Stackstown Golf Club began its Get into Golf Programme in 2016 and it has been a huge success since, with a 54% increase in their ladies section over the past four years. I spoke with Get into Golf coordinator, Denise Grogan, about the hard work they have put into their programme with their dedicated club members and volunteers and to see how they are getting on.
How was the programme advertised?
Back in 2016 we advertised the programme through social media and also through word of mouth to friends and family of existing members. The last few years have been filled through word of mouth from both the existing and new members. The programme is still going strong with 29 participants taking part in this year’s programme, of whom 18 have registered for year one membership. News of the success of the programme continues to spread as the club already has a waiting list of 53 for the 2020 programme.
How many ladies have you had sign up to membership so far?
86 ladies are currently in our Get into Golf Programme. The club offers a four year staged membership with an incremental rise in fees for the ladies taking part in the Get into Golf Programme. At the end of the four years there is the option of taking up full membership of the club. The four stages of the Get into Golf Programme are:
- Year 1 – Get into Golf (GIGs)
- Year 2 – Stay in Golf (SIGs)
- Year 3 – Transitioning Women into Golf Year 1 (TWIGs 1)
- Year 4 – Transitioning Women into Golf Year 2 (TWIGs 2).
Get into Golf (Year 1)
Phase One: begins in April is an eight week “Taster” programme; four weeks tuition by the Golf Professional, followed by four weeks on the course supported by the lady members. The cost of the eight week programme was €70 for 2019. Phase Two: is a follow-on 6 month programme (July to end December) of on course work supported by the lady members.
Stay in Golf (Year 2)
SIGs play in their own section. There are special prizes for this section on all the ladies major competition days. We run special interest competitions also e.g. the Easter Egg Extravaganza and Last of the Summer Wine over the summer. Tuition is provided on request and is managed by the club professional through Whatsapp. There are regular foursomes competitions involving the SIGs and GIGs and walkers.
Transitioning Women into Golf (Years 3 and 4)
TWIGs play the same golf schedule as the full members. Certain restrictions apply as to eligibility to win major prizes. This programme is graduated over 2 years.
How did these members integrate into the club?
The objective of the volunteers is to encourage new entrants to integrate by getting to know them and encouraging them to join their peers and other members in the restaurant post golf. While Year 2 (SIGs) play in their own category, some of the Foursomes Sundays mix Year 1 (GIGs) and Year 2 (SIGs). Years 3 and 4 (TWIGs) are invited to speak about their experiences, formally and informally, to newer entrants at Information nights for the groups. The TWIGs really are fully integrated in playing the full playing schedule of the full members, with certain restrictions on eligibility for major prizes. All Get into Golf members are included in the club social events and prize-givings.
Technology also plays its part in the integration process. Each stage of the Get into Golf Programme has its own Whatsapp group, which allows the programme coordinators to communicate with the ladies and enables the ladies to communicate amongst each other. We also have a “Girl Guides” whatsapp group to support Carol Brill, elite Irish blind golfer and facilitate her play.
Do you see continued engagement through the Winter?
Every Tuesday/ Wednesday and Sunday there are set times put aside on the time sheet for Year 1 (GIGs) and every Tuesday and Sunday for Year 2 (SIGs), which allows them to play as a group. Throughout the winter months the club runs monthly foursomes competitions which allow new members to play with each other and other groups and socialise with the full members.
What activities were covered in the “Taster” Programme?
We limited the number of participants for the 2019 eight week “Taster” Programme to 29 ladies. In the first four weeks the PGA Professional gave tuition to the participants, one hour sessions over four weeks on either Tuesday or Wednesday in groups of not more than 10. The professional took participants through the basics of putting, chipping and long shots. The following four weeks were spent on the course over four holes with our volunteer walkers which allowed participants to transfer what they had learned from the practice area to the course. The walkers continue their support for the year.
Did you find it difficult to recruit/ maintain volunteers?
No. We structured it from the beginning to ensure that we have a big number of volunteers. We have a specific Get into Golf Committee of seven ladies, now increased to 10, who are the main leads in looking after and running all four years of the programme. We have over 40 lady members who volunteer and act as on course walkers with our Get into Golf groups. They act as mentors and can help the new members with basic etiquette and rules. Volunteering is a big commitment and we work hard to maintain our volunteers. We do this by rotating our walkers. We are looking to more long-term scheduling of walkers for the 2020 programme so that each volunteer will only have to commit to a few evenings/ days. We continue to add to our list of walkers, including involving TWIGs 2 as walkers. Three of our current TWIGs have recently been brought onto our Get into Golf Committee. These ladies will be able to offer advice from their own experience of coming through the programme.
What do you think has made this programme so successful over the last number of years?
Having the clubs management committee and fellow members support and acceptance of the programme has made it the success it is today. We made sure to keep all members up to date with activities. Having the support of the men’s section of the club has contributed hugely to the success. The men’s section gave us additional time on the time sheet. This enabled us to take on more new members. The whole club has come together to work on the programme and the results can truly be seen as we have had a 54% increase in membership in the ladies’ section over the four years since beginning the programme.
Is there anything you would do differently?
Since running our first programme, we have put a limit on the numbers we can take in. We need to continue to carry out a detailed analysis prior to the programme each year to determine the optimum number of participants, taking into consideration restrictions of the time-sheet and the requirements of all the members. Also, since the programme is very busy, we have started the process of rotating the person in charge each night amongst the 10 Committee members.
What advice would you give to other clubs?
Don’t underestimate the commitment and dedication required to make a success of the programme. Meeting and greeting new members, arranging their follow-on activities and supporting them throughout is very time consuming. You must set up a committee to organise and look after the programme. It is also a delicate balance to ensure that the needs of the full members are being met. All the efforts are worth it when the club has a new lease of life.
Would you recommend the programme to others?
Definitely. We think any club thinking of running the programme should just do it! The numbers, potential and age profile of participants will add greatly to the ladies’ section of any club.
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