THE drive to encourage more women into golf is paying dividends in Lancashire. New figures show that the decline in numbers has been reversed, with a major campaign resulting in 1.5% increase in female membership numbers in its first 12 months.
Across the board, the county is bucking the national trend, with a total membership increase in 2017 of just over 1% against a nationwide decline of 2%. This is on the back of a 4% increase in 2016.
A ground-breaking conference looking at increasing the number of girls and women playing golf got the ball rolling last year with industry experts offering advice across a range of subjects including marketing, customer experience, social media and what young women are looking for from golf. The work has been further supported by a number of county partners, including the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs, the Lancashire Ladies County Golf Association, the Lancashire Golf Development Group, the Golf Foundation and the Professional Golfers Association.
Debbie Barber, a former county golf development officer, was appointed to help co-ordinate the work going on at individual clubs and has been delighted by their response and support.
One example of the work going on as part of the campaign can be found at Blackley Golf Club in Middleton. The Manchester club has delivered a new Ladies into Golf programme, developing a four-step pathway into the sport. This included taster sessions to attract newcomers to golf, and further coaching for beginners and improvers. Ten ladies have joined on a 12 months membership deal –with club members making them welcome by providing starter packs along with donations of clubs, bags and balls to make it even easier to get started. The club has also supported the new players with a group of ‘golfing buddies’ to help get them out on the course.
Barber said: “The success of the plan has been the result of strong leadership and great teamwork, with the full support of everyone at the club. The donations from members have been greatly appreciated by the new ladies, providing them with the basics to get started. There has been a real buzz around the club with positive comments and offers of help from all sections. However, it would not have been possible without the club’s band of ‘golfing buddies’, who turned up to every lesson and practice session over the beginners’ 16-week programme to support the club’s new friends and get them out onto the course. Their commitment and enthusiasm and, of course, support from the club professionalsecured a fabulous outcome for Blackley.”
Phil Harvey, secretary of the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs, said: “Once again, we have been delighted by the support of the clubs to our plans to increase female membership and participation. The hard work going on to show the many health and social benefits of golf have been rewarded with an increase in numbers that is helping sustain the long-term future of our clubs.”
Lancashire’s drive to get more people playing golf has seen the county nominated in the 2019 England Golf awards, sponsored by adidasGolf. The Lancashire team are bidding to secure a double success, having been crowned County of the Year at the 2017 awards. This time round they will face competition from Wiltshire when the winners are revealed at a gala dinner in London this month.
The 2019 programme gets underway on March 30. Further details on how clubs can get involved in the drive to encourage more women and girls into golf can be obtained from Debbie Barber on 07518 564113 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.