FEATURE - How effective can academies be?

FEATURE - How effective can academies be?


PGA Advanced Professional Duncan Giblett has been plying his trade at West Surrey Golf Club since 2012. In that time, Giblett has transformed the club’s academy, with increasing numbers of participants proving how crucial it can be for an established or expanding facility.

After growing up in Devon, Giblett headed to the country’s capital to enhance his PGA career. Going through the ranks of Assistant Professional, Head Professional and Director of Golf, he eventually secured a Head Professional position at West Surrey Golf Club, a role he has been involved with for over 10 years.

“When I joined, West Surrey was going through a transitional phase,” explained Giblett. “I was probably one of the new blood if you like. My first point of call was the academy they had there at the time. I personally felt it just needed a bit of a fresher look.

“To me, there needs to be a nice mix between learning how to play, access to the course and just some encouraging factors to help people practice at the club as well. At first, we bounced a few ideas around and you know, the academy went through two or three changes to actually get to where it is now.”

An academy is a fantastic way for new and returning golfers to try out the game for themselves, with one of the objectives being to have them potentially join the golf club with a full membership. It also allows individuals the freedom of an on-course experience, with a mixture of group and individual lessons only enhancing their games further.

“The academy has massively changed because, I think, for a lot of clubs, it's a gateway for a beginner or intermediate or returning golfer, which can lead into some sort of membership. That was very, very important for us when I started,” states Giblett.

“Currently, we have 30 active members in our academy, 12 ladies and 18 men. What’s more, a number of players have gone on to join the Golf Club from our academy. It really does serve as a great way to get individuals from beginner to member.”

One of the success stories of the academy is Jess Ratcliffe who only took up the game of golf during lockdown. Writing a piece in Women & Golf, Jess stated that: “It helped me get started with access to lessons, the range and afternoon tee times to help me build my confidence on the course.” From there, Jess has gone on to join West Surrey Golf Club and is well on her way to securing a single digit handicap.

Another success story is John Loudon, who joined the academy after 30 years away from the game. A regular player until his early 20s, John explained that: “I hadn’t played for many, many years and couldn’t justify spending money on a full membership and joining fee, especially as I had barely touched a club in 30 years.

“The academy was absolutely ideal for me as it was aimed at new golfers and returning golfers. It suited me down to the ground and, two years after joining, I am looking to become a full member at West Surrey. With the academy, you receive the group lessons, individual lessons, as well as the ability to go out on the course, so for newbies, it is absolutely perfect.”

For Duncan, his ambition, as well as West Surrey’s, is to carry on being a “fantastic, beautiful Surrey golf course that offers a first-class experience for every member and visitor,” with the PGA Advanced Head Professional adding: “The Academy is there to back that up, it is always going to be there to offer a place for people to improve their golf, even if they don't necessarily want to be a member in the future. It's a cost-effective way during that period of time to learn how to play the game and gain experience around the golf club to really enjoy it.”


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