Updated: Monday, 20th November 2017 @ 10:37am

Ladies European Tour stars bring the golfing bug to Manchester

Ladies European Tour stars bring the golfing bug to Manchester

| By James Cunliffe

LET stars Sophie Walker, Amy Boulden and Carly Booth helped take over Manchester’s EventCity during the May Day bank holiday weekend for another edition of American Golf’s free golf show.

The trio were main attractions in an event that played its part in a new initiative set this year to drive UK participation in golf called Free Golf 2017.

“I know it’s such a cliché but we’re just aiming the grow the sport,” Sophie told MM.

“It’s great that anyone can just come down to a free event like this and get a golf lesson.

“Hopefully they will leave with the golfing bug.”

Although the girls are expecting to bump into a lot of already well-seasoned golfers looking to improve their game, it’s the beginners they’ll be looking to inspire most.

Amy, 23, said: “Golf is a great way of meeting new people and growing your confidence.

“It’s a healthy, outdoors sport that you can play up to any age.

“We all play on tour with girls who range from 18 to 50 – there’s even a woman at my club playing in her 90s!”

The three are optimistic about getting rid of golf’s major stereotype too – its expenses.

“Financially there’s something for everyone, that’s what we’re trying to tell people,” Scottish-born Carly added.

“You don’t need to have a lot of money to play, there’s thousands of courses out there.”

But still, getting into golf as a youngster can be quite the challenge.

Swinging a club isn’t a natural movement and sticking at it at a young age can be quite the challenge, so Carly tells her story as motivation.

“I started out really young and I didn’t like it,” she said.

“I thought it was boring.

“And then my dad kind of pushed me to keep trying – that’s what he kept saying all summer, ‘keep trying’.

“So then I decided to go and hit some golf balls and I couldn’t believe how far I could hit it.

“I mean I was only five so it wasn’t that far, but still, I was like wow.

“You only need one little thing to get the bug.”

And Carly’s right; one satisfyingly sweet strike of a ball some 20 years ago and here she is today still playing, now as a three-time LET winner.

From the regional long drive championships and a 100ft putt challenge to remote-control car racing and Pilates classes, there was something for everyone at The Golf Show.

Its main displays were on the main stage though. Hosted by TV star and avid golfer Denise van Outen, people had the chance to join in with QNA’s with the pros or watch Geoff Swain, the last ever World Golf Trick Shot Champion, pull off the unthinkable shots.

With the backing of golf’s governing body Golf England and the Parliamentary Golf Committee, the plan to halt a worrying decline of new golfers over the past decade is well under way.

Recent statistics show that participation figures have reached the lowest level since records began with just 2,785,000 Brits playing in 2016.

That’s a considerable drop from the 4,083,000 golfers who took to the course in 2006.

We caught up with American Golf’s marketing director Dan Gathercole to find out more.

“The industry needs something like this,” Dan said.

“For the kids and the people who haven’t played before to come and experience something different.

“If you go to a golf course it can be quite intimidating as a first-timer.

“There’s a dress code and certain etiquette you must follow – but at events like this and in our stores, it’s so much more accessible.”

A big factor as to why the number of players have fallen over the last ten years is the sports average age.

In the UK, it stands at a shocking 65. So, adapting to a lower age range is vital in the sport’s resurgence.

Retailers like American Golf now must have to allow young golfers to feel more at ease with the game in order to get them playing.

“Golf is golf.

“You can play crazy golf and it is still golf.

“Happy Gilmore style, pitch and putt, driving range, whatever – it’s all good fun.

“The people that play it are usually the advocates, once you play it you’re hooked.”

From Friday to Sunday, Europe’s leading golfing vender anticipated to have 12,000 faces walk through their doors and every show the numbers increase.

MM doesn’t expect The Golf Show to go away, so the next time it does come around get yourself down and catch the golfing bug.