I get invited to all sorts of events over the course of a year, and one of my most recent excursions was to Frilford Heath Golf Club in Oxfordshire for the opening of its new Yellow course, with tour pro, Eddie Pepperell, doing the honours.
Frilford Heath already has plenty of golf holes – 54 in total over its excellent Red, Blue and Green courses, which I had the opportunity to experience a few years ago. But this new Yellow layout is something just a little different – a short six-hole affair with artificial Huxley greens and tees, and holes that measure from just 33 to 78 yards.
The rationale behind this new addition is to make golf more accessible and to provide youngsters and beginners with a course that is neither too long or daunting as they start out in the game. It might also provide older members who can no longer tackle the main courses with somewhere they can still manage, rather than perhaps having to convert to a purely social membership.
To mark the opening, Eddie Pepperell was joined by the Club’s oldest member – 100-year-old Hugh Chamberlain – and one of its youngest members, for a six-hole challenge. Chamberlain struck the first blow, which crept on to the green to huge cheers from the 150 or so members who had gathered to mark the occasion.
Pepperell, who came up through the junior ranks at Frilford, chatted to me at length in the accompanying video. “It’s so important to make golf inclusive if we want it to remain as one of the UK’s leading sports,” he commented.
“There are many people who may be put off playing a round of 18 holes because they are worried about their ability and the time it takes. This course means beginners and those new to the game can come and play a quick round to gradually improve their game with confidence.”
Alistair Booth, Frilford Heath Executive Chairman, added: “Introducing a new six-hole course means we are making golf accessible. We want to safeguard the future of this sport and feel that in order to do so, we need to make golf available to everyone.”
After the opening exhibition match, Frilford Heather members ventured out to try it out for themselves, including many parents or grandparents with their children or grandchildren.
Let’s hope many more get to enjoy this excellent and accessible new facility over the coming months and years, as it seeks to make it easier for newcomers to gain their first out-on-the-course golfing experience.