The iconic golf club is the 13th oldest in the world and W&G were lucky enough to meet its first female General Manager, Elaine McBride.
As the first female General Manager of North Berwick in its 188-year history, Elaine McBride is a driving for change within the golf industry and want to encourage more women into the sport.
She took up her position at the iconic East Lothian club (also the 13th oldest golf club in the world) in May 2018.
“I feel very privileged and humbled when I think of the history behind North Berwick and how long it has been there,” she said.
“I have to embrace the fact that people have sat in the chair and done an amazing job prior to my arrival because it is a very prominent name and it is somewhere on a lot of peoples’ golf wish lists. Plus, as a female, there is something more significant about sitting at the ‘helm’ of the historical institution.
“I'm one of the many custodians of the West Links and I think it's important that we protect it for future generations to come. It's a unique course; there's no other like it. It's remained unchanged for nearly a couple of hundred years and it would be a shame to ruin that.”
But while being very traditional, Elaine emphasises that North Berwick also a female-focused and family friendly club.
“We have a thriving ladies section, who are very visible and play a pivotal role in the golf club. We also have a Get Into Golf scheme in place, the West Links Juniors and a very strong professional team. There are a lot of generational families in the North Berwick area linked to us, too.
“We have a 9 hole “Wee Course” and have invested heavily in a new Wee Course Hub which we hope will be a pivotal focus in providing a very positive environment, not just for junior development but for the development of golf as a whole.”
She explained that the role of General Manager doesn’t come without its ups and downs.
“I think one of the hardest things is that you have to be an expert on everything, but then also be on top of the business at all times. Sometimes I can struggle with managing my own time and meeting members expectations. This is why you need to know which of the following are the most important; Visibility, Likeability or Credibility. Sometimes to achieve one, you can negatively impact on the other, for example being visible to members throughout the week, including weekends and evenings is important, however when you are too visible you don’t always have time to respond to e-mails or voice messages as quickly, which may impact your credibility. It can be quite a difficult thing to balance in such a diverse role.
“I have learnt so much about myself and the people that I work with during lockdown. It’s been a massive challenge. There have been times when I have been physically and mentally drained. We are all human beings at the end of the day.”
Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew is a member, and one of the many famous faces who can often be spotted at the club.
“Catriona has a property that overlooks the 18th hole and her husband Graham does a bit of caddying here,” Elaine said.
“The vast majority of conversations I have with Catriona are actually dog related because she has a dog and I have two, so we are normally talking about them rather than golf.
“Our public relationship with Catriona is very important to the Club. She’s very passionate about golf and the development of the sport. Her involvement with the Solheim Cup and captaining the winning team created an amazing buzz and energy about women’s golf. She has definitely been instrumental in creating a lot more positivity and traction around the game.”
But Elaine thinks several things need to change it we want more women to become members of golf clubs.
"I think there is so much work that needs to be done for female sport in general," she said.
"A lot of women take golf up later on in life and we need to golf more appealing to younger people, develop a more modern approach and change perceptions.
"We should be telling people about the benefits of golf and maybe trying to encourage people into golfing environments so that they don’t think it is a stuffy sport for older people. Golf is a great game, in fact it is an amazing game but we just don’t sell it very well as a concept.”
Elaine hopes to inspire more women to consider careers within the golf industry.
“Women are still in the minority in the golf industry and that can often be quite tricky. You do sometimes have to work twice as hard to be credible and there might be interactions you experience as a female that you wouldn’t be exposed to if you were a man, sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a negative. I want to be credible in every aspect of a golf club’s operation. I’ve learnt about agronomy and I am very passionate about the botanical composition of golf courses, particularly links courses.
“I’m a scratch golfer but not everyone coming into a golf club role, male or female, will necessarily come from a golfing background. I would love to see more women getting involved.
“There are opportunities out there but I appreciate it’s not an industry for everybody. Golf is slowly evolving in the right direction, but still has many miles of the journey to complete. I want to continue to enjoy the journey and hope the final destination is a place where women can continue to thrive, not simply survive.”
She's certainly a hero and role model in our eyes.
For more information visit www.northberwickgolfclub.com.