Women in Golf Charter Champions are helping to drive change across the world and make golf more female friendly. We've asked one Champion to tell us more about what her role involves and the challenges she faces.
The R&A Women in Golf Charter is being adopted by golf clubs and organisations across the world.
By signing this pledge, venues are committing to doing all they can to encourage more women and girls to take up golf, and make the game more inclusive to all.
But who makes sure these clubs actually follow through on what they're promising to do? Well in some cases, a Charter Champion is appointed to make sure their club really is making steps to become more female-friendly.
Below is the experience of one anonymous Charter Champion, as told in her own words...
Being a Charter Champion
“Would you be our Charter Champion?” That was the request in my inbox from our golf club Manager. My personal views about golf for women, align closely with the ambitions of the Charter so I had no hesitation in agreeing to take on the role. I have been playing for five years, having taken up the game at age 60, and in that time, I have been a member at three different golf clubs in different areas in the country.
How could I help my golf club to sign up to the Charter and rise to the challenge of making golf more accessible for my gender? Being cynical, it did cross my mind that being a member of the Charter was just a way to secure England Golf funding.
Plans into action
Putting cynicism aside, it was important to see the challenge as a club-wide one, not just something for the ‘Ladies section’ to tackle, so I suggested a working group comprising of the Manager (male), the Club Administrator (female), Lady Captain, and myself.
We undertook a SWOT analysis of the club, its current membership, and future plans.
This showed us that:
- Our club is well established, has a great course, is already popular and has an oversubscribed male membership being oversubscribed.
- Our location is in a very rural area with no public transport and no major towns on the doorstep.
- Our membership is predominantly over the age of 60 and male.
Being a Members Club, we also felt it was important to get the Board to support the Charter plans. Fortunately, the Charter was seen by the Board as a way of signalling their desire to modernise the club and improve access and inclusivity. One male Board member, with considerable executive authority, was particularly supportive of the plan. Finally, we also engaged with the Head Golf Professional and his team as they are usually the first point of contact for new members.
England Golf provided us with a helpful Charter Action Plan template and the working group set about deciding on some achievable targets and timescales. We all recognised the intimidating image the club presents to many, so our plan wasn’t just to focus on encouraging new female members. We wanted to make the experience of playing at the club less daunting for recent converts to the games, and for women who are still taking lessons.
Why do we even have a ladies' section?
The ‘Ladies section’ has, historically, run itself at arm’s length from the rest of the club. This used to work well but with the average age getting higher and most just wanting to enjoy the game and not get into club politics, we've found it is becoming difficult to find women who are prepared to join the committee.
So I asked the question of why should women be treated as a separate entity anyway? Such divisions no longer reflect society and, even though the game is played along gender lines, there is a growing appetite for greater integration and mixed golf. Therefore, underlying all our Charter plans is an aim to amalgamate all administrative functions across the club.
We also want to modernise and improve the membership experience, especially for women, young people, and families.
Looking to the future
Overall it seems my initial cynicism was misplaced, and I can honestly say, as far as the management is concerned, that they are genuinely enthusiastic and well meaning.
So, what progress have we made?
- A gender-neutral tee plan is in place and is awaiting England Golf certification, which has unfortunately been delayed by Covid.
- Our website is undergoing a complete overhaul to make it more female-friendly.
- We have launched a hunt for women to take up Board roles.
The biggest hurdle for us is the apathy from the current membership, including the women. I know it’s not unusual to have difficulty filling volunteer roles within an organisation but one where the average member draws a pension, such as ours, perhaps it is more so...
Therefore, I think it’s inevitable that The R&A Women in Golf Charter’s aims will be driven primarily by golf club Managers and PGA Professionals at the majority of golf clubs.
They truly understand the need to safeguard the future of the club through healthy membership numbers and recognise the power of women to influence that.
Now that we are formally part of the Charter, I'm not sure whether my role as Charter Champion is to ensure that the club do drive plans forward, or to encourage members to see the Charter as a positive vehicle for change?
Maybe it’s both! Let’s see how I get on.
You can find out more about the Women in Golf Charter here.