Editor Emma Ballard looks back at the golf challenge she set herself for 2023, 40 rounds of golf by her 40th Birthday.

As I stare out the window looking at the aftermath of Storm Gerrit, it seems like a good moment to put down my thoughts about the challenge I posed 10 months ago. I may have the power to shape the narrative around women and girls’ golf in the UK, but it’s certainly not possible for me to control the weather…is it?!

I jest, of course, but when I launched 40 by 40 at the end of February, what lay ahead was one of the wettest and more miserable years of weather to attempt to play 40 rounds of golf in. If I have any sway, then you’ll be glad to hear I won’t be setting any golf challenges in 2024!

For those of you who don’t know, I turned 40 a week ago. This time last year, I was thinking ahead to what felt like a monumental year for me and wondering whether there was a way to mark it. Maybe it was the slight delirium and the thought of a milestone reached or maybe too much mulled wine, but 40 by 40 was born.

40 by 40 wasn’t as self-absorbed as it may have sounded. I had hoped to broaden the reach of Women & Golf, interact directly with our readers, showcase the different ways women participate in golf and profile women within the industry along the way.

What’s the first rule of goal setting? To make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable. 40 rounds of golf by my 40th Birthday. Noting that a “round” wasn’t always going to be 18 holes. On paper, I was on to a winner.

40 by 40 begins

I actually don’t remember now but I must have been feeling supremely confident as I took on the first round on 28th February. Giving myself nine and a half months to actually complete 40 rounds. I know I definitely believed that I would be squeezing in a lot of nine hole rounds, so I could juggle the challenge with the demands of maintaining content on the Women & Golf website and social channels.

By the second week in March, I had already ticked off three rounds, one as part of a women’s sport conference, one at a golf club run by a mother and daughter and one for International Women’s Day. All fitting into my criteria, I had started on a high. It had rained during all these three rounds but it was early March, my fourth (which I never got to revisit) was rained off (rain really did feature a lot during 2023).

After these first two weeks, it quickly became apparent that this challenge was going to be a lot tougher to complete than I had first envisaged. Although you could deem it as work, every time I was on the course I wasn’t sitting at my computer and as part of a small team here at Women & Golf, that really does have an impact.

By the last week of April and two months into the challenge, I was only four rounds down. Things had to change. At that moment, 40 by 40 switched to more of a strategic approach but I still wanted a women's or girls’ golf angle to every “round”.

Taking control of the challenge

Royal Mid-Surrey Duca del Cosma golf day Women & Golf
Women & Golf Reader Day with Duca del Cosma - Round 5

A Women & Golf reader day at Royal Mid Surrey with Duca del Cosma, was a great way to kickstart a month with lots of golf. Another highlight was heading to Belfast at the beginning of May where I played Malone Golf Club, a club where my Great-Great Aunt had been Lady Captain in 1937.

There were also opportunities to meet and play with other women in the golf industry, one of whom I have known for 20 years and never played with before. It was great to hear their stories, especially from Cat Colman and MGP Nutrition who kindly supported this (what now seemed crazy) challenge. We’d decided to play in May to have better weather – it was cold, windy and wet!

I also headed to Scotland and played Dundonald Links and a real once in a lifetime experience to tick off Royal Troon, venue of the 2024 Open Championship but also host to the AIG Women’s Open in 2020.

Talking of AIG Women’s Open, I topped off the month with a media day at Walton Heath ahead of this year’s championship.

With some relief, I hit June with 15 rounds under my belt. Another supporter of 40 by 40 was Simplify Consulting and it was fantastic to be able to play with co-founder Kate Monserrate, as well as supporting the company’s charity golf day in June.

Cottingham Parks celebrations
Birthday celebrations were organised by Lady Captain Sally Los - Round 19

It’s difficult to pick just one round as the top highlight, but right up there has to be my trip to Yorkshire and Cottingham Parks where I got to join in with the “big birthday” celebrations of nine of the ladies section. I was made to feel so welcome by Lady Captain Sally Los and it was a delight to hear the stories from the women celebrating 0 birthdays.

Hitting halfway

At the halfway point, I didn’t play in round 20 but I helped to host an event with 40 women Academy players from my home club at Bromsgrove Golf Centre.

Bromsgrove Golf Centre
Women's Golf Night at Bromsgrove Golf Centre - Round 20

We’re only halfway and the word count is high… so if I still have your attention I’ll try to keep it brief!

Whilst negotiating all these rounds, we had been managing a very busy golf season at Women & Golf. The rounds came sporadically in July and August, only five in total, but there were some corkers in there – Finca Cortesin (Solheim Cup), La Zagalaeta (PING Junior Solheim Cup) and the chance to play the course the pros did at Walton Heath after the AIG Women’s Open.

Along the way, I had failed a bit in my bid to showcase the different lengths and forms of golf that are played, so I was pleased to get along to the launch of Golf It! in Glasgow with my two daughters.

A trip to Spain to cover the Solheim Cup, gave me an opportunity to play La Hacienda Links Golf Resort with a halfway house that you would want to stay at all afternoon and evening.

