Golf After Breast Cancer - The Real Value Of Club Membership

For women golfers diagnosed with breast cancer, the support from a golf club and its members is priceless

Golf after Breast Cancer
(Image credit: Breast Cancer Now)

If you are a member of a golf club, then it’s highly likely that you know someone in your ladies’ section that has been affected by breast cancer. It’s the most common cancer in the UK, and the charity, Breast Cancer Now, tell us that around 55,000 women are diagnosed in the UK each year. What we also know is that those female golf club members diagnosed with breast cancer are forever grateful for the invaluable support from the club and their network of golfing friends.  

In March 2021, Erica Tuck, a member at Burley Golf Club in Hampshire, felt a pea-size lump in her breast and further tests confirmed that it was cancerous. Two lumpectomy procedures followed without success to remove the cancer, so it was decided that the only option for Erica was to have a mastectomy. She had reconstruction surgery, but three months later during the week before Christmas an abscess developed and burst underneath the prothesis so it had to be removed. 

Golf after Breast Cancer

Erica Tuck (pictured centre) with two golfing friends who are also cancer survivors.

(Image credit: Erica Tuck)

Fortunately, Erica, now 75, didn’t require any chemotherapy or radiotherapy, so once the prothesis was out, 2022 was a new beginning, and her main aim was to get back out on the golf course.

“I love my golf and to miss a whole year out of my golfing life was awful. There are other activities that you can enjoy, such as walking, but they cannot take the place of playing golf,” she says. 

Erica eased herself back into the game by chipping and putting and practising a half swing in the garden to build her confidence before venturing back out onto the golf course. “It was definitely a mindset problem, but my swing was driving me mad, I wanted to get it back to where it was prior to my diagnosis,” says the 25 handicapper, who sought help from teaching pros John Bullen at Barton-on-Sea Golf Club and Katie Dawkins at Hamptworth Golf Club. 

At the time of her diagnosis, Erica was a new member at Burley Golf Club, but she is indebted to the club for the support and kindness she received. “There are so many ladies with different types of cancer that have fought their way back onto the golf course again. Golf is a friendship game, my club is quite small, but we all know each other and people care for each other.” 

Kay Wardley, 72, is a member at Brocket Hall Golf Club in Hertfordshire, and the 21 handicapper was joined recently by her golfing friends to celebrate 10 years of being breast cancer free. Like Erica, golf is a huge part of Kay’s life, and the golf club had a strong connection with Kay’s diagnosis from the onset.

“It was Ladies Invitation Day; I was in the changing room and received a call from a nurse at the breast cancer unit. She asked if I had anybody with me, and I thought this meant that she wanted me to take the call somewhere quieter due to the noise from other women in the changing room, but the call was to tell me that I had breast cancer.”

Ironically, Kay’s team won the day and she bravely stood up and gave a speech. 

Golf after Breast Cancer

Kay Wardley with Brocket Hall's Lady Palmerston Trophy, July 2022.

(Image credit: Brocket Hall)

Initially Kay had a lumpectomy and lymph gland procedure under general anaesthetic, but this wasn’t enough to destroy the cancer, so she underwent a more serious operation. It’s worth mentioning that in between her operations, Kay appeared on the quiz show The Chase, and along with one other quizzer they outran the chaser Anne Hegerty, so this gave her a real boost! 

Kay didn’t require chemotherapy, but she did have to endure 22 consecutive days of radiotherapy and this is when her golfing friends stepped up to the plate. “People want to help, they don’t always know what to say,” says Kay.

As her husband had to work, she took the opportunity to draw up a spreadsheet of her friends who were willing to help by driving her to an appointment, many of whom were from the golf club. “They were absolutely incredible, and it was wonderful to spend 5 hours with a friend every day,” says Kay.  

Almost 8 months after her diagnosis, it was these same friends that took Kay out onto Brocket Hall’s par-3 course before she gradually built up to playing 9 holes. “If I didn’t have the golf club and the friendships, it would have been a very big gap in my healing and recovery.”  

Golf after Breast Cancer

Erica Tuck and other ladies from Burley Golf Club took part in Race for Life in aid of cancer research

(Image credit: Erica Tuck)

Erica and Kay are just two women out of thousands diagnosed with breast cancer every year, but through their stories, what becomes abundantly clear is that while golf is a sport that has many benefits, being a member of a golf club and building lifelong friendships is priceless when support and a confidence boost is needed most throughout a challenging period.

Tips from Top 50 coach Katie Dawkins on playing golf after breast cancer:

  • Recovery and getting back into the swing of things will be determined by the individual and the severity of treatment and reconstructive surgery. Energy levels will be lower and pacing yourself is key.
  • Swing wise, your body will have changed. It’s so important to create a decent posture to ensure your arms can hang down freely and you can rotate efficiently. If your posture isn’t quite right, you’ll just swing your arms and this can cause an uncomfortable action. 
  • Your body will feel different and it will take time to adjust. Like any adjustment, take it one step at a time, ease in with short game and a shorter swing until your confidence begins to rise.
  • The biggest difference in your game will be psychological. A sense of another chance and perhaps your outlook on poor shots will be different as a result. 

October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month might be coming to an end, but through Breast Cancer Now’s Golf Club there are so many ways that you can help to make a real difference for people affected by breast cancer. Between November 2021 and October 22, Breast Cancer Now's overall golf income (from men and women) was just under £200,000.  

Alison Root

Alison Root has over 25 years experience working in media and events, predominantly dedicated to golf, in particular the women’s game. Until 2020, for over a decade Alison edited Women & Golf magazine and website, and is now the full-time Women's Editor for Golf Monthly. Alison is a respected and leading voice in the women's game, overseeing content that communicates to active golfers from grassroots through to the professional scene, and developing collaborative relationships to widen Golf Monthly's female audience across all platforms to elevate women's golf to a new level. She is a 16-handicap golfer (should be better) and despite having had the fantastic opportunity to play some of the best golf courses around the world, Kingsbarns in Scotland is her favourite.