Women and Girls’ Golf Week: Lynette Mapp on starting golf, volunteering and breaking down barriers

Lynette Mapp is a 40-year-old lawyer, working in financial services in the City. She first tried golf five years ago and is now set to be the 2019 ladies’ captain at Wanstead Golf Club in London. Here she talks about her experiences as from new golfer to vice lady captain, her volunteering and how she’s helping to break down barriers.

How did you start in golf?

In the summer of 2013, I was hanging out with some friends when they thought it would be good idea to play pitch and putt in the local park. Throughout the round they were chatting “I wish I had my 7 iron” (we were given the maximum of a 9 iron), “look at her swing”, “shot”…. I was lost, but I wanted to know more! I wanted to be better, not rolling the ball on the ground! The golf seed was planted!

I started to look for clubs pros to teach me this unknown game. I was lost looking, but I was too scared to just turn up at a private club and too uncommitted to take the brave step into this unknown world. I searched the internet for any pro to teach me, but I was finding the info hard to come by. That all changed when my neighbour saw me with some golf clubs and introduced me to his mate who plays golf at Wanstead Golf Club.

How have you progressed?

Learning meant capital “L” at this point. Up to this point the most golf I had played was pitch and putt, and there was 3-4 putting efforts per hole. I would hit one golf shot and then 20 bad ones. A good shot for me meant it went up in the air and travelled 100-150 yards (max). As a learner you go through periods of commitment and then months of non-play. By the summer of 2015 I wanted more, I wanted to play and I wanted more consistency. So off I went for a week’s beginner course at a residential golf school in Spain. On my return from there to my golf club I hit below the 36 hcp and was immediately cut to 34 hcp. I ended up in several finals, won a few honour board competitions and became more competitive. Three years on and I now play off 24 hcp.

When did you begin volunteering?

I started volunteering as soon as I started. As the only ‘young’ member at the time the office would ask me to organise roll ups for new beginners or play a few holes with newbie members.

Currently I am ladies’ vice-captain and will be 2019 lady captain. The vice-captain and I have started to work on plans to look forward. Forward looking means “where would we like to see our club in the next five years and what should we start now for that preparation?” We are planning activities that reach out to all potential golfers, especially young ladies and juniors. Our aim is to make more use of shorter rounds, 9-hole roll ups, social events that are relevant to all age groups and races.

What would you like to achieve as lady captain?

My main aim is make everyone who walks through our doors welcomed, promote our group lessons and ensure that anyone can get a game if they are course ready. I want every local woman in the area to be aware of the beginner group lessons and know they are welcomed regardless of race or status.

Golf is often thought of as a white man’s sport. As a black woman, do you feel you are helping to improve and modernise the image of the game?

I work in the City in financial services and playing golf has been a positive boost for me. Especially in participating in pre-meeting chit chat on the latest major event, to what are you doing/did this week-end? Golf has been an equaliser in male dominated external meetings. Well, that is after the first reaction of “you play golf?” My reaction is often “of course”, which is often met with a thoughtful “yeah, why not”. I guess I like the ‘unexpected’ image that playing golf currently presents for me.

I visit other clubs to play from time to time, from the traditional to more modern, and I feel just my presence often opens minds.

Have you encountered any prejudice in golf, either on account of race or sex?

I have not experienced anything of the sort, locally, nationally or internationally. Wanstead Golf club, a very traditional club, is very welcoming and very inclusive. My experience has shown that golfers are just happy to see other people playing the sport and are generally very welcoming. I remember visiting this prominent golf course in Surrey, playing the 18th hole where the green is across water on an island and right outside a packed clubhouse. The clubhouse take it upon themselves to cheer every shot (from time to time) even if they are visitors. I hit my shot and the club house cheered. My ‘different’ appearance was of no issue, I was just another golfer having fun on the course!

How do you actively encourage other women to play golf?

The health benefits of playing regular golf are too good to ignore. Gentle regular exercise, vitamin D (overload right now), brain stimulation, reduced stress and improved sleep. I often tell my friends to get out there and just try it. It is a leisurely walk with a great community spirit.

What are your golfing ambitions?

To enjoy playing golf for a long time internationally and locally. I am now working one on one with a pro to develop better golfing techniques so that I play with more consistency, hopefully this will translate to a low teens handicap soon.

Do you enjoy competition and opportunities to play outside the club?

In 2015 some of the couples within the club, who go away annually to Belek, Turkey to play golf, asked me to join them on their golfing holiday. They were patient with me as I learnt to play away from my home course, play outside my comfort levels of familiarity and learn course management. This was probably the best foundation I had to start playing golf and not play good “shots”.

As result of that ‘holiday trip’ I started to become more competitive, especially in match play. I like the idea of pushing myself to my best. In 2016 I was the club’s best medal player (on aggregate) for my club, meaning I was eligible for the England Golf grand medal final, now the Bridgestone Chase Your Dream Trophy. I remembered being handed over the entry form and being excited. My attitude was “you better go, meet people and play well, even if you don’t have a caddy!” At the regional final I was amazed at the amount of input by Bridgestone, the host club and England Golf. The day was a much bigger event than I envisaged… I did gulp!

I played the best golf I have ever played (birdies and two very near misses for hole in ones) resulting in qualification for the national final. Playing at the national final at the home England Golf, with my non-golfer mum caddying for me, is the best golf experience I have had to date. Playing with over 80 women in the field, the enjoying the hospitality of England Golf and playing on one of the best courses in England. One day I hope to repeat it.
• Inspired to follow Lynette into golf? Visit www.getintogolf.org to find free or low cost beginner activities.

Caption: Lynette is pictured at the start of her regional qualifier in the Bridgestone Chase Your Dream Trophy (copyright Leaderboard Photograph).