Is This The Blueprint ALL Golf Clubs Should Follow When It Comes To Attracting Juniors?

Fulwell GC in west London is successfully introducing the next generation to the game. We investigate how it's been able to achieve such impressive growth in its junior section...

Fulwell - a club that is successfully introducing the next generation to the game we love
Just Some Of The Many Junior Golfers at Fulwell Golf Club
(Image credit: Russ Groombridge)

Prior to the pandemic in 2020, many clubs were struggling and the age profile of members was continuing to rise. Post Covid, and flexible working and a greater appreciation of the benefits of participation have resulted in a significant boom. Many clubs now have substantial joining fees and lengthy waiting lists. But this is not everywhere, and nor will it last forever. Clubs should not be complacent, and one healthy way to acknowledge this is to foster a thriving junior section. Not only will this generate the lifeblood and committee members of the future, but it will create a healthy and more cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Fulwell Golf Club

An aerial view of Fulwell and its strong catchment area

(Image credit: Fulwell Golf Club)

One club that is doing very well in this regard is Fulwell in west London, just a mile from the Thames with one of the best courses in Middlesex. Its junior organiser is Russ Groombridge, a keen and very capable golfer who is also an assessor on the Golf Monthly Top 100 panel. He took over the role at the start of 2022 and inherited a healthy number of 60 to 70 youngsters. However, the section was very passive and probably fewer than 20 had a handicap. Other than two or three single-figure older kids who were very keen and played in men’s competitions, most played casually and only sporadically.

Juniors on the 9th at Fulwell

Frankie Fear and Hannah Groombridge on the signature par-3 9th hole at Fulwell

(Image credit: Russ Groombridge)

Fulwell has two important plus-points on its side; an attractive, testing and well-bunkered course that is improving all the time, and a large catchment area as it is an oasis in the midst of suburbia. These on their own, however, are not enough. Russ, supported by the club’s directors and management, realised that there was much to do. 

The groundwork involved liaising with the office to obtain all the relevant information regarding parents and children, and then working on communication. The parents’ WhatsApp group has grown to almost 100, but he also uses both email and the clubhouse noticeboard to post fixtures and relevant news as well as celebrate successes. He also instituted some simple, regular, fun events; 9-hole competitions in every week of each school holiday where he could meet the juniors and their parents. 

These continue to be very popular and are the core activity for the junior section. Everyone plays off the forward tees and this gives the older kids some variety at the same time as allowing even the youngest to join in. They are Stableford, with nearest-the-pins, and there are jugs of squash afterwards along with an informal prize-giving where everyone who has played receives a golf ball and a packet of sweets or chocolate.

Russ Groombridge

Russ Groombridge - Fulwell's Junior Organiser - with his wife and children

(Image credit: Russ Groombridge)

As this became increasingly popular, the next focus was to recruit more juniors and mix up the playing formats. To attract newcomers, the club ran some open mornings and encouraged existing juniors to invite their friends to play in one of the 9-hole competitions with no charge. According to Russ, “I would say word of mouth has been the best form of marketing for us, getting our juniors and their parents to tell their friends, breaking down the stigmas associated with golf clubs, letting the kids see it’s fun. This has been the driver for growth.” 

He also set up a few interclub competitions with neighbours such as Strawberry Hill, Ashford Manor and Pinner Hill. By playing greensomes, the juniors have learnt to enjoy a different format and play as a team. Afterwards, they stay together for a drink along with sausages and chips. The result of all this is that the junior section is now at capacity; 130, with 60 on the waiting list!

Busy Year Ahead

As we head into the playing season for 2024, Russ has three specific aims. One is to get the older and/or better juniors playing in the adult events. There are now more than 10 single-figure juniors who can play in board competitions, and any boy under 28 or girl under 36 can play in regular competitions. 

Secondly, he plans to introduce two flagship events; an 18-hole junior club championship and a singles knockout with impressive trophies and better prizes. He also plans to play some of the regular 9-hole competitions in different formats, introduce short course events for beginners, and also a parent with child event, and even a parent against child event, which should be great fun. Finally, he is keen to get more girls involved. There are 15 at present, and he hopes to double this.

