Golf Foundation Launches Initiative To Help Mental Wellbeing In Schools

Unleash Your Drive aims to introduce golf at any school in Great Britain and Ireland to help children of all backgrounds

Nick Dougherty for the launch of the Unleash Your Drive initiative
Nick Dougherty is spearheading the Golf Foundation's Unleash Your Drive campaign
(Image credit: Golf Foundation)

A new initiative aimed at improving mental wellbeing in schools by introducing golf to children from all backgrounds has been launched by the Golf Foundation.

Unleash Your Drive, launched at the home of the BMW PGA Championship, Wentworth, by the charity’s President and Sky Sports presenter Nick Dougherty, is offering every school in Great Britain and Ireland a six-week golf programme as part of their curriculum.

Five years of research and development has gone into the initiative, with collaboration from mental wellbeing experts and including metrics from the widely used Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing scale to ensure it meets the highest possible standards.

The programme, which has been tested at both primary and secondary school levels, includes nine key mental toughness tools known to help young people’s mental wellbeing. Indeed, across various ages, those who have taken part have seen an improvement in mental toughness of an average of 17%.

The latest research on the mental health of young people in England shows that 18% have a probable mental health issue, while children from disadvantaged backgrounds are three times more likely to suffer from a mental health issue, highlighting the importance of addressing the problem.

Schools can apply via the Unleash Your Drive website, and the Golf Foundation is offering a fully funded kit and resources to some schools needing special support. Those seeking an assessment for that assistance can apply until the end of October.

Every school in Great Britain and Ireland can now purchase the programme at a heavily subsidised rate, with the money raised helping to ensure more of the kit is fully funded each year.

To help raise funds for the initiative, Dougherty has also helped create the Unleash Your Drive Final, which will take place at Wentworth in August 2024 and offers any golfer, no matter what level, the chance to earn, win or play their way into it.

The tournament will see 72 golfers compete on Wentworth’s famous West Course, with Dougherty hosting on the day. The three best performers at the final will earn a spot in the prestigious BMW PGA Championship Pro-Am in 2024, alongside some of the biggest names in world golf.

Money raised will go towards helping more young people from all backgrounds access the programme in their schools.

With that in mind, the Golf Foundation is encouraging all golfers to enter monthly draws or fundraise for the initiative to try and earn a spot at Wentworth. May 2024 will also see a month-long campaign where anyone can play golf and donate £10 for a chance of a spot at the event.

Dougherty explained the importance of the initiative, drawing on his experience with the Golf Foundation - which takes simplified versions of the game to schools and community groups - as a youngster. He said: “I would love golf on the curriculum. I know the power that the game can have, and I want to see its effect used to provide better futures for the next generations in terms of experiences and skills for life.

“The Golf Foundation have always been a powerful force in the game and they were a hugely positive influence for me as a junior – and the mental toughness work they have done ties in beautifully with what I desired to achieve in helping the game to present learning experiences and skills that children can apply to life as well as the game.

"The power of the breathing, concentration and positivity within this programme is huge for any youngster dealing with the stresses of school and life at that stage in their development. If we can get golf to more of these young people, we can have a real impact!”

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.