior course, marked it out and got a plan for safety. The greenkeepers maintain it, the greens are sprayed and they are now not limited to just the range. You have to ask what are the kids learning and doing it for?

"They love being on the course and we wanted to give them something of their own and to have their own course; we don’t worry about speed of play, dress code, not wearing golf shoes but they  still look after everything but without the stigma of being told what to do too much."

3. Keep things going all year

"I have 10 junior classes a week and they’ve been running all through winter. It might be two degrees in the snow and 20 in the sunshine and they’re always there. We have a winter league kids’ comp which is six holes and is £1 to enter and we have an order of merit with a big crystal trophy.

"I use the handicap system which I grew up on so a kid will come down 0.1 to 0.3 depending on what group they are in, this way they learn a bit about gross and nett scores and how to score. We tell them some of the etiquette things like where to stand but also how to focus on a shot and then have some fun, what kind of shots to play and the vocab that’s part of golf.

"We’re providing a pathway from five years old to then joining the Northern Junior Golf Tour or playing in junior opens as they will be used to it all. Then they can play in the main course competitions and know about pace of play and etiquette. You might have close to 200 possible members in the next five years."

4. Feel like a tour pro

"For every competition I will do an intro on social media and we have seven order of merit competitions with 30-35 playing two-round comps. The first one was on March 12, the same weekend as The Players, then we had one during The Masters and where we played for a small green jacket that I got from a school uniform shop. We’ve got our logo on it and the winner’s name gets put on side of the jacket and we have the Blackwell Grange classic on the same weekend as the US Open. 

"We have our own Ryder Cup where 24 players can qualify through an order of merit and the two captains pick the teams. We’ll have three rounds, fourballs, foursomes and 12 singles in one day, and they’ll play in team colours. I also run an elite programme for 10 of our older kids and they will have 90 minutes’ coaching on a Sunday night every fortnight and then they will do some strength and conditioning in a gym on a Thursday. Four times a year they will get screened by a physio.

"Through lockdown we had a Friday night quiz night and it was so popular that did it for seven nights’ straight with 20-30 kids and we did putting games where the kids would pick their favourites and that really got them engaged."

5. Making it all-inclusive

"We have about 20 girls in the academy and any programme that England Golf are running then I’m the first person applying and registering. At the start we had three ladies and we now have 14, they will meet at 6pm on a Thursday and I’m taking 15 on a trip to Spain. They were all beginners and they all love the social aspect. I went to see the lady captain and asked half a dozen members to take my ladies out onto the course and that was such a nice, welcoming atmosphere where they got to play a few holes and have a laugh.

"It’s all about getting grass-roots golfers and juniors off the couch and on to the driving range and then the course and to just enjoy the game."

*This year’s Awards’ ceremony will be streamed live on the England Golf YouTube channel on 20 April 2022.


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