The Director of Golf at Wessex Golf Centre has been talking of his delight this week at the club’s success in gaining affiliation to England Golf and obtaining its World Handicap System certificate, set to become the shortest rated course in Dorset.
Luke Shaw, a PGA coach who has worked at the centre in Weymouth for five years, has said that the elevation to rated course status will enable members to readily access golf courses across the world.
Luke said: “We are absolutely thrilled to gain this accreditation and it will mean so much to many of the golfers who come and play with us. It means they can have an official handicap, which is universally recognised, and will open the door to them playing at courses wherever they want.
“We extended one hole and were aiming to increase our yardage to 1,500 yards or more, and the official length is 1,519 yards due the natural undulations of the course. It means we are one of the ten shortest out of 2,000 courses in the country, and it’s great to be the shortest one in Dorset.
“We are proud of the achievement and what we do here at Wessex Golf.”
For a small course, Wessex Golf boast some impressive coaching credentials. Ladies’ PGA golfer Fern Grimshaw is the Head Professional, bringing a wealth of knowledge and many years’ coaching experience. Luke works alongside Fern in coaching the club’s academy youngsters, Wessex Aces.
Paul D’Arcy is the latest addition to the coaching set up, delivering high quality golf tuition as well as mental coaching sessions. Mike Watson is the club’s Touring Golf professional, currently playing on the PGA and national senior events.
The centre boasts an impressive array of facilities and has enjoyed a boost in line with other courses post-pandemic.
Luke said: “We are keen to work with what we have here at Wessex, and will continue to improve our facilities for the hundreds of visitors we get each day. We have a very relaxed approach to the game.
“We know that the formality and etiquette of the game can be quite intimidating for new golfers, particularly younger ones. It’s easy to imagine experienced golfers getting frustrated playing behind novices who are always looking for their balls in the rough.
“Although we are a small course, there is still plenty of challenge out there, but we don’t think that having to hit the ball 300 yards, while watching over their shoulder for better players snapping at their heels.”
Luke is passionate about seeing youngsters get involved in the sport.
He said: “We love seeing children getting involved and try to make our sessions engaging, relaxed and fun.
“It’s not unusual to see some Happy Gilmore shots going on at the end of a session.
“We have players aged five and many older golfers too, including a 94-year old gentleman who plays with us regularly. Older players might find that it becomes too tiring to go around a full course, so we can accommodate those coming towards the end of their love affair with the game.
“We hope that some of our youngsters will go on and join other clubs if they outgrow us, but we often see players who play at other clubs but still come along to use our driving range or improve their short games out on the course.”
Sean Whelan, secretary of the Dorset County Golf Union, has supported Wessex Golf throughout the long accreditation process and welcomed the news that the club’s application had been accepted.
Sean said: “We are delighted that Wessex Golf has gained this accreditation. I know they were perhaps looking to become the shortest rated course in Europe, which hasn’t happened, but they are certainly the shortest of our 34 affiliated clubs in Dorset!
“We are always happy to support clubs who want to be affiliated to Dorset and to England Golf.
“Getting people involved in the sport is a core part of what we do, and courses like Wessex are ideal for getting young and inexperienced golfers involved. 9-hole courses are great for building skills and as a pathway to bigger 18-hole courses, and I’ve noticed that lots of people will remain loyal to the clubs where their golfing journey begins. I think that Luke and Fern have created a fantastic atmosphere at Wessex. They’re a real community-based club who always give everybody a warm welcome. Some clubs can be a little daunting for beginners and they are doing really well to get people involved which is great to see.
“Golf has been able to buck the trend as it was one of the first sports to return after the pandemic, but people had to be members, so we saw a massive spike in golf club membership. We may see that the numbers come under some pressure now as people become worried about the economy, and it’s vital that clubs look after their members well. Finding the right marriage between the individual and what the club offer is so important, and clubs like Wessex have a real role to play.”