The History of the Golf Foundation
The earliest origins of the Golf Foundation are to be found in a series of meetings which took place in 1951 and 1952.
The birth of the Golf Foundation
During 1951, Jack Burroughs of British Steel Golf Shafts perceived that the sport of golf was facing a potential crisis. Levels of participation in golf were falling off, and many clubs were experiencing difficulties as a result of falling membership rolls. At the same time, he felt that this fall in the golfing population was also manifesting itself in a diminution in playing standards. Determined to find a way to reverse these trends, he began to consult a number of interested parties. One of these was the golf correspondent Henry Longhurst, who contributed the idea that the point at which to tackle the problems was to become active in the schools.
At around the same time, the leading British golfer and three-time Open Champion Henry Cotton was holding meetings with Raymond Oppenheimer and Cyril Gray to try to find solutions to the very same problems which Jack Burroughs was working on. These two strands very quickly came together, with Burroughs' support Henry Cotton undertook a lecture and demonstration at two schools to test the reaction of the pupils. The attendance at these events convinced them that they were on the right track, and thus was born the core activity of the Golf Foundation which was to make possible golf instruction in schools via a process of fund-raising and subsidy.
Six public schools were selected for the pilot scheme which took place during the Summer of 1952. These were: Beaumont, Fettes, Malvern, Rugby, Stowe and Wellington. Henry Cotton himself gave an introductory lecture and demonstration, and compiled a "Manual of Instruction" to act as a blueprint for the local golf professional who would then take over the tuition.
It was now clear that the vision of Jack Burroughs and Henry Cotton had found a ready audience, and it was time to place the Golf Foundation on a firmer footing. A Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of R.H.Oppenheimer, and the Founder Members were Henry Cotton, Jack Burroughs, J.Graham, C.D.Gray, J.D.A.Langley, P.W.L.Risdon and C.T.Digby-Jones. In May 1953, the organisation became a non-profit-making company - The Golf Foundation Limited. Brigadier-General A.C.Critchley CMG, CBE, DSO, was elected as the first President, and the Committee was re-formed as a formal governing Council, with additional Members in the form of C.Gibson and L.M.Masius.
By the time the Secretary, C.D.Gray, compiled the first Progress Report in August 1953, 108 Schools and other educational establishments had registered for Golf Foundation instruction, representing around 3500 young people becoming actively involved in the sport of Golf.
The growth of class instruction
The Foundation was soon facing what was to become a recurring theme - the demand for assistance with instruction quickly outstripped the level of funding available. In short, the Foundation was a victim of its own success.
This was spelt out in the third Progress Report, for 1953-4. By then, around 200 schools and other groups were actively participating (representing 6000 young people). To quote the report:
"At least another 100 schools are eager and waiting to start. But we cannot expand to include them without more contributions to our funds."
In 1955-6 the total number of schools had risen to 237. In the following year, the total was 317. Of these, 85% were Grammar and Secondary schools, showing that the Foundation had expanded well beyond its earliest links with the Public Schools. The final progress report of the decade recorded a total of 400 schools and other groups taking part - "10,000 boys and girls playing the game of golf".