The academy, which opened in 2002 and is led by PGA Professional Rick Valentine, is based at the Loretto School in Musselburgh – Scotland’s oldest boarding school – and has attracted talented golfers from Scotland and beyond.
However, not content to rest on its laurels, the school – which was the first in the UK to establish a specific school-based golf academy – has announced plans to further enhance the quality and availability of the golf services it provides by opening a new indoor golf centre.
The new facility is being built within the school’s former swimming complex and is expected to open for use early next year.
Comprising an indoor driving range, short game facility to include chipping, pitching and putting, putting analysis, and indoor teaching studio complete with video analysis and Trackman, the centre should reinforce Loretto’s status as one of the top golf facilities of its kind in the UK, while also providing an invaluable practice resource for its pupils.
The centre will offer golf to all 600 pupils at Loretto through PE, games and activities. The Golf Academy’s development pathways start at five years old and allow pupils to develop their game as they progress through the school. The centre will also improve the coaching and practice facilities for the 50-strong development and senior squad players, offering them the best possible support to take their game to the next level.
The school’s incoming Headmaster, Graham Hawley, explained: “Small schools need unique selling points in order for them to thrive.The golf academy at Loretto is a hugely significant project for us to cement our place as the number one golf programme within the country. It’s going to be terrific for all the pupils at the school: girls, boys, and particularly the younger ones.
“It’s also going to cement our links with the Scottish Golf Union and, as well as that, be a terrific resource and facility for the whole community.”
It is expected the new centre, which will enable golf practice throughout the year, will quickly become the very best indoor golf facility in Scotland and the best school’s facility of its kind in Europe. It has been developed in partnership with the Scottish Golf Union and is fitted with all of the latest hi-tech golf equipment to provide the most accurate analysis and information for the players practising there.
Rick Valentine, the director of the Loretto Golf Academy, added: “We need to continue to develop year on year to make sure we stay at the top of schools’ golf and leading the field. This is both in regard to the programmes we are delivering but also the facilities we have on offer to our pupils.
“One of our main focuses at the moment is to increase the availability of golf to all the pupils at the school, to really deliver golf for all. This is really important as we move forward, especially with our younger pupils, to introduce them to a sport that they can be participating in for the rest of their lives.
“To work with the Scottish Golf Union on an indoor training centre that is going to benefit the pupils of Loretto but also Scottish golf in general is a very exciting experience.”
One of the many reasons for the development of the indoor centre is the lack of adequate indoor facilities in Scotland and that is something that has previously been identified by the Scottish Golf Performance Director Steve Paulding.
Under the terms of Loretto’s partnership with the SGU, Paulding’s squads will be able to use the centre to practice, which he is delighted about.
“Indoor facilities in Scotland are severely lacking, certainly compared to other countries with similar climates, so the fact that Loretto is putting in a facility like this, where we will be able to be in partnership and access it, is fantastic for Scottish golf,” he said.
Former Women’s British Open champion Catriona Matthew is impressed by the plans for the new centre and commented: “To have more indoor facilities here would be fantastic and is a great benefit to get people into the game, particularly in the winter. It’s a great opportunity and I wish I’d had that when I was younger.”