Polish Golf is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing golfing nations in continental Europe, as more and more players across all ages take up the sport. With multiple governing bodies and associations leading this development, it is the pioneering work spearheaded by the PGA of Poland (PGA Polska) that has ensured this growth was realised.
With a reorganisation and restructure of its Professional education programme, a continued growth of tournament opportunities and the establishment of many other key services, the association is doing its bit to grow the Professional game in Poland and in turn, grow the sport more broadly across the country.
The CPG took time to speak to PGA Polska Director of Education, Wojciech Waśniewski, to ascertain the goals of the organisation moving forward, find out a bit more about the activities it has and is engaging in right now to grow the game, and why its relationship with the CPG has been pivotal for both.
TB: Could you provide an overall picture of golf in Poland? Such as the number of courses and facilities, the key stakeholders in developing golf in Poland etc…
WW: There are roughly 6,500 registered players in Poland, which in recent years has been growing at an annual rate of between 5-10%, demonstrating the development of the sport and popularity it is being recognised with by so many. We estimate that altogether there might be around 12000 active golfers in the country.
Whilst Poland is relatively large by landmass compared to some of its neighbouring nations, there are lots of clubs and facilities located across the country. Right now, there are 19 full 18-hole golf courses, accompanied by a further 24 shorter 9-hole, 6-hole or Pitch & Putt golf courses. Considering the first golf courses were opened only in 1991, the numbers are not bad, however there are regions in the country where golf is heavily underdeveloped. Mainly on the Eastern side of Poland.
The organisational network structure in the country does follow similar patterns to most other successful countries in golf and golf development, whereby the PGA Polska manages Professional Golf, with the Polish Golf Union focusing on the Polish Amateur game and representing the game in front of the Ministry of Sport, the most important central agency driving and controlling Polish sport. There is also a Polish Greenkeepers Association, Polish Ladies Golf Association and Polish Senior Golf Association. All these organisations are members of the Polish Golf Union, including PGA. Together, these associations are credited with furthering the development of golf, and golfing participation in the country.
TB: Could you overview the PGA of Poland, including some of the goals of the association and the key activities it engages in for its members and for golf in Poland?
WW: Whilst our overarching goal is to promote PGA of Poland Professionals and the PGA Brand, we continue to focus on key activities moving forward. These include submitting our golf instructor and coach qualifications to the National Qualifications Registry, developing a sustainable model of financing the association and its work, and launching a new, modular education programme, including courses for future licensed activators, assistant instructors, instructors, coaches, managers, golf course staff as well as the amateur golfer.
Alongside providing playing and competitive opportunities for our members, through our PGA Polska Tour, we are heavily focused on developing our education services. As with most other established CPG Member Countries, we have had a three-year training programme in place for all prospective trainees to enrol in, paving the way for a future in Professional Golf in Poland. However, this will be overtaken by the new modular, flexible qualifications-focused system from this year onwards.
Further education if also vitally important, as we ensure to develop both the training and qualification levels of all our members to continue their own Professional Development and in turn, drive the game forward. Some recent CPD events have included ‘Teaching Golfers with Disabilities’ training in conjunction with the European Disabled Golfers Association [EDGA], Rules of Golf training, First Aid training and in the last months during the current COVID-19 lockdown – weekly webinars for members and trainees, with various speakers and topics presented on and discussed in smaller groups. As an example, during one of the calls we discussed and created a new programme and assessment for the PGU Green Card, focusing more on the skills of playing golf quickly and safely on the golf course, rather than on tournament rules and skills assessments, which was the case previously.
Our work also aims to bring the PGA closer to the Polish Golf Union through a number of ways. First, we are currently developing a new modular education structure together that I have mentioned above. This will enable all golf staff, both Professional and Amateur, access to first-class golf education services and training. Secondly, we are currently working on creating and supporting a new development programme for golf in Poland. This Collaborative front is hugely beneficial for golf and it will be exciting to see where it leads in the future!
TB: Could you now overview the PGA of Poland Membership? What kind of jobs and activities they work in and do to further golf?
WW: So far, we have 94 PGA Members across 4 membership types: Professional, Player, Supporting Member and Honorary Member. Most PGA Members are engaged in coaching roles as Teaching Professionals or Head Professionals but there are some in Club Management and Golf Media as well. As we continue to grow and develop our membership further, we fully expect these titles to follow suit!
What I think is really crucial and unique about our members is their role in developing amateur golf. For example, PGA of Poland Members have formed a Coaches’ Committee, which supports the Board of the Polish Golf Union in the area of junior golf development and grass roots golf. It further exemplifies the strong relationship between Professional and Amateur golf in Poland.
TB: Why do you value being a Confederation of Professional Golf Member Country PGA?
WW: Having our education programme recognised by the CPG was absolutely crucial. This placed us in a favourable and strong position to work as education partners with the Polish Golf Union moving forwards, enabling us to enact some of the key work we are doing.
The support from the CPG in various other ways has been so important and valued as well. For example, CPG Chief Executive, Ian Randell, and CPG Director of Development and Innovation, Martin Westphal, visited Poland last year for a series of meetings that eventually helped form a new agreement between the PGA of Poland and the Polish Golf Union. The signed agreement now ensures that the PGA stays in a leading position as education partner of the Polish Golf Union, and accelerated the process of developing the new education structure for all golf staff allowing for creation of flexible career pathways, in line with the Polish Qualifications Framework.
TB: What direction do you see the association, and golf in Poland heading in over the next few years?
WW: In line with our goals, we are planning to widen our education offer and open it up to managers, supporters, licensed instructors and coaches as well as golf facility staff and amateur golfers. Using the support of CPG, local education partners, and more experienced PGAs, we would like to develop high quality basic and further education offering for those many different groups of people working in the golf industry.
Ideally, those new groups would join our Association in some way and help national golfing Collaboration. By achieving this, we hope to use this new workforce for proactive development of the number of golfers in the country.