04 Jul 2024 | Clubs and Facilities |

FEATURE: A revolution at Rutherglen

by Martin Blake

Rutherglen kids image
Rutherglen Golf Club now has youth around the facility.

Rutherglen Golf Club in northern Victoria is unrecognisable from the operation that it was two years ago. A revolution is in full swing.

The old, rickety weatherboard clubhouse is still there, but there are moves to upgrade it in train, and the biggest change is more a movement than anything else.

Rutherglen has doubled its membership from 70 to 140 in that time. It has 30 juniors against the two that it had a couple of years ago, including a bunch of girls.

It has engagement programs for beginners that are hitting the mark.

The community dinners that it holds on Friday nights pack out the clubhouse.

“Things were in a pretty bad way,” said Frank Baring, the club president.

“Now the club’s a lot better. Everybody who’s in the club now is positive, and they all help. Everybody’s happy.”

The changes were initiated by Baring with guidance from Golf Australia staff members Tristan Zito and Chris Crabbe.

A key figure has been Kristy Chandler, who took on the junior coordinator’s role and who is now a vice president.

“My kids did a summer of junior golf and the way the club was doing things was old school,” said Chandler. “I said: ‘This is not how things are done these days with kids’ sport’. Tristan set us up with a platform for MyGolf, and it grew from there.”

MyGolf clinics were successful, and Chandler helped the club secure a grant so that the Australian Golf Foundation Girls Scholarships were introduced, drawing some new, young girls to the club for beginners’ tuition.

Chandler introduced the club to the digital revolution, creating a Facebook page and upgrading the website. “Getting on Facebook, being present on social media is the key. If you have that, you can get people in the door of all ages. Putting flyers up doesn’t do it any more,” she said.

A strategic plan was put in place with plans to upgrade the old irrigation system and replace the clubhouse and upgrade the sandscape putting surfaces to greens.

One of the points to emerge from the strategic plan is that the club needed to open its doors and engage with the community.

Hence the local Rotary club has begun meeting at Rutherglen GC and on Friday nights, there is a community dinner.

On the course, there has been a shift in emphasis away from competitive golf to social play. This is typified by Chandler’s two new programs – Fast Five for the men and Hits and Giggles for the women – where new players come out to the club for five holes and a social chat, with bacon and egg rolls for the men and champagne for the women.

“We’ve turned the club around by going social rather than competition golf being the focus. That’s been the big change for us,” said Chandler.

Carol Fursdon, club vice president, points out that Rutherglen is gender neutral and hence modern. “When I travel to other clubs, I see the segregation of women and men. We’re just one club now. I mean, that used to be the way. Some of them still do that. We embrace working as a team together, so we’re lucky.”

Down the track Rutherglen has big ideas. It has plans to introduce PGA Professional Sandy Jamieson’s OneClub concept, where beginners play with a single club as they learn the nuances of the sport and old-fashioned roadblocks are removed.

“We want to let them go out and play without getting too technical,” said Chandler.

“They just want to play golf and get the ball in the hole. The game of golf is changing for younger people. If you give them something that’s active and social at the same time, it’s two birds with one stone.”

GA's Tristan Zito is delighted with the transformation.

"The club has continued to grow and modernise as they work towards becoming a family friendly golf club and hub for the Rutherglen community," he said. "I applaud the work that everyone has put in and I’m sure there will be many more great things to come at Rutherglen."

Rutherglen information

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