Droves of new people are coming into the game; Barwon Heads Professional Jess Bramble wants to ensure their first experience of golf is a fun one.
Comparatively speaking, golf came fairly easily to Jess Bramble. With a background playing tennis, badminton and basketball, Bramble followed her father to Swan Hill City Golf Club as a 13-year-old and discovered an instant affinity, able to hit the ball in the air almost from day one.
As such golf was fun… and she wants to share that joy with newcomers who have found their way into the game.
“I’m not going to be someone who teaches a player on the tour but I don’t aspire to,” says Bramble, currently on maternity leave from her position as a PGA Professional at Barwon Heads Golf Club on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula.
“I just want people enjoying golf because I think somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that golf is a game that’s meant to be fun. I tell people that no one picked up a golf club and was good straight away. Just try to really encourage and be sympathetic because I understand what it is like starting out and learning new skills.
“When people come to a golf lesson for the first time, ultimately they’re very nervous about whether they are going to be able to do it. You can get people to enjoy that process by being social, talking to them, being friendly and encouraging and infectious with your enthusiasm for golf.
“Sometimes that can really rub off and make people feel comfortable.”
An excellent junior player whose lowest handicap was plus-1, Bramble had plans of becoming a sports journalist, spent a year studying primary school teaching at Federation University in Ballarat, worked in the pro shop part-time at Murray Downs Resort and found herself working for a Swan Hill financial planner. But it was the desire to combine her love of golf and teaching that made the PGA Membership Pathway Program an enticing proposition.
“I always entertained dreams of playing but I don’t know how realistically I took those, to be honest,” she concedes. “I’d enjoyed my teaching course at uni so I thought I could combine the two and be in golf and teach it. That’s when I started thinking that a traineeship might be the best way to combine those two things.”
She found a supportive mentor in Dom Azzopardi at Ballarat Golf Club and after three years was named the 2011 Victorian Trainee of the Year. Bramble stayed on at Ballarat for a further year and from day one was focused on helping beginners to fall in love with the game.
“I love the entry-level golfer; they’re my favourite to teach,” she says. “I like to keep things really simple and clear and ultimately I just like people to have fun and I try to have a bit of humour.
“Golf can be incredibly difficult even when you’ve been playing for a long time and have some idea of what you’re doing, let alone when you’re picking it up brand new. I just try to show people that you can improve relatively quickly and to celebrate the small goals along the way.”
Barwon Heads is already blessed with a nine-hole short course that is all about fun and with a growing number of facilities, such as nearby Thirteenth Beach and Tasmania’s Barnbougle Dunes, adding miniature versions of their primary layouts, Bramble hopes that this latest golf boom will be one that is fun-filled.
“Golf courses are becoming crazy hard and I’d rather see them go the other way, reverse this notion that the harder the golf course, the better it is,” she adds. “I’d love to see members making birdies and pars. The par-3 course is really good for that, but reducing the stigma that it’s not real golf is really difficult. I’d love to change that perception.”