Junior Golfer at Fulwell Golf Club

Junior Reggie Fear, Fulwell's lowest handicapper (plus 2), with his 2023 prize haul

(Image credit: Russ Groombridge)

There are plenty of other ways that Fulwell is developing its junior section including a link with a local boys’ school which has tee reservations on Wednesday afternoons. If pupils want to enjoy this, they need to be signed up as a member for safe-guarding reasons, and Russ is looking at the possibility of extending this to the neighbouring girls’ school. Other endeavours include…

Fulwell Junior Opens

These are the two biggest events of the year for youngsters. One is 18-hole, the other 9-hole, and they are on consecutive Sundays with the kids only eligible to play in one. There are 72 spaces for each, all of which are taken. The club creates a genuine tournament experience at both with a reception area, welcome goodies, pizza and chips afterwards, and excellent prizes such as AirPods, speakers and Fitbits. Holes are sponsored by members, and the money generated is used to fund the junior section throughout the year.

Competitive Subscriptions

For 2023/2024, following a £50 entry fee, junior membership was a very reasonable £113 (up to 12), £170 (13 to 15) and £226 (16 to 17). After this there are various categories of Associate Membership up to the age of 30.

Welcome Pack

Each newcomer receives a comprehensive document outlining all they need to know, including the aims and values of the junior section, its duty of care, a code of conduct, parental guidance and key contacts.

A Helping Hand

Jack Ross is Fulwell’s assistant professional and he runs sessions every Saturday and Sunday for kids of all ages and abilities. He is now starting to run holiday clubs as well. This is an excellent way for those on the waiting list to remain engaged, as well as making sure they are course-ready when the time comes. These are on a pay per lesson basis, £10 each, which works better as parents don’t always want to commit to a block of continuous sessions. 

The club has also recently introduced a welcome and play-in session with their head pro’ James Johnson. He meets all new juniors, introduces himself and talks about the club and anything relevant, and gives a 30-minute lesson where he assesses whether they are course-ready. The club feels it would be unfair for parents to pay if their child isn’t yet ready to use the course; they want all juniors to be out playing.

Juniors at Fulwell

Having fun is key!

(Image credit: Russ Groombridge)

Those working closely with the juniors need to have the government’s DBS clearance, and understandably all of these activities take time and effort. However, according to Russ, “I don’t spend too much time, maybe two to three hours a week on various comms, planning, admin etc. And in the holidays I’d add on another half-day to run the competition. But we tee off later on, so I can manage it alongside my job which thankfully is flexible. I also have a lot of amazing parents that are happy to help out if I'm not around.”

The future of Fulwell looks in great hands. According to secretary Murray Cook, “Having a thriving junior section is crucial not only to Fulwell but to golf in general. They will be the future of golf and it’s great that we now have 130 juniors playing here. We have seen over the years that golfers who started with us at a young age, have either remained with us or returned after years out.” Finding volunteers to help can sometimes be tricky, but many if not most clubs will have an aspiring Russ Groombridge who feels passionate about the club, and about protecting its survival while creating a healthy balance of ages among the existing membership. The work at Fulwell sets a fine example.

Nick Dougherty

President of the Golf Foundation, Nick Dougherty

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Golf Foundation

Although the Golf Foundation has been in existence for more than 70 years, its excellent work in introducing youngsters to the sport is still often under the radar for most golfers. Formed in 1952 by 3-time Open Champion Henry Cotton and a group of his playing and golf industry colleagues, the charity was set up to address falling participation numbers. They saw the solution as the introduction of golf instruction in schools via a process of fundraising and subsidy. In only its second year, more than 100 schools had signed up, and around 3,500 young people had become actively involved the sport.

Nowadays, these numbers have increased to in excess of 2,500 schools all over the UK and Ireland. And while the aim is still to secure the future of golf itself, it is now broader than that as the Foundation seeks to promote the many benefits of participation both physically and mentally for all children. The figures for the year to March 2023 show that 218,645 were introduced to the sport, of which 46% were girls, 15% had some form of disability, and 19% were from an ethnically diverse background.

The Foundation’s main sponsor is the R&A, and its president is Nick Dougherty, former Tour golfer and now popular presenter and broadcaster for Sky Sports. He is spearheading the Unleash Your Drive programme which is open to every school in the UK&I to take part in the six-week programme as part of its curriculum. This is the culmination of five years of research and development that has been tested at both primary and secondary school level. It incorporates nine key mental toughness tools that have been proven to benefit the mental wellbeing of young people. This is one of a wide variety of schemes and projects, working with schools, golf clubs and the wider community. For more information, visit their website at

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for over 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012. He specialises in course reviews and travel, and has played more than 1,200 courses in almost 50 countries. In 2021, he played all 21 courses in East Lothian in 13 days. Last year, his tally was 81, 32 of them for the first time. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! Of those missing, some are already booked for 2024. He has been a member of Tandridge in Surrey for 30 years where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at