28 Jun 2022 | Participation |

Box Hill thrives with influx of women and girls

by Contributor

Box Hill women image
The women of Box Hill who made it happen: from left women's president Sue Beck, commitee member Mary Walkinshaw, past president Lorraine Skelton, pennant player Weka Tarr and members Gillian Wright, Michelle Barron, Sue Jackson and Lyndel Adgemis.

By John Trevorrow

How many golf clubs can boast of increasing their women membership by more than 40 percent over the past few years?

Box Hill Golf Club in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne is one club that has thrived in this space.

Thanks to its specific programs aimed at attracting women golfers, staff and club members dedicated to their development, and a welcoming culture, Box Hill has progressed into the top 10 clubs in metropolitan Melbourne for numbers of women members.

Official figures in Golf Victoria annual reports reveal that in 2014, Box Hill had 169 women members. By 2021, this had increased to 240 women, which is 22 percent of the club’s membership base.

Box Hill Golf Club has concentrated on attracting women who are newcomers to golf. The club’s Women’s Committee has spearheaded this drive, and there are four key reasons for the success. These include:

A special program of individual and group lessons and tutelage aimed at women.

More than 20 women club members take on the role of ‘ambassadors’ dedicated to integrating new women members.

The club ensures there is a welcoming environment so that new women members quickly feel surrounded by friends once they join.

One member of the women’s committee and one member of the administration staff is tasked with assisting the newcomers.

Box Hill has a five-step women’s program developed and tailored over the past 10 years by teaching professional James Hull. It aims to take women who are complete beginners to become confident golfers comfortable playing in competitions or social golf at a private club with the emphasis on fun and friendship.

Beginners sign up for two blocks of five-week group lessons that the club calls “Give Golf a Go” to learn the foundations of how to play the game. From there they move to what the club calls its ‘Academy’. Women move through Bronze, Silver and Gold conditional membership in four-month blocks that include group and individual coaching, access to practice facilities, and tee times for social rounds.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of what the women members at Box Hill do to support these newcomers to the game. The welcoming culture is phenomenal,” says James Hull.

A member of the Box Hill women’s committee has the task of ensuring these new prospective members feel connected and welcomed. Committee member Mary Walkinshaw has developed a program of support that includes a two-hour ‘Women’s Welcome’ session for Gold-level learners covering the fun elements around the club – such as card groups and book clubs – plus the etiquette and basic rules knowledge needed on course, and handicaps and how competitions are scored.

At this point, the Gold-level women are invited into special WhatsApp groups where they can ask questions, organise games and get to know their fellow golfers. Each Gold-level newcomer is also paired up with a woman club member, known as an Ambassador, to give them an individual personal contact to guide them into club life.

“We believe it’s a really good structured program. We want to ensure that these women newcomers to the game make connections as well as develop enjoyment from the game,” says Mary Walkinshaw.

General manager Russell Donovan says the Give Golf A Go program has been a resounding success.

“The majority of our new women members graduate through this program. We regularly bring in 20 to 25 new women members each year in this way. They are all new to golf, have not been members anywhere else, and they join Box Hill without any discounting of subscriptions or being attracted from elsewhere with special deals,” says Russell Donovan.

“We want our new women golfers to get a handicap and feel comfortable playing in the weekly women’s competition on a Wednesday, or in the general competition fields.’’

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