Meet the English club friendly to its core
A golf club in the North West of England drew attention on social media recently for comments it made backing up its claim to be ‘Cheshire’s friendliest golf club’.
As you walk into Hartford Golf Club in Northwich you might see anything from beginners being handed clubs over the counter free of charge to budding tour pros honing their game on the range.
Retail manager Paul Cunningham started at the 9-hole layout 20 years ago, now runs the club’s blossoming social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and told Syngenta Golf he’s happy to help lead a charge for a more modern and open sport.
“Pre pandemic golf was flat and stagnant but the last 18 months has been a massive shot in the arm. There’s a younger demographic now and golf is a bit more accessible,” he said.
“Most golfers start at a place like this, from the range or playing nine holes, it’s accessible. You don’t generally turn up at a private club having never played golf before, you need to learn the rules and the etiquette.”
Youth is at the heart of Hartford’s friendly outlook, where they boast the biggest Golf Access junior group in Britain with more than 150 different juniors playing at best, 100 regularly attending each week and a further 30 engaged in private tuition.
“It’s all about getting the kids ready to play on the course, that’s the ultimate goal. We also introduced forward blue tees around five years ago where kids might be playing a par-five of 200 yards,” said Cunningham.
Accessibility and equality
The devoted Hartford employee added more tee options for older golfers is something the sport needs to look at – again underlining the club’s aim to please everyone.
It doesn’t always go to plan, especially now they’ve gone from 350 members to 500 since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
“The reason I put the heartfelt message out there was I got a couple of negative replies – one said putting out beginners before the Ladies’ Club Championship wouldn’t have happened for a men’s competition and said this wasn’t equality,” said Cunningham.
“We said back that we’re all about equality for beginner golfers and serious golfers. That’s equality as well.
“We aim to please everyone but we know we won’t please everyone all the time. We are a place where we’re going to get all levels of golfer.”
Hartford is a place with a revolving swing saloon door like in the series Cheers.
“We want everyone to be greeted with a smile when they walk in,” said Cunningham.
“We’re not downgrading other clubs, the majority are friendly. It’s not just us on this modernising golf mission: there are other places too with relaxed dress codes and so on.
“They’re singing from the same hymn sheet as us, we’re all working towards the same goal which is to attract more golfers. If there are more golfers that’s good for everyone in our industry.”