Golf Australia’s sixth Visionary of the Year winner is Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club, who have created an environment and membership offering for beginners

Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club is Golf Australia's August Visionary of the Year for their informed and creative approach to increasing women’s participation

Here's Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club's story...

Having opened in 2000, Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club in Melbourne’s south-west has always committed itself to promoting equality by offering equal access to competition and course play.

The club has recently had some big wins.

But it does not deny there has been some learnings along the way and there is still work to be done.

Shaun Smith, Club Captain, recalls a time when just 10 percent of its membership base was made up of women.

“We wanted to be a club that represented our community,” he said.

“So, we had to think more broadly about the needs and barriers of participation of people with different backgrounds.

“This did not just include gender, but ethnicity, socio-economic status, and various working hours.”

The club heard that a Golf Club across the city was doing good work around women’s participation, so they approached the general manager of that club, Eastern.

Ben Telly was kind enough to come to our club and give us some insight into their success,” said Smith.

“We took their ideas and modified them for our environment. From this, our women’s pathway initiative was born.”

Information evening

Licensing the club to be creative, and ensuring barriers to participation were removed, Sanctuary Lakes launched it’s first ‘information evening’, where members and local residents were asked to invite a female companion to be introduced to the club and learn more about upcoming beginners’ opportunities.

“Simply getting new women into the clubhouse and having a fun time helps start to break those barriers down,” said Kacey Dempsey, Office Manager at the club.

“Our evening consisted of a presentation that reassured women they were welcome and are fully supported by our club to take up golf.

“We spoke about relaxing the dress code and that the women do not need to worry about equipment, as this was all covered.”

Following the presentation, Dempsey then asked women to provide feedback on days and times of the week that suited them to learn, and then planned the program accordingly.

Meeting customer demands is proving successful with 30 out of the 40 women who attended the original evening enrolling in clinics.

Encouraging continued participation with an inclusive membership

However, as Smith recognises: “It is not about the numbers we get through clinics, but more importantly how many women continue to play.”

To encourage continued participation, an inclusive membership was developed. The membership, which lasts for the duration of the program (that can run between three-six months) includes:

  • Introductory clinics held across three different time slots both in and outside of traditional working hours.
  • 50 free range balls per day for independent practice.
  • Free access to beginner sets for play on-course. The club partnered with Future Golf to provide introductory golf packs to participants and through this partnership, received new TaylorMade starter sets of clubs.
  • Access to the club’s on-line booking system for playing and clinics. This allows the members to independently book golf, thus providing a connection to, and familiarisation with club staff and processes.
  • Full playing rights to the golf course midweek and after 3.00pm on weekends.
  • Membership in a WhatsApp group for the participants to receive updates and communicate with each other, further growing the social element.
  • Mentorship by club members and staff in nine-hole twilight events, which includes follow up drinks and/or meals in the clubhouse.
  • An 18-hole short course has also been created and rated for beginners.

“Word is getting out there and we already have a significant list ready for our next intake, which will begin when daylight savings starts in October 2023,” said Dempsey.

“I also work with the women to collect testimonials and endorsements to better tell our story.”

After my positive experiences with the clinics, organised rounds and socials in the Women’s Initiative both my husband and I are now members. I can highly recommend the Women’s Initiative as an introduction to the club and to golf!” – Leanne

Signing The R&A Women in Golf Charter

More clubs are doing great work in the women’s playing participation space; however, equal representation of women in leadership positions has not yet been achieved.

This is no different for Sanctuary Lakes, which has become an R&A Women in Golf Charter signatory.

The charter, developed to create a more inclusive culture for women and girls in golf, is backed by the R&A and the Australian golf industry.

“We have always been a club that wants women to be on equal terms with the men,” said Kerry Hansford, board director and sole female member of the club’s board.

“Our next aim is to encourage more women into leadership positions and onto our board.”

With all board members fully supportive of an inclusive club, potential candidates are being approached, informed about what being a director involves and encouraged to take the next step.

The same applies to other club committees, which can provide a learning opportunity to those who are unfamiliar with how committees’ work.

“Working through the Charter will help guide this process,” said Hansford.

Sanctuary Lakes is proud of what the club has achieved and looks forward to continuing its inspiring work in the gender equality space.

“Start sooner rather than later,” said Hansford. “You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.” She added “It is also important to ensure that a social and fun environment is created.”

Said Smith: “Learn from other clubs, be flexible, and learn as you go. Don’t over plan and over analyse, just do it. You will discover what works best along the way.”

Useful resources

  • Become a Get into Golf centre here
  • Learn more about Australian Golf Foundation Junior Girls Scholarship program here
  • Learn more about Visionary of the Year, including what other clubs are doing in the gender equality space here Vision 2025 Resources | Golf Australia
  • Learn more about Women in Golf Charter, including case studies here Women in Golf Charter | Golf Australia
  • Golf Australia provides a free service to support and guide clubs through change management and strategic planning. Find out more about how you can embed gender equality goals into your planning via the Golf Australia Website. Alternatively, get in touch with your Places to Play Support Manager or Regional Development Officer, who will be only too happy to assist you.

Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club's prize

Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club wins a $500 Drummond Golf voucher and is now in the running to win up to $10,000 worth of products from the latest Callaway REVA product range, designed specifically for women. Golf Australia’s Visionary of the Year will be voted upon and announced towards the end of the year.

Nominations for the remainder of the year are still open. Click here for the nomination form.

Read the original article via Golf Australia’s website here.

Learn more about Visionary of the Year, including what other clubs are doing in the gender equality space here Vision 2025 Resources | Golf Australia

Submit a Visionary of the Year nomination here Visionary of the Year Nomination Form 2023 Survey.