01 Jun 2021 | Women and girls |

Grand tradition blazes equality trail

by Golf Australia

Ath Archer and Beth Francis with the current group of Hamilton beginner golfers.
Ath Archer and Beth Francis with the current group of Hamilton beginner golfers.

Our May Visionary of the Year winner has been chosen…

Congratulations to the team at Hamilton Golf Club for persisting with a women’s beginner program for almost 50 years and achieving equal membership between men and women.

The club has won a $500 Drummond Golf 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.

We heard from Pam and Marg King, the co-ordinators of Hamilton’s introductory program, about the history of the program and the club's approach to gender equality.

Here’s the story…

A country town in western Victoria does not immediately spring to mind when you think of a gender equality movement born in the 1970s.

To be fair, the women of Hamilton did not see themselves as trailblazers or pioneers.

They just wanted to play golf.

But they took the all-important first steps on Hamilton Golf Club’s journey to achieving what many in the golfing community thought impossible - 50% female and 50% male membership.

How did they defy the doubters? How did they achieve gender equality?

It all began with a simple request nearly 50 years ago.

In 1972, one of Hamilton’s female members was asked by a friend if she could teach her how to play golf and soon enough there was a group of five or so female beginners.

The lessons were such a success that the official introductory program began in 1974.

Ath Archer and Beth Francis took the reins and remarkably did not let go until 2018.

In that time, no one has had a greater impact on the Hamilton women than Archer and Francis.

“Probably 90% of our female members have been through the program,” Marg King said.

This incredible success rate is testament to the passion of Archer and Francis - and the Kings have carried that on.

Every Tuesday from February to November, the Kings run a clinic for beginners or take them out on course to play nine holes.

The mood on course is very relaxed. There are no officials strictly upholding the rules, only women developing their passion for golf.

“We get such a thrill out of it. They get so excited when they hit a good shot or drop a putt, and that makes us very happy,” Pam King said.

“It’s very rewarding being out there with them.”

By the end of November, most women are ready to progress to club competition.

The bonds formed during the program and at their post-golf lunches also fuel their desire to continue to play together. 

But not all participants have to move on.

“We don’t kick them out after one year,” Marg joked.

Hamilton’s emerging golfer’s membership ensures that those who are not quite ready for club competition, or are unable to play on other days, are not lost to the game.

The annual membership allows them to continue participating in the Tuesday program for as long as they like and to play rounds at non-competitions times.

“We would rather them come on a Tuesday and go through it all again to some extent then have them give golf away,” Marg said.

The Hamilton women have always found a way around obstacles.

After succession planning this year, the club sought a PGA professional to run five weeks of Get Into Golf clinics, subsequent monthly visits and to take players on course.

But obtaining teaching professionals is a challenge for most regional clubs.

The closest teaching professional can live hours away and as a result, new participation programs rely heavily on the support of club members.

And Hamilton is no different.

In addition to the Kings, six female members have held clinics for the beginners in specific aspects of the game.

Their investment has been a major boost to the program, but the Kings say they also have a few other advantages compared to city clubs.

“Our membership is so much lower, so it’s easier to come out and have a hit anytime,” Pam said.

“Because people here can play several times a week, it’s seen as very attractive.”

Women’s competition is held each Wednesday and women can play with the men in Saturday and Thursday competitions.

“We’ve got to try and stop this divide between men and women, and I think the club is heading in the right direction with that,” Marg said.

Hamilton is definitely on the right path and their success has made many clubs envious.

The Kings recalled instances on golf trips where, upon hearing about the fantastic program and membership numbers at Hamilton, fellow golfers encouraged them to “bottle it up and send it around”.

And what are the contents of that bottle?

  • Taking a first step - just like the Hamilton women did in 1972.

  • Perseverance - because challenges will present themselves along the way.

  • Consistency - to allow female involvement to grow through always having the same opportunities.

  • Support from all members - one in, all in.

  • Enjoyment - because meeting new friends and improving your game is what we all aim for.

And finally, the love of golf.

Hamilton GC may have started its Get into Golf journey in 1972 but it is never too late to start your club's journey!

Sign up to become a Get into Golf Centre and run women's introductory programs here.

Encourage your members to mentor beginners by becoming a Community Instructor. Read more here.

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