With time on her hands during lockdown, Caron Morton put it to good use and revived the Girls in Golf Society.
Now 2021 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the group based in and around Sussex, but with the potential to grow the network of gay women golfers across the country.
Back in 2006, Caron – a keen golfer since schooldays when her late father introduced her to the game and she joined the junior section at Boyce Hill Golf Club in Essex – wondered how she could widen her circle of friends.
Having moved back to England from a life in Germany, Caron wanted to meet like-minded people in her area and decided the sociable side to golf would allow her to not only do that but combine it with a love of the sport.
“Initially, it started as a personal journey for me,” admitted Caron who has also worked in the golf industry at home and abroad.
“I had lived in Germany and had a social circle of gay friends over there, but on moving back to England was really starting from scratch.
“Standing in grotty bars didn’t appeal to me and I thought to myself that there must be other women who shared my love of golf.
“With the help of a fellow gay golfer whom I’d met online, we managed to spread the word and as time went by the numbers of women involved in GIGS grew.
“It was all very informal, we got together maybe once a month and played at various courses nearby.
“At its height we maybe had 50 members and it was a great social occasion when we met with lots of laughs as well as enjoying the golf.
“In recent years, I had not been able to put so much time into the organisation.
“But during lockdown I had time to spare and said to myself, that it was the time to get it going again.
“When I reflected on what we’d built I was actually very proud of the group.
“I made so many good, good friends from starting up GIGS.
“The isolation of lockdown made me miss those occasions and it was time to look forward and get back to enjoying meeting up with like-minded golfers.”
In the early days of the society, GIGS, unfortunately, endured some prejudiced comments from individual golfers that indicated a wider issue of intolerance within society.
“Whenever we booked a course we did so as any regular society would do,” added Caron, pictured below.
“We didn’t shout about being a gay golf society, but on one occasion we did meet with some homophobic comments which, when relayed to the club’s general manager, left the host club mortified.
“Golf has come an awful long way in addressing the barriers to play.
“Last year when England Golf adopted the rainbow logo on the Twitter avatar for Rainbow Laces day, I must confess I almost fell off my seat!
“But that has to be followed up with positive action on the website and with future campaigns and I hope we are getting there.
“Golf has come a long way in recent times in welcoming people from all backgrounds. The old barriers are being broken down, but there’s more to be done.”
Looking ahead, Caron is hopeful that the GIGS group can grow in the new year.
With golf courses now open, the chance to get back on the fairways or onto a range – even on a cold December day – appeals to Caron.
She added: “Since August around a dozen of us have been back out – even if it was just going to a driving range or playing at the 9-hole course at Burgess Hill.
“The split of the group at the moment is 60/40 in terms of golfers and those who are new to the game.
“There’s one woman who has joined us now who loves the game, but she has only ever whacked golf balls on a range. She whacks about 400 golf balls a week having got the bug.
“I took her to a putting green for the first time and I’m encouraging her to take lessons. It’s great to see.
“I have been as low as five handicap and in my younger years won events and played for the Essex county second team.
“But our group is as much about enjoying a social side to the game, meeting new friends.
“For now, we’re based in the Sussex area, but I’ve had contact with people in Manchester about starting a northern hub and I’ve no doubt this could be the same story all over the country.”
To discover more about GIGS, their outings, social events and how to become a member, please visit the GIGS website