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Golf Development

The Friends Cup - Spain's Initiative to Attract New Golfers

Spain has enjoyed tremendous success with its Friends Cup initiative, welcoming hundreds of new players to the sport of golf. Founded on the principle of golfers inviting non-golfing friends and relatives to share in their passion, it has yielded remarkable results.

Javier Guibelalde, marketing director at the Royal Spanish Golf Federation, discussed how the scheme is driving golf participation numbers in Spain in a recent interview published in The R&A's Developing Golf Magazine.

Can you explain what the Friends Cup is?

The premise of the Friends Cup is that existing golfers bring new players into the game. We know that 85 percent of players in Spain are introduced to golf through a friend or relative. It may be they have invited them to play a round or just taken them to the driving range, but either way it opens the door for them to experience golf for the first time.The Federation tells its associated clubs that if they want to reach new people and bring them to the sport, this is the best way to do it – by encouraging members to bring their friends or relatives along.

How does it work on a practical level?

The Friends Cup is like an open day, where nonmembers and non-golfers are invited to come along to a club to play. We give the clubs who want to participate a flyer with information, and they can send it to their members, asking them to invite a friend, husband, wife, son, daughter – whoever it may be. It's just an opportunity to invite someone new to the sport of golf. Then on the day, they play in groups of four – two players, two non-players – and the regular players will play tee to green, while the non-players will do the putting. There are around 20 or 30 pairs, with a shotgun start, and they play anything from five to nine holes. It's a fun format in a relaxed atmosphere, and the required skill level is not so high that it might put people off. The feedback clubs get is that everyone – the players and the non-players – really enjoys it. At the end of the day's play, everyone can go to the clubhouse, and they will get something like a free drink. We also provide gifts for all of the participants.
















What follow-up does the Federation undertake to retain these newcomers?

One key thing we do is subsidise the provision of lessons for the non-players and provide the option for them to attend these lessons with existing players. We don't want to just provide the Friends Cup experience and have no way of ensuring the people who take part actually come back again. Our figures show that 21 percent of people who are introduced to golf through the Friends Cup initiative end up becoming players, which is a very high number for any campaign like this. We can track this data because in Spain it is mandatory to be licensed through the Federation in order to play.

What other participation initiatives does the Federation run?

Some other examples include golf schools, where we subsidise golf lessons for children up to the age of 18. In a similar way to the Friends Cup, this gives them a chance to experience the game and develop a passion for it. We also run collective campaigns where clubs can target specific groups, which could include reaching out to local companies to offer subsidised lessons.

Key Numbers

400 Friends Cups hosted at 255 courses

3,493 people attended follow-up golf lessons

921 newly registered players after participating in a Friends Cup

Is there an emphasis on increasing female participation?

Our work at the Federation helps golf clubs to gain players of all types. Similar to other countries, we have more male players but around 30 percent of our members are women and we hope to see that number increase. The Federation encourages clubs to offer a free first lesson for women to encourage participation. By making the sport more open and inclusive, we will attract more people to it – and that is good for the future of golf.

Can you tell us about the Hola Golf website?

The Hola Golf website is a portal to a wealth of information regarding ongoing campaigns in Spain, with a library of video content covering a broad range of topics. Labelled as a "welcome site to golf", there are videos on the subjects of health, participation, women in golf and the economic impacts of the sport. Visitors can also view TV programmes dedicated to golf.