03 Aug 2020 | Women and girls |

Developing players, not just clinic players

by Golf Australia

Cairns Golf Club_image
Ladies Lets Golf participants and graduates now enjoy getting out on course! Photo: Cairns Golf Club

The Club:

Cairns Golf Club is an 18-hole course centrally located just minutes from the centre of Cairns in far North Queensland. The Club has a fleet of 60 motorised carts, is open for social play 7 days a week and has a full-length floodlit driving range. There are four PGA Professionals and a General Manager on site. The Cairns membership base comprises of 666 members, 22% being female. 

Local Demographic: 

  • Population: 240,190

  • Median age: 38 (national average 38)

  • Children aged 0-14 years: 19.8% of the population (average 18.7%)

  • People aged 65+ years: 15.2% (average 15.8%)

  • People born in Australia: 70.8% (average 66.7%)

  • Full-time workers: 56.6% of the population (average 57.7%)

  • Part-time workers: 30.3% (average 30.4%)

  • Median household weekly income: $1,226 (average $1,203)


Female golf membership around Australia has significantly diminished – from 34% of total memberships in 1970 compared to just 20% in 2019. There are numerous reasons for this including people’s assumptions and perceptions about golf (that it is a sport for men) and the lifestyle of women dramatically changing between 1970 and 2019 (however our golf product remains the same).  We are now able to now work to change people’s perceptions about golf and offer products that appeal to the modern woman who is often time-poor and may have a career. 

The Story:

In terms of developing grassroots golf, Cairns GC is rightfully one of Australia’s “pin-up” clubs with flocks of women having swarmed to their beginner “*Ladies Lets Golf” clinics in the past few years. 

“We are getting better at being more aware of how golf has traditionally been seen – rigid, old-fashioned, for men and boring – and we are working to not be that,” explains Matt Bolton, the club’s general manager. 

The club has been extremely proactive with its local marketing including a brilliant Facebook page – see @cairnsgolfclub and Instagram – but has also implemented some simple things at the club to ensure women feel welcome. These include playing music on the driving range and relaxing the dress code through to upgrading bathroom facilities and installing a women’s changeroom in the pro shop. 

Challenges and Solutions:

While thrilled with the number of women attending clinics, Bolton and his team began to realise a shortfall. “In hindsight, we probably lost some of our beginners as we had not been offering a complete participation pathway. One thing we have learnt is that you need to develop players, not just attract clinic players. You need to listen to your customers – and they have told us they want to get out on course and play the game.”  

The club now runs special on-course events for graduates and participants of the Ladies Let’s Go program. “Our first event was a great success! It was a beautiful sunny day and the 35 participants had a ball! They were given two hours to play as many holes in an ambrose format as they liked before enjoying drinks and nibbles. At the end of the day, we couldn’t get them out of the clubhouse with all the laughter and new golfing friendships that you could see were being formed!”  

“Initially it can be more work getting beginners out on course, rather than simply running clinics, but it’s worth the investment as you will have more success retaining players in the long term,” Bolton said.

“We (our staff) must be open to new concepts and ideas including establishing an on-course experience for our clients.”


  • It is crucial to be proactive and targeted with the marketing of your participation programs. To recruit women into their participation pathway, the Cairns GC team:

    • Promotes through its Facebook page

    • Engages with women who have either children or partners playing at the club

    • Emphasises that there is no pressure when they play. (“Our on-course days are a fun day out with golfing buddies followed by a relaxed drink and nibbles.”) 

    • Uses word of mouth which is becoming powerful as more and more women start playing. 

  • The club knows it must develop “players”, not just clinic attendees.

  • The club also knows it’s important to educate its client base not to expect everything for free. Instead, it provides a really good experience. “We charge women $25 to participate in the on-course events. The charge covers their golf, motorised carts, a drink and some nibbles after golf.”

*Ladies Lets Golf has been rebranded Get Into Golf – Women The Get Into Golf program is the beginning of a golf journey for adults looking to start the game. This national adult introductory program gives new golfers an entry point to the game that they will understand and be comfortable participating in.

Sign-up to Golf Australia’s national participation programs - including Get Into Golf, MyGolf and the Community Golf Instructor program via www.golf.org.au

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