Starks Field Primary School was delighted to welcome the Golf Foundation to help celebrate World Mental Health Day.

The national charity introduces the game of golf to children from all backgrounds and were on hand with the kids to showcase the mental health benefits the game can bring.

World Mental Health Day 2023 is all about the theme ‘mental health is a universal right’ and the Golf Foundation’s mission to get the game to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access fits perfectly.

The mental health benefits of being active are well known – and for the Golf Foundation, mental health is at the heart of their new school programme called Unleash Your Drive.

Launched by Golf Foundation President and Sky Sports presenter Nick Dougherty, Unleash Your Drive is the culmination of five years of research, development and testing, using nine mental toughness tools over a six-week period, all aimed at helping kids cope with the difficulties life may throw at them inside and outside of school.

Trials of the programme have seen mental resilience improve by an average of 20% in children who took part.

Mental health improvement is one thing, but smiles on faces certainly help the kids to buy into the idea – and the evidence at Starks Field Primary School was there for all to see as Nicola Bennett ran them through a series of fun games using the adapted Golfway equipment.

Children were introduced to breathing techniques and a series of self-reflection and self-congratulatory messages as they hit soft balls around the playground areas, and ran to collect cones ahead of their peers.

"It’s been great to see the enjoyment of the kids,” said head teacher Melissa Oliveck.

"We’ve seen their confidence improve and them discover new skills. Anything that helps our kids with confidence and mental wellbeing is of course welcomed by us, and with this, they’ve also been having a great time and loving working with Nicola!"

For Bennett, the session is part of the continuing work she does with the Golf Foundation across the North London area – she has now been in 10 schools over the past two years, introducing the game to over 150 kids and getting them to her Bush Hill Park Golf Club to introduce them to the game and show how inclusive it can be.

"I love working with the kids,” she said. “I work to introduce the game to kids and adults alike both inside and outside of my golf club – and the work I do with the Golf Foundation is always great fun bringing the game to kids in the local area.

"The breathing techniques and mental toughness tools in the Unleash Your Drive programme are so important to help kids right now and in their future.

"I’ve seen the impact it’s had on these kids because I work with them year on year, and I’ve seen their confidence improve directly from these sessions. That is so rewarding!"

After the success of Europe's Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup teams in recent weeks, the game is reaching new audiences at the top level. Now the Golf Foundation is looking to continue doing the same at grassroots level – and helping improve the mental wellbeing benefits of those who take part in the process.

“Golf is a great sport for teaching mental wellbeing,” adds Brendon Pyle, chief executive of the Golf Foundation.

"It’s great to be here seeing Nicola do her thing, and she’s an absolutely vital part of what we are doing in the North London area. We are trying to replicate this across the country and get golf into every school in the country as part of the Unleash Your Drive initiative.

"The research we’ve done has all led to this programme, and the beauty of it is that we can measure the mental wellbeing of the kids before and after the programme, and show our impact.

"We hope and we know that golf can play a huge part in changing the face of mental wellbeing in schools across the country – we’ve launched the initiative now, and we’re just getting started.”

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