Golf Australia’s August Visionary of the Year winner is Stella Cugley for championing many initiatives at her club which has led to greater gender equality.

Do you think you could attract one new female member to your club? How about 100 new female members?

That’s exactly what one member, Stella Cugley, has achieved at Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club in Frankston, Victoria. Cugley has championed initiatives that will soon see a milestone of 100 new female members joining the club. 

Since 2007, Cugley has obtained positions as women’s captain, chair of the membership committee and is now going into her 5th year as a board member. She is not someone who wants to be in the limelight but she has always been passionate about working strategically towards gender equality.

Golf Australia's Even Par program

In 2019, the club President spoke at the opening of the new club and made the commitment to ensure that the club provided equal opportunities. This was a direct result of the club signing Golf Australia’s Even Par program, a program that supports golf clubs to facilitate greater gender equality. Cugley commented on the opportunities this provided:

“Through this process, we identified some things we were doing well, but also acknowledged we had areas to improve on. The main being only 19 per cent of our members were female.

“To bring your club on the journey of change, you’ve got to have your board understand what your club wants to be. In our case it is a club of equal opportunity, and one that is family-oriented.

“It was therefore fitting that our working party consisted of both male and female board members as well as the women’s captain. Together we reviewed the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Guidelines and worked through the Golf Australia Even Par Club Review document which looked at our club’s culture and leadership, grassroots, high performance and coaching and marketing and positioning.

“From this, the recommendation was to develop a participation program. As chair of membership, I worked with our CEO, Heath Wilson, to develop the introductory women’s membership program with the complete support of the board.

“We developed a concept where women paid $500 for a 4-month membership that included access to 3 clinics per week and admission to all our club facilities that include pool, gym, bowls, and club-house access.

“In 2020, our aim was to sign-up 20 women, but we ended up recruiting 40 quite easily!”

100 women in 100 weeks campaign

The program was a great success, but the team realised that they needed to keep these women playing and support them into club membership. This is where the ‘100 women in 100 weeks’ campaign was born.

Using the positive discrimination notion in the Federal Sex Discrimination Act, they were able to offer these women 50% off the joining fee. Out of the 40 women registered to clinics, they had 28 sign-ups to the club. Cugley felt that the joining fee has been a barrier to some women joining the club in the past.

Having successfully engaged these new women to golf, Cugley soon identified the need for a program to assist women to integrate into the club.

She went back to her desk and did what she does best - strategically plan a program to support women to get on-course, learn the rules & etiquette, and obtain a handicap.

“We set up a weekly session that gets women on-course and have attracted some of our long-term members to support this program by walking the course to teach some basic rules and help them submit cards for handicaps if desired.

“We also identified the need for a mentor program to support women into club membership and make them feel welcomed.

“I presented a paper to the board and membership committee for an official mentoring program to be adopted and a coordinators role to be adopted in the women’s committee.

“The recommendations in the paper were adopted and we quickly established a program that saw our pre-existing members buddied up with a new golfer. Their role during lockdown has simply been to phone up to see how they are coping and encouraging them back to golf when the time comes.”

The Mentor program was implemented for the initial program in 2020 and is now embedded into the club’s processes for all new women members.

Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club
Women ‘under 40’ enjoy a Get into Golf clinic at Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club

Programs, planning and future-proofing

Fast forward to 2021, where the program has been quite disrupted due to Victoria’s numerous lockdowns, Cugley is continuing to learn and refine offerings.

Importantly, she went back to the original group of 2020 participants and asked them for feedback through survey. An important task, many of us overlook doing.

A team including the women’s captain, women’s president and mentoring coordinator met to discuss findings and plan the 2021 program.  

“We now offer two programs, one for over 40’s and one for under 40’s. Our under 40’s clinics run out of office hours in twilight and on Saturday afternoons to ensure working women can attend. 

“For our on-course sessions, we now meet for a coffee first up and focus on learning two new rules and two new areas of etiquette that we then put into play on-course. Following golf, we all meet for lunch as, for women, connection is just as important as the game of golf.”

Stellar; people or activities of an extremely high standard.

Although spelt slightly different, for such a proactive and strategically savvy club volunteer, Stella is a very fitting name. There are many wonderful people in the golf community volunteering their time for the greater good of golf, but sadly, a lot of this work dissipates due to volunteer burn out.

Cugley has shown us that good work can continue to occur if you think succession and look to embed process within club policies and practices.

“As a past physical education, outdoor-ed and IT teacher, I have seen many colleagues implement a wonderful program or initiative at a school, but then leave and the program leaves with them. The same goes in golf.

“You can have a wonderful volunteer working on passion project but once they leave or burn out, it is gone. It is important to drive from the top. You need to work closely with your club board and CEO to embed positions and process within the club. It is vital to have a succession plan.”

Key learnings:

  • Think strategy and succession. How will the program or initiative you champion, continue once you are gone?
  • Ask participants for feedback. Revise your programs and offerings so that you can improve them for the future.
  • Be open to continuous learning. Your program may not be 100% perfect first time round, they key is to be open to learning from your experience.
  • Target specific markets of people and set up programs accordingly. Such as running twilight sessions for working women under 40 years of age.
  • Embed lessons in introductory membership – competence enhances confidence which support new member retention
  • Create board buy-in so volunteers enjoy a top-down authorising environment to bring their new member ideas to life

Stella 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.

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