Naga Munchetty, Golf, Golf Club Membership, Golf Participation

Naga Munchetty is mad about golf, but when it comes to golf clubs attracting females, she believes that the majority really do need to get their act together.

Sometimes when I play golf I forget about just how excited I was when I first started playing. I was reminded of this thrill when my sister had her first golf lesson this month. She was tentative about hitting her first ball and nervous about other people watching, but soon got into the swing of it. She’s booked a set of lessons since then, and is on her way to becoming hooked on the game - I hope.

I also hope that when, or if, she takes up golf that she will be welcomed with open arms at whatever club she chooses to play at. I haven’t said whichever club she joins because it is not a given that she will join a club. I say this because I don’t think that golf clubs understand that they have to change their attitudes to potential new members and radically change their outlook if they want to survive.

Last month I joined a panel discussion at a golf convention attended by golf club owners and managers. It was titled “What Women Want From Golf.” To be honest, I was annoyed that such a panel is needed in 2016.

''I have been playing golf for more than 8 years and I have seen clubs, members and management do little more than pay lip service to the problem of dwindling memberships and the struggles involved in attracting and retaining new members.''

Many schemes have been introduced to encourage more females to play, only to be launched with much fanfare and then fading away to an “Oh yes, hasn’t this been tried before?” when reincarnated as the answer to the golf industry’s problems.

I was asked why I took up golf and my answer was simple. After trying out lessons and hacking around a couple of pay-and-play courses, I got hooked. However, it was only because of MY perseverance and the support of a few open-minded golfers who were patient enough to play with a beginner that I stuck at it. Many clubs didn’t want me as a member because I didn’t have a handicap. Most clubhouses were stuffy, unwelcoming and cliquey. I was also working 5 days a week and didn’t want to be stuck waiting for a tee time that wouldn’t “inconvenience” existing members. There was no offer of a reduced membership fee - forget the fact that I would probably only be able to play once or twice a month at best, so where is the value or incentive in that? For crying out loud! If you know that your club needs, and will obviously benefit from new members, try being more welcoming, less huffy and start to compromise!

It’s not just about money either; it’s about changing culture. If you want to see “new blood” injecting life into your club then think about this. Why on earth would a full-time, working parent want to feel like a spare part until they’ve earned their stripes as a competent 18-hole player who has worked on their game to achieve an acceptable handicap?

And for what? A chance to play with experienced members who are set in their ways and determined to teach them about etiquette and educate them in the ways of the club? No thanks!

The above is an extract from Naga's column in the March/April 2016 issue of Women & Golf magazine, on sale today. Never miss an issue click here to subscribe and enjoy W&G delivered to your door.

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