Club Membership Special: 'There Must Be A Welcoming Environment For Women'

With the game enjoying something of a global boom, more women are discovering the joy of joining a club

Club Membership Special: 'There must be a welcoming Environment For Women'

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Enville Golf Club is one of the best examples of fantastic heathland golf in the UK. Set in the Midlands in England it boasts two championship courses and some brilliant practice facilities, hence why it has staged Regional Open Qualifying and the Girls Amateur Championship. Last year, in the first of a three-year run, it held the R&A Girls’ U16 Amateur.

At the club’s heart is Heather Mulley. Originally a legal secretary, she was made redundant and her father – a member at Enville – volunteered her services when the secretary’s assistant broke her leg. She then went back to her legal career before applying for the job of assistant secretary. Twenty years later she is still there, the past eight being spent as the general manager. In 2019 she was named as the GCMA Manager of the Year.

In the past couple of years golf has seen a huge boom at club level. After years of struggling to get women and girls into the sport figures showed that 25 per cent of female golfers were new to the sport and had tried it because of the pandemic. Enville was already ahead of the curve: they were one of the first signatories to the R&A’s Women in Golf Charter, and they have been proactive in attracting female members. They have held Girls Golf Rocks days as well as other taster schemes and participation drives. Long gone are the days of making things seemingly as hard as possible before spending relatively large sums on a golf membership.

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Heather Mulley

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“Like everybody else in the 80s and 90s we had a flourishing women’s section and then it started to dwindle. In 2017 we thought that we needed to do something. We saw that other clubs were having some success with a women’s academy so that was the first thing we implemented – that was a membership at a reduced rate so it was a get into golf for 12 months. It was group and individual lessons and holes out on the course with a mentor from within the ladies’ section,” Mulley explains. “And that worked extremely well despite the pandemic. That has hopefully attracted some women who had never tried golf before and it was a really welcoming atmosphere.”

Mulley doesn’t play golf but she has used that experience to her advantage; she knows what might put women off who aren’t familiar with the nuances of a golf club and she knows how that might put new members off.

 “Your handicap or lack of it doesn’t influence anything. It is about engagement with the club, a keenness to improve and to be part of the club. You need to look at what your club is like and you need to look at the board and the ladies’ section themselves. They have to provide a welcoming environment and I think that ours absolutely do. They’re very conscious of what it’s like to be a new member – I asked them what the most daunting thing was and they would say walking into the changing rooms for the very first time and wondering if they would have anyone to play with. 

“We introduced being able to play 72 holes when joining the academy, that doesn’t sound a lot but, as a beginner, it can really help and you can do two or three holes at a time and that helps to sustain your interest. We’ve also introduced blue tees on both courses which helps with the juniors and men and women members.”

Mulley has gone out to local businesses to explain the benefits of golf and the opportunities for networking – “men have been taking advantage of these things for years and women don’t seem to have used it”. Like any forward-thinking club, they are also focusing their efforts on the juniors.

 “We have gone into six local schools so we are introducing kids who have never played before. That has helped us attract 15 new juniors. I was speaking to one parent and her daughter had tried ballet, karate, football and horse riding and now she was loving golf. She might never have considered it before.”

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Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.