Golf Australia

Women growing the game

Susie Mathews
Susie Mathews working at Kooyonga.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, we sat down with Susie Mathews, Andrea McGann and Zahara Lemon to discuss how we attract more women to golf, ensure they have great experiences and keep them loving the game. 

Susie is a PGA professional and all-abilities coach based at Kooyonga Golf Club in South Australia, Andrea is a community instructor and Swing Fit deliverer at multiple venues in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, while Tasmanian representative player Zahara, still in her teens, is a community instructor who delivers MyGolf and Swing Fit programs at Kingston Beach Golf Club.

What strikes you first about these three women is their passion for the game. More than that though, the enjoyment they get from sharing their love of golf is palpable. There’s also an understated, quiet pride in what they are achieving, so it’s nice to be able to sing their praises on such an important day.

Andrea, also a fitness instructor with 20 clients who see her weekly, has had more than 200 women through her Swing Fit programs. She has just returned from the Hunter Valley, where she took 21 of her Swing Fit ‘graduates’ for three days of fun, including plenty of golf.

For Andrea, these trips are a natural extension of the on-course days she regularly hosts the women who come through her program and highlight what golf has to offer.

“The golf journey can feel daunting to some, so the women in my programs are nurtured and encouraged from the moment they arrive,” explains McGann.

Zahara Lemon
Zahara Lemon with a young student.

From Day 1, they are part of what I call #TeamSwingFit. I hold their hands and give them encouragement. From there, the friendships flourish and they’re hooked. I think that’s the main reason word-of-mouth is the most common way people find my programs!”

Andrea seeks to strike a balance between fun and learning; she makes a point of helping her participants to feel comfortable on the golf course.

Any cynicism that may have existed about the program from her host clubs has been blown away by the reality of Swing Fit participants buying clubs, clothes and equipment and becoming club members!

With a full-time role at Kooyonga, Susie’s situation is a bit different to Andrea’s, but her focus is just the same – showing women and girls how much fun they can have learning and playing golf.

“I believe newcomers to the game must be made to feel comfortable in their surroundings,” says Mathews.

“My aim is always to have people laughing with friends and hitting some memorable shots.”

Susie is clearly doing that. Her Wednesday afternoon MyGolf girls program and her ability to get mums into the game have had a great impact on female participation at Kooyonga and rank among her proudest achievements.

She’s seen the game at the top level, having competed on the Japanese LPGA Tour and won as a professional, but still finds golf “a great way to relax and have fun” herself. 

Susie is a big advocate for something that’s often overlooked at clubs and facilities around Australia – making sure programs are run at the right times for the target audience.

It really is the simple things sometimes!

Chatting with Susie highlights another important factor, and something we see a lot in our research into golf – as a sport we are way too focused on competition. Susie would like us to use fewer clubs and focus on fun rather than scores. 

“One club golf is a great way for women to learn and have fun on the course!”

Zahara, studying global logistics and maritime management at the University of Tasmania, concurs.

“Fun formats are fun for everyone, not just beginners. Let’s play more foursomes and ambrose,” says Lemon.

She finds perceptions of golf the most challenging though – something that’s been called out as a priority in ‘Vision 2025 – The future of women and girls in golf’.

“The idea that it is a game for the older generations and only for men is rather ridiculous. Every day I try to do a little bit to help create a better reputation for golf in Tasmania,” says Lemon.

It’s clear when you speak to Zahara that she believes changing golf to make it more accessible and enjoyable for women will help the game as a whole.

“We need to show people that golf can be played in two hours. We need to keep pushing nine-hole golf, offer fun group learning with PGA professionals and work harder to create welcoming atmospheres at our clubs and facilities.”

Wise words, young lady!

For more information, write to info@golf.org.au with ideas or queries about how to help us grow the game.


Comments

Posted by Trevor Cordwell at
09/03/2018 11:51 AM
Wise words indeed Zahara you are doing great and yourself proud. Keep it going. Trevor
Posted by Arthur Little at
09/03/2018 10:16 AM
Women's golf will not truly grow until golf courses are set up to fit women's swing speeds (60-75mph) Jann Leeming, my wife and i have been working on getting courses to put in tees that fit those swing speeds...4000-4700 yards for 20 years. The golf industry is finally beginning to listen but we still have a long way to go.

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