No. 187

OSB Logo The Old St Beghian
  January 2015


Old St Beghians' Golfing Society Logo

St Bees School Golf Academy and

St Bees School Golf Foundation progress to date


At dinner after the Critchley Cup, played at Gullane Golf Club in 2006, members of the OSBGS were lamenting the state of golf at St Bees School, a school that, unlike most in its sector, boasts its own golf course. The concern was that despite this advantage, without a steady supply of half-decent golfers leaving the school, the pool from which a Halford Hewitt golf team of ten could be drawn would diminish, with the risk that St Bees could lose its prized membership of this prestigious tournament. The ‘Hewitt’ is the premier foursomes’ matchplay tournament played every year by Old Boys from the top 64 public schools. It is thanks to the Society’s founder, Brig. Gen. Critchley, that St Bees, as ever ‘punching above its weight’, has been a participant since before the Second World War.

It was back in 2005 that Matthew Rigby was elected to the Governing Body of St Bees School and a couple of years later that Michael Coffey became President of the Old St Beghian Golf Society. Soon after being appointed, Matthew was asked if something could be done to boost or promote golf in the school; it was soon apparent that to do so would require the assistance of Michael Coffey and the OSBGS.

Here then is a review of the considerable progress to date:

For many years it had been the vision of the Governing Body that the school had to become distinctive and develop characteristics that set it apart from other independent schools. It was therefore resolved that golf could become a major Unique Selling Point (USP) for St Bees. The school is one of only a handful in the UK to own its own golf course, so why not make it a feature? Having golf as a USP has two major benefits: primarily it becomes an attractive proposition for winning pupils to the school, but it also results in low handicap golfers leaving the sixth form, which in turn strengthens the OSBGS.
In the spring of 2008 Stuart Hemmings, a PGA golf professional, was appointed Director of Golf which was the first time the school had appointed a professional to develop the sport. Soon after that a Golf Academy was formed and Stuart began coaching pupils individually, as well as coaching some of the junior school year groups as part of the games’ programme. In the summer of 2008 the old maintenance hut behind School House was converted to a Golf Studio and was   Golf Academy
St Bees School Golf Academy
equipped with a driving bay, nets and video swing analysis, as well as an artificial putting surface. By the spring of 2009 some 35 pupils were having private golf lessons; now it is close to 50!
In May 2009 the St Bees School Golf Foundation was formed with the dual purpose of attracting funds for capital items to support the Golf Academy and to build up an endowment fund for golf bursaries and scholarships. Shortly after, Michael Coffey was collecting funds from generous OSBGS members to go to the School Golf Foundation. The first project, a short-game practice facility alongside the 9th green at the golf course, was completed in the spring of 2010 and named after the Society’s major benefactor Tom Fletcher.
Tom Fletcher Short game Practice Area

The Tom Fletcher Short Game Practice Area at St Bees School Golf Course

The Costeloe Chipping Green   In the summer of 2010 work started on the Costeloe Chipping Green, named in memory of Nigel Costeloe’s father and uncle, Geoffrey (G 34-38) and Norman
(G/SH 36-40).
It was around this time that the school golf team beat Sedbergh 2-1 in the first golfing match between the two schools!
This fantastic practice facility located behind the Golf Studio was eventually opened on Speech Day in May 2012, by the Golfing Society’s senior and most ‘capped’ member and former President of the St Beghian Society, Alec MacCaig.
The Costeloe Chipping Green

Costeloe Chipping Gree   Costeloe Chipping Green
St Bees School Golf Academy - The Costeloe Chipping Green

In April 2012 a business plan was presented to, and sanctioned by, the Governing Body. The business plan commits the school to changing the 'culture' of golf in the school as well as securing matched funding from the school for any expenditure that comes from the St Bees School Golf Foundation.

In September 2013 the Golf Foundation awarded the first bursary to a promising young golfer and this was followed by two further awards to pupils in September 2014. During the summer of 2014 the school golf team excelled themselves by being runners up in the Regional ISGA (The Independent Schools Golf Association) tournament. Later in the same month they beat Sedbergh again, 6-0, and in September scored an even more notable victory over Merchiston Castle at Silloth, one of the top golfing schools in the UK.

During the last few years further donations have been received by the Foundation, which enabled a GC2 Launch Monitor and associated technology to be installed in the Golf Studio in September 2014. This amazing teaching aid will take the Academy to a new level and we can expect some great results.

The school now boasts some fine low handicap golfers, with the current top six boasting handicaps of 1, 4, 6, 6, 7 and 10. This of course will be good news for the OSBGS and for our participation in the various tournaments for former pupils, in the not too distant future.
  GC2 in Action
GC2 In Action

So what of the school?

We have an inspirational new Headmaster, James Davies, and pupil numbers are recovering after a significant decline between 2009 and 2012. These, however, are still very tough times for all independent schools and St Bees, particularly in view of its geographic location, is no exception. The continuing support of the Society remains critical, whether that be support of a fundraising campaign, a specific project such as golf or as a legacy.

We are very proud of what we have so far achieved with golf at St Bees. The facilities are now outstanding and as good as at any school in the UK. We are now starting to achieve excellent results and because golf is now a recognised USP and very much on the golfing map, St Bees is attracting more and more full fee-paying boarders. This is in no small part due to the tireless efforts of Stuart Hemmings, whose enthusiasm and professional skills are being rewarded by his pupils.

We are hugely appreciative of the many OSBGS members that have supported the St Bees School Golf Foundation.
Please do continue, as you are already witnessing the results of your generous support.
To those who have yet to make a contribution, both golfers and non-golfers, PLEASE do so now. Even a modest sum paid by standing order on a monthly basis will help us to maintain the momentum.
Please click here for a St Bees School Golf Foundation payment form.

Thank you.

Matthew Rigby, Governor, St Bees School.
Michael Coffey, President, OSBGS.




The St Beghian Society    
St Bees School,    St Bees,    Cumbria,    CA27 0DS

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