SWINDON-BASED coach Ian Bolt celebrates half a century as a qualified PGA Golf professional this month.

Based at Basset Down Golf Complex, near Wroughton, Bolt is a well-respected pro in the South West, having started his career when he was just 17 years old.

Born in St Andrews and growing up a stone’s throw from Anstruther Fife Golf Club, Bolt started learning to play golf with his sister’s clubs at the age of 13.

His game rapidly developed and saw him win their club championships at the age of 16.

A year later, he moved from Scotland to Wiltshire and began his three-year studies to qualify as a PGA professional, while working as an assistant golf professional at Ogbourne GC.

After becoming fully qualified at the age of 20, Bolt then moved to Manchester GC with mentor David Haslam in 1972, but returned to Wiltshire four years later.

After stints at North Wilts GC, Ogbourne GC and Cricklade GC, he has taught at Basset Down for the past decade.

Some of Bolt’s personal achievements include being a prolific winner of the PGA West Region circuit and winning the first Cornwall Festival – a 54-hole event which kicks off the start of the golf season.

He has won numerous Pro-Ams in both individual and team events and has been partnered on many occasions by life-long friend and sponsor Ken Knox.

Without the help and support he received from Knox and Haslam, Bolt says he would not have achieved the level of success that he did.

Bolt also competed in the 1974 British Open at Lytham St Annes, where he placed 75th overall, has been named West Region Golfer of the Year twice, is a course record holder at four different courses across the UK and is now an honorary member at St Andrews.

Despite being in his 50th year of coaching, Bolt still teaches a variety of golfers for just shy of 40 hours a week.

“I still enjoy teaching now as much as I did when I was 20 years old, even after 50 years,” said Bolt.

“I love seeing the improvement in players, regardless of whether they’re starting out as a beginner, or are a well-established golfer in need of a few tips to fine tune elements of their game.

“Basset Down is such a friendly club, with an active membership and has one of the best driving ranges in Wiltshire.

“It’s great to be part of such a forward-thinking club, and I’m looking forward to continue coaching until my retirement – who knows when that will be though.”

To celebrate this incredible milestone, Basset Down arranged a secret collection for Bolt with help from members and visitors, with more than £450 contributed towards a present.

As a lover of fast cars, the club has arranged for Bolt to have the ultimate driving experience at Thruxton Motorsport Centre with British racing driver and television presenter Tiff Needell.

Bassett Down owner Juliette Nutland said: “Over the last 10 years, Ian has been such a valuable member of our team, and has significantly helped us to grow our ladies’ section, as well as advising on the development of the golf course.

“We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who contributed towards Ian’s present, and helped us surprise him on his special day – his face was a picture.”

Based just a two-minute drive from J16 of the M4 in Swindon, Basset Down Golf Complex is open to the public seven days a week.

Its facilities include a nine-hole golf course, 20-bay driving range, two footgolf courses and a fully licensed cafe.

To find out more about the club and golf lessons with Bolt, visit www.bassetdowngolfcourse.com.