Over 220 women in Hertfordshire have taken up a challenge to get into golf the fun and sociable way.
They all took part in a series of Academy Days, aimed both at women without handicaps who had joined local clubs as academy members and also at complete newcomers to the game.
The events brought them together on Par 3 courses and offered a fun version of the game where the scoring was initially by challenges instead of points amassed or shots taken.
“Our challenges were things like ‘hit the green in one’ or ‘get out of the bunker in one shot’ or ‘shake hands on the final green’,” said Esther Strous, England Golf’s County Development Officer for Hertfordshire. “The idea was to encourage them to improve and to learn about golfing etiquette at the same time.
“They had a lot of fun and new friendships were made at every event. It has been a great experience,” she added. As a result, seven women have gone on to become full golf club members and 67 have taken out a flexible club membership since April.
All the events were run as shotgun starts to make them compact and appeal to women with limited time.
The women who joined the series were hugely enthusiastic about the project. “Loved the idea of challenges which took pressure off scoring,” said one player. “Met some lovely people and learned a lot, especially golf etiquette.”
“Lots of fun, I had a great day,” said another. A third remarked: “Taking part was very enjoyable. I'm not sure I scored very many challenges but that doesn't mean I enjoyed it any less. A great afternoon and I'm looking forward to the next one.”
The series was supported by 18 golf clubs, with many of them providing prizes for events; by a host of volunteers who guided the newcomers around the course, encouraging them and explaining about etiquette; and by PGA professionals who were given their own challenge by Esther.
They were asked to find four women who had never played golf before, to coach them for eight weeks and then enter them as a team in a Pro Challenge event, which finished with Pimm’s and cake for all players. As a result, 28 new golfers took part with some of them signing up for future events.
The final Academy Day of the summer series attracted 37 women, playing for a trophy donated by the family of Stella Frogley, a past ladies’ captain of Redbourn and Berkhamsted Golf Clubs. Stella, who died earlier this year, was always keen to encourage new golfers.
The idea for the series was born during a conversation between Esther and Hertfordshire golfer and volunteer Janet Proudfoot.
“It’s been brilliant,” said Janet. “We’ve involved people from all walks of life, they’ve made friends, started playing regularly and they’ve been amazed at their progress. Now we’re hoping to see the academy ladies become full club members and, in turn, help new people to come into golf.”
Lauren Spray, England Golf’s Women & Girls’ Participation Manager added: “This is a great way to get women involved in regular golf and to make lasting friendships. It will form a very useful blueprint for other counties which are looking for ways to increase women’s participation.”
Winter events are being planned and details will be posted on www.getintogolf.org/herts Information is also available on the Academy Days' Facebook page and Esther Strous can be contacted on 07736 880 919 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org