Editor Emma Ballard meets Yvonne Brooke, founder of the largest UK based women's golf Facebook group - The Ladies Golf Lounge
Yvonne Brooke set up The Ladies Golf Lounge in May 2020, during the first UK Covid lockdown. Having worked in the health, fitness and golf industries, she took six years off after having children and returned to work in a sales, marketing and social media capacity. Before her sabbatical, she had been a golf club general manager and had experienced first-hand many of the frustrations that women find with golf and its culture.
It was during lockdown that Yvonne, who has played golf since her mid-twenties, went to look for a Facebook group of like-minded golfers. Unfortunately, she found none, and The Ladies Golf Lounge was born.
We caught up with Yvonne to speak to her about her Facebook group, which has grown to over 7,200 members, to find out why this women’s only golf group has proved to be so popular, how it helping new golfers into the sport and what the future holds.
Why did you start The Ladies Golf Lounge?
I already ran a few Facebook groups and thought I’d join some golf-related ones. Unsurprisingly they were full of men, which isn’t a problem but when I would post to the groups I’d get some nice comments and some sarcastic ones.
Facebook groups are all about community and feeling it’s a private space where you can feel comfortable and I just didn’t feel that way in these groups. I then thought I’d try and join female-only ones, but none seemed to exist.
It was then that I thought that I could start a group. I did initially struggle with the idea of it being a female-only group but it was something that I was looking for which wasn’t there and if it didn’t work, I could just delete it.
I know it's a private Facebook group, but can you tell me a little bit about what happens in The Ladies Golf Lounge?
It’s a real mix of things. Obviously, I started the group but really it’s the women in there that make it the friendly and supportive community that it is. We talk about golf, golf and more golf! There are always a lot of questions being asked whether it be on rules, WHS, recommendations on clubs, clothing, holidays, courses – no question is too stupid. This is great because we’ve got a lot of newbies that are now joining the group.
Personally, I just think because it's female-only, you just feel comfortable and feel supported by everyone in the group.
One of my favourite parts is when someone posts about their victories. It’s not normally a very British thing to do but it's just really nice that we are able to celebrate the achievements of other members of the group. Also, so many pictures are shared, whether it’s beautiful shots from a lovely sunny destination or with friends out on the course. It’s great to see where everyone is playing.
Last year we had a few Q&A's, rules nights, a presentation on mindset and hosted two golf days. We also discuss issues that are affecting women and juniors at their own golf clubs – it’s an amazing support network.
You now have over 7,200 members, were you surprised how quickly it’s grown considering you thought you’d have to delete the group when you first started it?
If I’m honest, I was really surprised that there wasn't a group like this out there already. As I said, I struggled with the female-only element but it goes to show that it was the right thing to do.
I’ve played sports all my life, I’ve swum, played tennis and it’s always been with the boys. Sometimes it's just nice to play with women, which is what I do on a Thursday morning and The Ladies Golf Lounge is an extension of that. I think the group has grown so quickly because it's just a safe, comfortable place for women to come and talk about the sport that they love.
However, the growth has really amazed me. Women join and then they invite their friends and it kind of snowballed from there. We started in the UK, which is where the majority of the members are from but it does now have an international feel to the group. It’s good to get insight from people playing golf in other countries.
Is there anything in particular that you love about the group, or is it just the whole thing, just the community feel?
I don't think they should be called Facebook groups, it should be Facebook communities. As I’ve said already, it’s the members of the group that really make it special. An example of this is when someone posted that they had gone out for the first time on their own on the golf course, she got 80 comments and 382 reactions. The support was just overwhelming. That’s what really makes me smile.
It's also where group members have met up with each other. One lady from our golf day only played with her husband and son and didn’t have anyone else to play with. She’s now met with someone else in the group. Ultimately, if it encourages just a few more women to play and meet up with others, it just shows what a lovely group of women who love golf that we have.
Why do you think a group like The Ladies Golf Lounge is needed?
I think when you get a large group of people who are really passionate about something, in this case golf, it can be really powerful. In turn, it may change things and make things happen. I think ultimately, golf needs to change. In certain circumstances, we need to break down these barriers – that it's a super scary sport, it's stuffy etc.
We want more women and girls to play golf and we know golf is more than just a sport. For me, it helps with my well-being. I play quite a bit, including nine holes on my own most weeks, and I'm definitely a better wife, mum, friend and person for it. I think there are so many amazing women out there doing amazing things in golf.
Hopefully, if we can encourage more women to play the game, and if a newbie joins The Ladies Golf Lounge and they go, “Oh, isn't it lovely? And it's not scary, and it's not stuffy. And they're a great bunch of women.” If that can in some way encourage more women to play, then that is fantastic.
I've got to say my when we hit 7000 I put a post out and my nine-year-old daughter said:
“Mummy, that's not a group, that's an army!”
If we can change things however little, however slow, it doesn't matter. But if we're going in the right direction, and we're changing it slowly but surely. And if the group and the women in there can change and improve things then happy days!
What does the future hold for The Ladies Golf Lounge?
First and foremost, it’s a community, so that’s about having fun and building friendships. We've got a few golf days coming up – Moor Park in April, which we've nearly got 50 women attending. It’s purely to have fun, yes it’ll be a little competitive, but it’s all about fun. We’re also going to Conwy which I am really excited about, as it’s a two-day break and I’ll get to play.
Further ahead we have a trip booked to the Solheim Cup in 2023, we even have an American lady who is coming, it’s going to be great.
Last year we ran two golf days. We were very fortunate because The R&A came along and filmed it as part of their #FOREeveryone campaign. Again, if that can encourage more women to play, then that's fantastic.
But otherwise, just continuing what we’re doing, have the group continue to grow and see more women meeting up, making new friends and having fun.