Stephen Gallacher reveals plans for kids’ golf course

STEPHEN Gallacher has revealed plans to build a nine-hole par-3 golf course in his native Lothians which he is aiming to provide free of charge for under-12s in time for next year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Planning permission has been secured for the project at Kingsfield Golf Centre on the outskirts of Linlithgow and the newly-crowned Dubai Desert Classic champion is now trying to raise £200,000 to get it started.

With holes ranging from 80 to 135 yards, Gallacher has designed the course in collaboration with Graeme Webster, the leading Scottish golf course architect, and reckons its benefit would be two-fold.

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On the back of his Junior Foundation which has proved a huge success since its launch last year, Gallacher is keen to provide a facility for youngsters being introduced to the game as beginners.

At the same time, however, the 38-year-old believes such a course would help European Tour players, including himself, as well as leading Scottish amateurs to sharpen up their short games.

“The plans have been drawn up and the aim is to get the course in place in time for the 2014 Ryder Cup,” Gallacher told The Scotsman of a project he is driving in tandem with Robert Arkley, the Kingsfield owner. “We are in the process of trying to raise the money for it and hopefully we can get some help from the likes of SportScotland or the lottery as everything will help.

“One of my aims is to get golf into the school curriculum and we have already set up a meeting with the headteachers of primary schools in the Linlithgow area to discuss how we’d like to bus pupils to Kingsfield for coaching then bus them back.

“If that was successful, we could maybe then open it up to secondary schools as well but one thing for certain is that I want under-12s to be able to come along and play the par-3 course for free.”

As is the case with the existing nine-hole course created by Webster’s Team Niblick at Kingsfield, it will be built to USGA specification and Gallacher has already received indication that it would be used by Scotland’s amateur squads.

“First and foremost, it will be a course where kids – beginners, too – can develop their games and for under-12s to get that chance for free would be the icing on the cake for me,” he added.

“At the same time, though, it’s a place where myself and some of the other European Tour boys could definitely improve our games from 100 yards and in as there’s nowhere like that for us at the moment.

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“We are actively speaking to people at the moment to try and come up with funding and any help we can get, whether it’s money or materials, could be crucial.

“For instance, we’ll be aiming to provide an armoury of clubs that youngsters can use as starter packs when they come and play the course so any help with that would be welcome as well.”

While Kingsfield has been home to a driving range for nearly 20 years, it has become one of the main hubs in Scottish golf since Arkley gave up farming to take over the reins.

A whole host of coaches, including Kevin Craggs, Jane Connachan, David Burns, David Patrick and Colin Gillies, are based there, while, in addition to Gallacher, the likes of Richie Ramsay, Peter Whiteford and George Murray also use the practice facilities.

Designated as one of Scottish golf’s new development centres, it is already widely used by both the SGU and SLGA as well as Lothians Golf Association and Stirling University. “Stephen came back from a golf day he hosted at The Renaissance Club last year and told me wanted to try and build a par-3 course and that he wanted it to be free for under-12s, which is massive,” said Arkley, a non-golfer himself but hugely passionate nevertheless about the sport.

“He is keen to create a legacy for Scottish golf and wants to see kids hitting balls on the new course in time for next year’s Ryder Cup.

“It will all depend on funding but, in a worst-case scenario, if it was seeded next May, I still think that can happen.”