John Cheetham, Founder of Ladies Love Golf, invited me to join one of his popular coaching clinics on my return from the Solheim Cup, whilst Laura Yapp, Junior Participation Manager at England Golf, gave me insights into life for junior club golfers when we played nine holes at Droitwich Golf Club.

Uniting with women across the golf industry

Round 30 was a little different as I travelled to St Andrews to take part in a Rise & Aspire, a conference from over 100 women who had taken part in The R&A Women in Golf Leadership Development programmes.

Rise & Aspire The R&A
Rise & Aspire, St Andrews - Round 30

By mid-October, I still had 10 rounds to go. Round 31 was a great way to kick-off the final 10. The Kendleshire in Bristol was calling and I took part in a fun filled afternoon scramble with women from the ladies section, which has grown exponentially since PGA Professional Emma Brown has worked there.  Fun, friendship and laughter – again whilst getting rained on and squelching through mud.

I may not have attended the Ryder Cup but I did tick off a Ryder Cup venue when I played The Brabazon.

Showcasing off course golf facilities

November arrived and there were just six rounds to go but only seven weeks to do it in! Some might call it desperation, but I call it decent planning, as I was still yet to include adventure golf, indoor golf and a driving range (with tech).

The newly opened Legoland Adventure Golf in Windsor was the perfect way to complete round 34 and keep three generations of my family busy on a cold (and wet) Sunday morning.

With the promise of some tropical golf to edge me within three of my target, I jetted off to Mauritius at the end of November.

The irony was not lost on me when the rain came when I played the newly opened La Réserve Golf Links and Le Château course at Heritage Golf Club. At least the rain was warm!

Two and a half weeks to go and three rounds left to play. I headed to local indoor sim to escape the cold and managed my penultimate round with a friend at Bromsgrove.

Completing 40 by 40 (just in time)

When I started this challenge, I had not really worked out how it would finish. There was part of me that thought I would fit it all in by the end of October. Maybe a Top 100 UK course would have been a good place for a final round flourish.

However, like with the whole experience, fate had other plans. 40 by 40 was completed on my 40th Birthday – now we could argue that it should have been completed the day before (the by 40 bit) but as I was born at lunchtime…so…

A family trip to Topgolf in Surrey as part of my birthday celebrations was a perfect ending. This was confirmed when we were randomly allocated bay 40, which was quite unbelievable! Three generations playing together, having fun, enjoying the sport that I love, surrounded by other families.

Hitting the final shot of 40 by 40 felt like a momentous occasion and over the last week, it has been great to look back and reflect upon the whole experience.

My challenge for 2024 is to write up all the blogs that are missing, all 28 of them. My intention had always been to blog as I went along but my workload just did not permit it, unfortunately. I guess as long as I finish them by 41st Birthday, it still counts, right?!

Thanks for coming along with me, here’s to a more relaxed and less structured approach to playing golf in 2024, oh and to more sunshine (pretty please!).

40 by 40 rounds

Round 128/02/23The Hertsmere
Round 201/03/23Colmworth Golf Club
Round 308/03/23Druids Glen
Round 408/04/23Sunningdale Heath
Round 527/04/23Roy Mid-Surrey
Round 628/04/23The Springs
Round 729/04/23The Players
Round 802/05/23Galgorm Castle
Round 903/05/23Malone Golf Club
Round 1010/05/23Gaudet Luce
Round 1111/05/23The Berkshire
Round 1212/05/23Brocket Hall
Round 1317/05/23Dundonald Links
Round 1418/05/23Royal Troon
Round 1530/05/23Walton Heath
Round 1603/06/23Hamptworth
Round 1715/06/23Thonock Park
Round 1816/06/23Simplify Consulting Charity Day
Round 1917/06/23Cottingham Parks
Round 2019/06/23Women's Golf event at Bromsgrove Golf Centre
Round 2129/06/23Frilford Heath
Round 2206/07/23Budock Vean
Round 2324/07/23Finca Cortesin
Round 2425/07/23La Zagaleta
Round 2503/08/23Golf It!
Round 2614/08/23AIG Women's Open at Walton Heath
Round 2720/09/23La Hacienda Links Golf
Round 2826/09/23The Beeches
Round 2928/09/23Droitwich Golf Club
Round 3009/10/23St Andrews - Rise & Aspire
Round 3114/10/23The Kendleshire
Round 3215/10/23The Belfry
Round 3318/10/23La Manga
Round 3412/11/23Legoland Windsor
Round 3524/11/23Edgbaston Golf Club
Round 3630/11/23La Reserve Golf Links
Round 3701/12/23Le Chateau
Round 3813/12/23Par4Golf
Round 3918/12/23Bromsgrove Golf Centre
Round 4021/12/23Topgolf Surrey

40 by 40 Headline sponsor

Simplify Consulting

Thanks to Simplify Consulting who are the headline sponsor of 40 by 40. Put simply, they are practitioners in financial consulting. They are experts in Operating Model Design, Project Delivery, Operations & Process Optimisation and Risk Management across Life & Pensions, Wealth Platforms and Asset Management.

40 by 40 supporters

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