Downside has one of the oldest school golf programmes in England, with the game first being played at the School in 1912.

Over the last century the game of golf has evolved into a truly global sport, played by 55 million people on 32,000 courses in over 200 countries. After spending the last year navigating the challenges of remote learning, the absence of organised sport during lockdown and the often isolating implications of social distancing, a new initiative at Downside is encouraging boys and girls of all ages to play golf together weekly throughout the year.

England Golf, the governing body for the amateur game in England, describes golf as a moderate intensity activity which can provide physical health benefits for those individuals who participate, whilst also facilitating the opportunity to improve mental health and wellness. Golf offers participants the prospect of improved social relations, sense of belonging, self-esteem, life satisfaction, personal competence and personal wellbeing. In addition, golf is normally played outdoors which can also promote life satisfaction due to the natural environment – easily achieved when Downside is situated on the edge of the Mendip Hills area of outstanding natural beauty.

Golf Development & Leadership Programme
Downside’s new Golf Development & Leadership Programme seeks innovative ways to not only develop the playing abilities of experienced players, but also to identify and retain new players to the sport whilst providing service and leadership opportunities. In partnership with nearby Farrington Park Golf Club, experienced pupils can join a weekly activity session and play nine holes of golf every week on the Manor Course at Farrington Park. To complete the leadership and service element of this activity, these pupils then support an ‘Introduction to Golf’ session or have the opportunity to play 18 holes on the Duchy Course. In these introductory sessions pupils act as a mentor/role model for a younger less experienced player, who can also receive lessons from PGA professionals. Following an appeal to the alumni Old Gregorian Golfing Society, the School received generous donations enabling the acquisition of eight full sets of clubs to support this initiative. Whilst the challenges of the last 12 months have at times made the launch of this initiative much harder than first anticipated, the school is now looking to the future with excitement and confidence.

Getting away from screen time
Crammed over their smart devices or computers, chatting with friends or playing computer games, the NHS has reported significant increases in problems associated with vision and eyesight amongst teenagers over the last decade. This is where Downside believes golf can help too. Playing golf helps you exercise your eyes. Players need to keep track of a tiny white ball that can travel up to 250 yards (if you’re lucky!). Golf requires players to hone in on small targets from very long distances, as well as learn to evaluate based on their vision. A peaceful sport performed in a natural environment, golf also provides the body and mind with a certain amount of relaxation. Playing golf is known to release endorphins, which are mood-enhancing chemicals in our brains. Teenagers have had to deal with a lot of stress over the last 12 months, so this certainly can’t hurt! The mental and physical activity involved in the game of golf also tires the body and the mind, helping players get into calm and deep sleep, essential for academic progress and success.

Golf is also a low-injury sport which pupils at the School can play alongside each other, increasing equality, building mutual respect and raising self-esteem. It gives participants a chance to exercise in a natural environment, relax their mind and improve their general well-being. As we look to rebuild sporting habits and develop opportunities for young people to increase their physical and mental wellbeing, what better reason is there than to take up the game of golf as soon as possible?

Richard Jones, Director of Sport           
Downside School

If you would like to be involved with the Old Gregorian Golfing Society (OGGS) please contact Michael Liddell (B84) on Alternativley to view all Old Gregorian sporting societies click here.