GENERAL manager Joanna Mantle is confident a new $1.5 million driving range and training facility at Charlestown Golf Club will attract new players to the game and further enhance their strong junior program.
Excavation work began this week and it is hoped that the facility will be at least partly operational by the end of July.
The driving range will include 35 bays, with 10 designated for members as well as a permanent training and coaching bay for club professional Ryan Smith.
Situated to the left of the practice green, the all- weather, flood-lit training area has been 10 years in the making.
"This has been in the pipeline for quite a few years," Mantle said. "It was written into our strategic plan. We wanted to stick with our core value, which is golf.
"A lot of clubs have going towards retirement villages and things like that. We wanted to stick with what we do best.
"With people being time poor, they can come up and spend an hour hitting balls. We are hoping to get more schools and women into golf and then we can transition them from the driving range to the course."
Smith has a strong junior program which has helped produced the likes of Blake Windred, who competed in his first European Challenge Tour event this week, and current NSW amateur representative Jye Pickin.
"Having my own purpose-built training centre is something I have always dreamt of," Smith said.
"It will be perfect for teaching. I have a strong group of kids aged 11 and 12 coming through and it will help me get them to the next level.
"It will also be great for club fitting."
The driving range will also cater for corporate events and private functions.
"We believe it will re-define the face of golf in Lake Macquarie and Newcastle region, with extended operating hours at night and access to the most advanced coaching and training facilities available," Mantle said. "This is the start, and all going well there are further things in the pipeline."
** Jye Pickin was last week named in the NSW senior representative side. Selection continues a strong season for the 20-year-old, who finished the joint low amateur alongside fellow state team member Harry Bolton in the NSW Open.
** Charlestown professional Blake Windred will be after a stronger finish when he tees up in the Dormy Open in Sweden on Thursday.
In his opening event on the European Challenge Tour event last week, Windred was fourth after rounds of the 66,68.
But his charge faded on the weekend with rounds of 73,79 to finish at two under and finish 56th.
** Newcastle's Ella Scaysbook carded rounds of 76,74 to win the girls division at the North Coast Masters last weekend.
Harry Atkinson (75,75) finished second in the boys and won the 14-15 years division.
Harry Preece (89,88) from The Vintage won the under-11 boys, ahead of Newcastle's Jesse Linden (86,92).
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