The London-based Irons Golf Society has provided golfing fun for its members for some 25 years.
Now long-standing secretary Peter Heather would love to see a bigger network of LGBT societies all over England so that others can experience the same camaraderie and golfing adventures that he has enjoyed since joining the Irons 15 years ago.
Heather was already a golf club member and mad on the game when he signed up to the Irons Golf Society.
Meeting up with other members of the LGBT community who shared his passion for the game has helped him develop life-long friendships with people he otherwise would not have encountered in everyday life.
The regular outings to new courses and the chance to compete and share a laugh with friends has kept Peter coming back year after year.
“Let’s face it – golf can be intimidating for all of us,” said Heather.
“Standing on that first tee with three pairs of eyes on you – or maybe more – can be daunting for anyone.
“Playing with great friends can help make it a little less nerve-wracking!
“We are based in London and members are from around the Home Counties.
“But there are so many LGBT people who are interested in golf around the country and it would be great if more of these groups could pop up and there was a network around England.
“Of course, it requires someone to start it and keep it running.
“I’d also like to see the golfing bodies do more to encourage initiatives for LGBT golfers as part of the inclusivity campaigns they run. It is rarely mentioned.
“It can sometimes appear a very white, straight game.
“It would also be great if there was a space on every golf club notice board – and it doesn’t need to be a big space – mentioning LGBT golfers.
“That would help to reinforce that message of inclusivity.
“It’s all about connecting with golf club members, making them aware of LGBT golfers.
“I’m sure there are some golfers who live in their own bubble and have never even met a gay man or woman before and it’s all about making these changes.”
The Irons Society meet up for outings and tours several times a year and at its peak had had over 70 members.
“I’ve had great fun being part of the Irons,” confirmed Heather.
“I was a member of a golf club and played regularly but I thought it would be really good to go our and meet other LGBT people for a game.
“I found the Irons society and just joined in.
“Some people may have played with parents and family when juniors and drifted away from the game.
“Others may have started the game and are looking for more opportunities to play.
“Although we are a society and not a golf school, I’d say that the Irons Society is a great way for gay men or women to enjoy the game.
“We’re always looking for new people to come and join us.”
For some LGBT golfers, the fear of a prejudiced reaction can promote negative feelings.
However, Heather has admitted the one comment which came his way was soon turned into a positive.
“One of the people in our group hadn’t picked up on the fact I was gay and then made a homophobic comment,” admitted Heather.
“When I said to him, ‘you do realise I’m gay?’ he was mortified. He was a little hard of hearing and hadn’t picked up on the original conversation!
“He didn’t know how to react to what he’d said.
“But I think he learned something that day and for me it’s then all about the actions of people going forward. From that point on, everything has been absolutely fine and that’s as it should be.”
For more details on the society, visit the Irons Golf Society website