It is three years since Colin Jenkins and his team took over the golf course at Basildon. The course has been completely re-energised and overhauled, which has resulted in a healthy uplift in visitor numbers and business in general. One of the things Colin particularly wanted to do was to build a superb and very large putting green at Basildon. As the photographs show, the new putting green is indeed extensive, with its undulating slopes a real challenge for all concerned.
The exceptional putting green is already in superb condition, especially bearing in mind that it was seeded only just over 12 months ago.
The switchback layout covers three quarters of an acre and is on the site of the old clubhouse. Incorporating the existing putting green, the championship challenge has been laid out over 36 holes.
Brian Parker, who is 70 and a senior season ticket holder at Basildon, was the first player to record a hole-in-one at the event. His ace came on the seventh hole and crowned a thoroughly enjoyable day for Brian. He added: “I’m recovering from having had a stroke and find it difficult to play more than nine holes at present. This event has been so much fun and I have greatly enjoyed it. It allows me to be competitive and involved in golf, even though I’m not able to play a full round at present. I hadn’t realised how tough some of the putts would be, as the undulations make picking the right line quite tricky. It was lots of fun and I’m definitely going to enter next year.”
Despite the new sport of putting being gender neutral, there was a good number of ladies competing in the event. They had a great time and one of ladies made the following comment:
“Today was the first time that I’ve had a proper putt on the putting green, as it is only recently opened in its full glory. I greatly enjoyed it and found it very rewarding and a great way to socialise with my friends, as well as to compete in a friendly manner.”
The event was won by Josh Tobin, who triumphed after a play-off involving the leading four players.
Colin Jenkins, a director of Basildon Golf Course and co-founder of British Putting, is delighted with how the event was received:
“The battle in staging this event was twofold. First, we had to get the course into the right condition. With a cold spring we just didn’t get the sort of quality growth we needed, so our plans to open in the early summer had to be put back. “Once we had the course in a suitable condition, we let the public play on it. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive, but as with most new things, they didn’t realise exactly what we were trying to achieve initially. We would obviously rather had more people playing in the final, but with over 60 people putting in the finals and hundreds more in the weeks leading up to it, we are very pleased with the level of support we had in our first year. Our greenkeeping team have been exceptional in their devotion to duty and in ensuring that all of the putting surfaces were in tip-top order.”
All competitors were asked to make a £1 contribution to the Golf Foundation with the total raised being over £150.
The bar and food takings for Basildon were up by about a third for the day, which allows other operators the confidence to stage an event, even with prizes and giveaways, without feeling the need to heavily subsidise the new activity. Colin Jenkins comments:
"In order to get people using the putting green and enjoying the area, it is simply a matter of cutting the grass and putting out the flags. In order to get people to pay to play in an event, you have to create some other reasons to get them excited. Certainly the £200 first prize helped! But also the sense that money was being raised for the Golf Foundation and that golfers were enjoying a new type of event together.
“Several people remarked that they didn't realise that it was so much fun to just putt. Since the event the new putting green is twice as busy as before and this is despite it being heavily dressed the day after the event. The event has definitely helped get people used to just putting and visiting the club without having to play. The benefits of this additional attraction have improved our bar takings substantially and the number of people in and around the clubhouse on fine days has risen noticeably. However, it is clear that people do not like to putt in the rain!"
British Putting are delighted that the first major event has been such a success and also that the spin offs for those staging similar events are bound to be positive. There is a bit of work involved, but it has to be one of the easiest ways to increase trade and keep golfers and their wider families and social networks involved with their club for longer.
The British Open Putting Championship may not have reached the status of a huge event yet, but some interesting statistics were thrown up:
• 78% male, 22% female
• 18% under 18, 52% 19-64, 30% over 65
• Ball used: Srixon 62%, Titleist 23%, Callaway 9%, Bridgestone 6%
• Putter used: Ping 55%, Odyssey 26%, Scotty Cameron 8%, Never Compromise 6%, Yes 3%, other 2%.
• Golf top worn: 55%, other 45%
• Lower half...Trousers/skirts worn: Jeans 35%, Trousers 32%, Shorts 25%, Skirts 8%
• Golf glove worn: 10%, no glove 90%.
• Headware worn: Golf cap 30%, no hat 66%, other headware 4%
• Left hand players 14%, Right hand players 86%.
• Members of a golf club with a handicap 62%, other 38%
These statistics give us a useful snapshot of the type of players that are interested in participating in a big putting event. The ball statistics were some what swayed by Srixon's sponsorship of the event and Ping putters were available to use for all competitors, if they wanted. Even more interesting is the clothing, as an event with no dress regulations still attracts over a third of denim wearers and a quarter in shorts. Perhaps golf events in general need to allow an even more relaxed approach to dress regulations than previously (personally I never find playing golf in jeans as comfortable as shorts or trousers, but it makes no difference for putting).
With 22% of the entrants being female, this is fairly encouraging, given the number of female golfers is so much lower.
Left handed golfers tend to be more plentiful in Essex, which may also seem surprising.
The event was held on a Sunday and the weather very pleasant, but a bit chilly later on. A warmer day will be even more popular to attract the greatest number, but is less relevant for those wishing to compete.
For more details and to see the exceptional aerial footage of the course at Basildon, please visit: www.basildongolfcourse.com.