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Patients build their own foot-golf course at Kneesworth House mental health hospital

  • Hertfordshire hospital to open sporting facility on Aug 25
  • Foot-golf combines golf with football, and is a fast growing sport in the UK
  • Kneesworth House provides rehabilitation and recovery services, and support for people who are acutely unwell
  • Facility will boost fitness levels and provide opportunities for patients to network within the sport long after they are discharged

Patients at a mental health hospital in Royston have embraced one of the fastest growing sports in the UK – and built their own foot-golf course.

Now the course, which is already proving a huge success at the facility, is being officially opened at a special ceremony by Priory’s Chief Operating Officer Warren Irving (Aug 25).

Staff at the hospital say that not only will the course provide great exercise and opportunities to socialise, but it will enable patients to “network” within the sport when they leave, wherever in the country they live. There are plans to host patients from other Priory sites to play and enjoy BBQs at the grounds in the future.

The new facility, at Kneesworth House Hospital, will mean “patients and staff can build therapeutic relationships whilst completing a fun sport activity”, according to the Director of Clinical Services Laura Herdman, who has led the project, along with Facilities and Estates Manager Peter Galasso.

Foot-golf is a combination of football and golf: instead of using clubs and a golf ball, players use their feet and a football. The winner is the one who completes the course of either nine or 18 holes in the fewest shots.

Advocates of the sport point to many other advantages: different abilities can play and compete against one another, and any age can play as long as they can kick a football.

The sport was only introduced to the UK in 2012, but has grown rapidly. By 2018 there were over 100,000 regular players across the country, some of whom take part in international tournaments. “We considered lots of options, but as foot-golf seemed to be a new, up-and-coming sport, we decided Kneesworth House needed its own course,” said Laura.

It is quicker to play than traditional golf, a round taking about two hours compared to golf’s four and a half. It is also more accessible, as it does not require the expensive clubs or indeed high level of technical ability you need for traditional golf. This means the new course is a facility that could offer something “to a wide range of our service users”, said Peter.

He explained the construction of the course took about six weeks “from concept to completion”, but the main work was finished in just three days by the service users themselves, “which was amazing”. The work included the production of “personalised start finish signs”, as well as the “foot-golf hole inserts”.

Kneesworth Hospital provides a pathway of mental health services, including acute, psychiatric intensive care and rehabilitation wards. It offers a wide range of clinical therapies and treatment programmes, which are tailored to individual needs following assessment.

“It was so exciting to have staff and patients working on this project together” said Laura, adding that it was a “patient and all-departments effort”. She was delighted that the patients “have been very engaged in the process”.

“We can promote the importance of physical activity in patients’ lives”, explains Laura, who hopes some might continue playing after leaving the hospital. “On discharge they can connect with local foot-golf courses and network”, she said.

Notes to editors

For further information please contact communications@priorygroup.com

Photo of Facilities Manager Peter Galasso and Director of Clinical Services Laura Herdman demonstrating the facility below.

About Priory Group

The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into four divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, adult care and the Middle East. The Priory Group is owned by NASDAQ-listed Acadia Healthcare, which is recognised as a global leader in behavioural health.

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