31 May 2024 | Women and girls |

Wolston Park drives positive change

by Martin Blake

Wolston Park image
Wolston Park has run a series of clinics for women to lift its female representation.

Frank Byrne remembers the lightbulb moment.

It came at a joint GMA (Golf Management Australia)-ASTMA (Australian Sports Turf Managers Association) conference in Melbourne in 2022.

There were two presentations from golf clubs who had made progress in the great, modern dilemma of the sport – how to get women and girls engaged.

Byrne, general manager of the relatively small Wolston Park Golf Club in south-eastern Brisbane, just down the river towards Ipswich, felt himself gravitating to the ideas that were mentioned. He approached the speakers to talk about the subject, and came home to Brisbane determined to take some action.

Less than two years on, Wolston Park still has work to do. But it has more than doubled its number of women members, from just 25 (of around 500 total members) back then to 53 now.

The tide has turned.

“It’s one thing to recognise it,” said Byrne this week. “To do something about it is another process.”

Back in Brisbane, Byrne engaged the board of Wolston Park including vice president Nadine Hall. The club saw female engagement as a potential growth area to say the least; everyone jumped on board.

It offered women a six-month membership for just $200 from April to September, 2023, ran a social media campaign, and signed up 28 women who took part in a series of clinics with PGA Professional Andrew Agea, enjoyed Meet and Greet sessions on Sundays, and chatted on their Whatsapp group.

Golf Australia’s Acting Head of Clubs and Facilities, Megan Carr, dropped in to help with some advice.

The result was immediately impressive: 13 of those 28 women remained on beyond the six months as members.

Then in 2024, the club doubled down, making the same offer over six months, and signing another 22 women.

Byrne, Hall and others tried to throw their arms around the newcomers.

“The anxiety levels were high,” said Byrne. “You could feel that. They didn’t know the rules, or the etiquette. The first thing we said was: ‘That will come. It’s about enjoying yourself, having fun, learning how to progress. You don’t have to play competition. Get out, smell the roses, enjoy the sunshine’.”

Said Hall: “From a woman’s perspective, it’s always quite daunting to join a golf club. It’s a majority of men, you don’t know anyone, you probably don’t know how to play. That’s what we put down on paper last year. ‘How are we going to do this’?”

One highlight for everyone was to see how the first group of women from 2023 leapt in to embrace the new group in 2024 and make them comfortable.

Another was the elevation of one of the 2023 group into the club’s pennant team recently, having only picked up a golf club for the first time 12 months ago.

Byrne says Wolston Park, which suffered from flooding several times in recent years, was surging ahead with strong growth, membership now at 640. He has had several husband-wife duos applying to join.

“Being inclusive in the club, so many people recognise the benefits to the club and to themselves. The women have done a great job, and the committee realises that this is increasing our membership.

“I like to talk about the golfing experience. Our course is looking the best it ever has, and the experience is also the bar, the pro shop and the rest. It’s a great vibe.”

Adds Nadine Hall: “It’s a good environment to be in. We’re a relatively small club anyway, but we all have a say. We’re all equal in our club. I think it’s been better to have more women with a bit more of a voice as well.”

Wolston Park information

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