A NEW scheme to get more people hitting the fairways of the North East’s golf courses has teed off in Sunderland.
The North East Golf Masterkey is a partnership between six golf clubs to develop the sport and get more women and ethnic minority players involved.
The initiative, similar to one already running in the Scottish Borders, encourages visitors to play the courses and get a pass to use different sites for reduced rates.
People can call ahead to book at a number of courses, with staff arranging the time for them.
The key lets users play a round at Wearside Golf Club, as well as Beamish Park, Brancepeth Castle, Chester-le-Street and Durham City in County Durham, as well as Whickham, near Gateshead, more cheaply than if they paid individually.
It was launched at Wearside Golf Club, in Cox Green, by Sunderland deputy mayor Stuart Porthouse, and club chiefs are hoping it will have an immediate impact.
Club secretary Jim Dutton, said: “This is the first time our clubs have come together like this, and it will make it easier for visitors and existing members.
“It saves having to ring around each course if you want to come and play in a group.”
The six clubs have set up a limited company to organise the scheme and are hoping visitor numbers will see a big increase.
Mr Dutton added: “We are not in this for the short term.
“The clubs all want to be involved because we see this is as the future.”
Coun Porthouse, a committee member at Wearside Golf Club, said: “We felt that there was nothing operating in Tyne and Wear like there is in Scotland, and we wanted to change that.
“It means that the clubs can develop other areas too, because there are not that many women playing golf and we want to get more youngsters playing too.
“Golf is an active sport, and you can play it for most of your life if you want to.
“Golf used to be an elitist sport, but that is the case not any more.
“Compare it to getting a season ticket for Sunderland Football Club. With a membership of a golf club, you can play a round on 364 days a year if you want to, whereas you see 19 league games a season at the football. It’s great value.”
For more details, go to www.negolf.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.