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June 2019

Women’s Golf Month Sparks Year-Round Initiatives

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By Steve Eubanks

A lot of operators throw out an event or two for women in June. Their message couldn’t be clearer: “See, we’re not anti-women. We gave the gals a Thursday afternoon scramble during Women’s Golf Month on the hottest day of the year. Yea us!”

Most golfers and all women see those efforts for what they are: placating pats on the head; condescension that turns more women away from the game than if the operators had done nothing at all. 

But some multi-course owners are willing to admit that they blew opportunities in the past. And they are rectifying those mistakes.  

“It was about five years ago that we shyly admitted that we didn’t even know that June was Women’s Golf Month,” said Wes Forester, director of Golf at Reynolds Lake Oconee, a MetLife property with a mix of five private and resort courses in Georgia.

“After that, we tried to make up for our (ignorance) by doing a lot of special things to encourage women to play during June,” Forester said. “We set up a number of clinics, had special events for women, and offered substantial discounts. In some cases we completely waived the guest fee in the month of June if the guest was a female.” 

During those June initiatives, Forester discovered that many of the events and programs did not have an expiration date.

“What we realized is that this approach isn’t a one-month thing,” he said. “It’s a holistic effort. If we’re trying to get our members to invite and encourage their daughters, their wives, their friends, their significant others to play golf, what can we do to help them on a permanent basis to make women feel welcome?”
 
The answer came through trial and error. First, Forester realized that while the one-and-done women’s clinic might attract a big crowd, it was not a long-term model for bringing  women into the game. So, Reynolds instituted multiple clinics, held on different days, different times and with different instructors. Women pick and choose the times, days and coaches that work best for them. They also coordinate with their friends to be in the same clinics. The sessions are more intimate, more social and more lasting than the larger one-off clinics. There is also a food-and-beverage component in all Reynolds clinics now.

“Pamela Shelly (head golf professional at the Creek Club, one of Reynolds’ private clubs) created a four-hole women’s league,” Forester said. “That proved to be so successful that we started events like ‘9-and-Dine’ and ‘Sip-and-Chip,’ which are scrambles and short up-and-down events. They’re over in a flash. Then you have a nice dinner.”  

Once women reach a comfort level in the game, Reynolds has plenty of competitive outlets. The ladies golf association has 200 members and 33 events a year. There is also a nine-hole association that plays 30 times a year.

But a large number of women have no desire to ever play a competitive round. Forester realized that he needed to cater to those customers.

“The most terrifying things for women are a fear of embarrassment and the fear that they might hold somebody up. Women are much more attuned to those feelings than men are. So, we gave those women fun events, social events, disarming events, events that have attracted more women into the game.

“For a larger number of women, at least out here, the game is about camaraderie, not competition. We are a better operation for having recognized that.”

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