On a recent trip to Scotland, Women & Golf Editor Emma Ballard visited Whitecraigs Golf Club and heard from PGA Professional David Orr about the growth of women and girls golf at the club in the last six years

At the beginning of May, I headed to Whitecraigs Golf Club, just south of Glasgow to support Lady Captain and Women & Golf Member Alison Watt with her Ladies Tri-Am Open Day. Whilst there, I had the opportunity to have a guided tour of the golf course, par 3 course and practice facilities from PGA Professional at Whitecraigs, David Orr.

With 280 women in the ladies' section and a growing junior presence at the club, I was interested to find out what has helped David and Whitecraigs to build such a thriving and supportive membership, particularly regarding women and girls.

Can you introduce yourself and share how long you've been with Whitecraigs Golf Club?

I'm David Orr, the Head PGA Professional at Whitecraigs Golf Club. I've been here for almost six years now. The time has flown by because it's been such a fast-paced and enjoyable period. During my tenure, we've made significant progress in various areas, including developing swing studios, enhancing short game facilities, upgrading parts of the course, and executing numerous on-course projects. These initiatives have been part of our long-term strategy set by the club and the management committee. It's been busy but incredibly rewarding.

The women's section at Whitecraigs is thriving. Has there been significant growth in the past six years?

Yes, the women's section has grown exponentially. We've seen a significant increase in women’s golf participation. Our par-three membership, which is linked to our "Get into Golf" programme, has grown four or five times. This membership offers coaching sessions and allows access to our facilities, providing a smooth pathway into the main course. It's a gradual and welcoming step into golf, and it’s been very successful.

How does the progression from the par-three membership to full membership work?

Typically, it’s a natural progression over two to three years. We have an open-door policy, so members can discuss their plans with me at any time. Some might need another year at the par-three course, while others are ready to advance quickly. I provide guidance based on their readiness and confidence, which helps in their decision-making process.

Editor Emma with Lady Captain Alison Watt, Lady Vice-Captain Susan Campbell and PGA Professional David Orr
Editor Emma Ballard with Lady Captain Alison Watt, Lady Vice-Captain Susan Campbell and PGA Professional David Orr

Does the par-three membership include rounds on the main course?

Yes, as part of the associate programme, par-three members get access to 12 rounds on the main course at a discounted rate. This helps them transition smoothly by experiencing the main course without fully committing initially. It’s a good way for them to get a feel for the longer distances and different challenges.

How do you integrate new women members with the existing ladies' section?

Our ladies section is exceptional in welcoming new members. We have a very encouraging and supportive environment with numerous events, mentoring systems, and buddy programmes. This ensures that new women feel well integrated and comfortable quickly.

How do you communicate with members and promote programmes like "Get into Golf"?

Communication is key. We send out weekly updates to over 1100 members, and our newsletter has an 80% open rate. We also offer sessions on weekends to accommodate working individuals. Our strong communication ensures members are always informed about upcoming events, programmes, and opportunities.

Is it easy to recruit participants into the "Get into Golf" programme?

Yes, it's quite straightforward. New members receive a welcome pack, and we promote the programme through our newsletter and other communications. The demand is high, and we continuously adapt to offer sessions that fit various schedules.

Can you tell us about the junior programmes at Whitecraigs?

We have a robust junior programme, catering to kids from five to ten years old. They become members of the par-three course and get coaching sessions. The programme has grown significantly, from 40 to 105 juniors. Additionally, we started a girls-only golf programme to foster friendships and confidence among young girls. This initiative has been very successful, and many of the girls have continued to develop their skills and confidence in the sport.

Junior girls coaching with David Orr

Do you think having a girls-only programme is important?

Absolutely. Research shows that forming friendships early is crucial. In mixed sessions, young girls often drop out quickly. A girls-only programme helps them build confidence and stay engaged longer. We've seen great success with this approach, with many girls staying in the programme and even joining our junior coaching sessions.

Can you share any recent initiatives for junior golfers?

One exciting initiative is the "Race to Gleneagles" for juniors. We partnered with TaylorMade to create a points-based system where juniors earn points for participation and performance in various events. The top performers will join me for a day at Gleneagles, and the winner will receive a TaylorMade driver. This initiative has significantly increased junior participation, with up to 25 juniors playing in our recent junior medal events, a big improvement from the past.

Have you noticed a shift in attitudes towards golf in recent years?

Yes, there has been a significant shift, especially in the welcoming nature of clubs. At Whitecraigs, we pride ourselves on being very welcoming from the moment someone arrives. First impressions are crucial, and a friendly environment helps newcomers feel at ease. This positive atmosphere is something we consciously maintain.

How important is it to have a welcoming environment at a golf club?

It's incredibly important. A welcoming environment ensures that members, from juniors to seniors, feel valued and part of the community. At Whitecraigs, we see a mix of generations playing together, which is a testament to our inclusive and friendly atmosphere. This strong sense of community is vital for the club's vibrancy and success.

You can find out more about Whitecraigs Golf Club and PGA Professional David Orr here.