Golf, their way: JOLF founder's passion for play
Neil Plimmer is a founder of JOLF, junior golf for children and families, which puts play and experience at the heart of golf development.
A PGA Professional based in Sussex, England, Neil has taught golf at every level of the sport - from elite amateurs and enthusiastic club golfers - to children holding a club for the first time.
More than a decade ago, he began to question how golf was traditionally taught to new starters, especially children.
“As an industry, we could do so much better introducing the sport to children.
I began to think that it was more important to support children through their first experiences of golf by making it enjoyable, meaningful and something they’d like to do more of; rather than getting them to stand like this and hold the club like that.”
In 2011, Neil founded JOLF together with colleague Jonathan Shipstone, with two simple aims; to put clubs in the hands of children and to encourage them to play.
He started providing ‘golf experiences’ to children in nurseries, schools, community halls and leisure centres using GolfParc® accessible equipment and game play.
“I wanted to take golf to children where they feel most comfortable, at nursery, school or in their community. JOLF is about providing meaningful experiences, often first experiences of golf, for children and families,” said Plimmer.
Most JOLF sessions are taught in Primary Schools to children aged four to 11. In Summer term of 2022, 11,000 children played golf on The GolfParc® at their schools.
JOLF is designed to be a person-centred experience, where success is different for every single child and is not always about scores, results and outcomes, says Plimmer.
“In JOLF, success is not about doing it properly. Our ethos is it’s their experience, played their way, on their terms and for some people just having a go and taking part is a massive success.”
Neil believes passionately in allowing children to share their thoughts through pupil voice forms. Results in Primary Schools found that:
- 94 per cent of children enjoy playing JOLF
- 91 per cent want to go on and play golf
In 2020, JOLF launched a virtual golf club that families can join and where they are supported to find family-friendly golf venues and further opportunities to keep playing golf together.
“I just love doing it. It’s really simple, when I get up every day, I have this idea that I want golf to be like Lego; an activity that brings families together and which is synonymous with a way of playing that encourages learning and development,” said Plimmer.
Plimmer has started a podcast called ‘The JOLF Man,’ where he shares his thoughts and ideas on learning golf through play. He has also authored a report entitled ‘Securing the future of participation in Golf,’ which is focused around involving the whole family unit and making the sport more play-based and inclusive to all.
“We can do better at this, we can get more families playing, we’ve just got to support them,” said Plimmer.