01 Nov 2023 | Women and girls |

Visionary of the Year: A whole-club approach to gender equity

by Golf Australia

13th Beach visionary image
13th Beach is attracting more women and girls.

By Serrin Bertino

Our October Visionary of the Year winner for 2023 has been chosen...

Congratulations to the team at 13th Beach Golf Links on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula for their planned, evidence-based approach to tackling gender equality. The club has won a $500 voucher and is now in the running to win up to $10,000 worth of products from the latest Callaway REVA product range, designed specifically for women. Our overall Visionary of the Year will be voted upon and announced towards the end of the year Here’s their story... In 2022, 13th Beach Golf Links made a bold statement.

It was a statement the club knew would be a challenge, but one that was important to achieve, and a key part of its new strategic plan.

That is, to increase the number of women members at the club to 30 percent by 2027.

This story shares how 13th Beach has set to achieve this goal through research and planning. Although the club has always celebrated equal access for women and men since formation in 2001, membership for women has been stagnant for some time - 18 percent. As overall membership has continued to grow, women members have grown at a rate which has simply maintained this percentage.

At a planning meeting in 2021, it was therefore agreed that women and girls development would be a priority in the club’s 2022-2027 plan.

“We knew it was a huge challenge to get to 30 percent,” said Deputy Manager, Sally McKenna.

“But it is vital for the future health of the club.”

To lead this effort, a working group was formed.

“We originally set up this group with the intent it would be a one-year commitment to focus our energies and identify opportunities,” said McKenna.

“However, we quickly realised gender equality is an ongoing commitment, and to be sustainable and influential, it needed to be embedded within 13th Beach’s governance structure.”

Subsequently, the board endorsed a new ‘women in golf’ committee (nee working group). This group, importantly, did not take the form of a traditional women’s committee.

Instead, it was made up of representatives, both men and women, from across the club whose focus was to drive many initiatives that fall under 13th Beach’s strategic pillar.

One of these initiatives was to better understand why the numbers of women members had been stuck at 18 percent for so long.

Around 70 to 90 women, annually, had been enjoying Get into Golf.

However, insufficient numbers were progressing into frequent play and membership.

“We asked ourselves, ‘why’?” said McKenna.

“Why were women not converting from clinics? What were the barriers, and how can the club better support women into playing more frequently?”

The committee’s first task was to conduct research to better understand their target market and develop a product to meet their needs.

After surveying all Get into Golf participants from the previous five years, two main findings were discovered:

• Women were time-poor with young families and/or work commitments.

• Women were seeking more connection with the club. “This was an important process to go through as it solidified some things we had presumed. However, some outcomes were surprising,” said McKenna.

“For example, our club has a wonderful inclusive culture however, we now better understand as an outsider or beginner, it can still be a daunting prospect to go from clinics to membership of a large club.”

Now having researched their target market and identified pre-existing barriers, the club was able to plan a product to help overcome these barriers. As a result, the club has formed a women’s pathway program where key barriers have been removed and engagement the focus.

With clinics, transitional membership and competition with a nine-hole focus and a buddy program featured as part of the pathway, the four-year program offers ample time for women to foster a passion for golf, and to create a strong sense of belonging at the club.

“It is early days,” said McKenna.

“But we are already seeing promising results with a 30 percent increase in women transitioning from clinics into our membership pathway.”

Jake Cole-Sinclair, Golf Relationship Officer at Golf Australia, praises the club for its strategic approach.

“Not only has the club taken time to research and plan for success, but it has also generated something sustainable unlike anything I have witnessed.”

Along with highlighting women’s engagement as a priority in the club’s strategic plan and embedding a committee to drive this work within its constitution, 13th Beach has also become a signatory to the R&A Women in Golf Charter.

The charter, developed to create a more inclusive culture for women and girls in golf, is backed by the R&A and the Australian golf industry.

“Becoming a signatory has been a great way to obtain additional support and resources from Golf Australia,” said McKenna.

“It has further helped 13th Beach embed governance policies and procedures that promote women in all aspects of our sport, including leadership positions on the Board. Our Deputy Chair, Allyson Bradnam chairs the Women in Golf Committee.

“We now have at least two positions held by women on our board to ensure a diversity of thought in decision making.”

These women in leadership along with all other board and committee members, work together to continue to drive women and girls’ engagement.

Cole-Sinclair adds: “The value of women’s golf at 13th Beach is not just the value of an individual, but something acknowledged and accepted throughout the club.

“The club has demonstrated a terrific example of the power of a whole-club approach to a particular goal." Sally McKenna kindly shares her advice and learnings in the hope that it may help other clubs.

Advice and learnings:

• “It is key to understand the barriers that exist for women and girls. Listen and learn from your current, and potential future membership base.”

• “Be strategic. Take the time to research and plan your gender equality initiaves.”

• “Make sure your practice is sustainable so whatever you are doing is part of your club culture forever.”

• “A whole club approach is vital. Invite representatives from all areas of your club to be a part of planning and then implementing your strategy.” Learn more about Visionary of the Year, including what other clubs are doing in the gender equality space here Vision 2025 Resources | Golf Australia

Learn more about Women in Golf Charter, including case studies here Women in Golf Charter | Golf Australia

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