According to a recent study more women would take up the game if things were different. The report, The Opportunity to Grow Golf: Female Participation, carried out by Syngenta, found that if clubs and courses were more friendly and flexible and there was the opportunity to learn with female friends and family, they would be more interested in playing.

Among various findings shorter courses, with the option for six or nine-hole rounds, were also suggested.

Wimbledon Common is one club that has bucked the trend of decreasing membership. Lady members were only admitted in 2004 and they now have 50 members. They kick off a new regular feature to illustrate how female numbers can grow if you do things right. We spoke to Susie McHugh, head of marketing at the South London club.

What made you join the club?
I was lady member No 6 and I joined because the club didn’t require a handicap and I liked the girls that I met.

I wanted to play a sport and felt at 50+ that tennis might be a stretch too far, at the same time I was reducing my work commitment so I thought golf could be the answer to be outdoors, get some exercise and enjoy good company.

We have attracted a lot of ladies who also play tennis but wanted another sport since they have retired or have part-time careers or their children are now away from home.  

How much does intimidation get in the way of joining?
The intimidation factor is particularly relevant to ladies as we do not like joining a club alone. We have steadily built up a reputation for being a very welcoming and all-inclusive club.
Also, the ladies have been increasingly accepted by the men and we have an increasing number of matches with the male members and mixed teams against other clubs.

This is why we set up our Ladies Academy and why it is so successful. And now because of this success we are launching a Men’s Academy!

How does the Academy work?
Each Academy member pays £400 per year (was £350 when we started) and for that she gets: 12 lessons with our pro, three rounds a month with a mentor (mentors are drawn from the ladies’ section).

There is no joining fee, you can play Monday to Friday and join all the social events.
We launched the Academy in October 2013 with our first intake of five ladies. We limited the number so we could guarantee enough mentors for the three games a month.

Of the 10 Academy members who joined in 2014, eight are now fully paid-up members of the ladies’ section.

How involved is the pro with the ladies’ section?
Our senior pro, Jeff Jukes, has been a keen advocate of the ladies’ section, has helped us run competitions and events with other clubs and generally been an inspiration to those ladies who needed a confidence boost! 

Jeff has understood that not all ladies want to join the club’s teams but prefer to play social golf and has encouraged us all to enjoy the game. He was joined last year by Gary Clements and both of them have been great supporters of the Academy.

How many lady members do you have under 25 and how do you go about attract younger members?
A few under 25 – two! But an encouraging number of new members around 40.
We relaunched the website in 2013 and we are in the process of updating it again now.  In 2014 we also launched a social media campaign focusing on Facebook (which we have had for the past few years but it wasn’t really active) and Twitter.

Interestingly the second group of Academy members came to us solely from our website.
We have realised over the past five years that our website is a vital tool to the success of encouraging new members and green fee players.

How else have you been innovative?
We have the Long Room upstairs which was very old fashioned, part carpet part dance floor, with horrid blue curtains. We had a small fire so we received some insurance money, and a legacy from Dave Lenton (a past member) and we decided to do a complete refurb.

We replaced the old flooring with wood, put some decent lighting in and new blinds. So now we have a very flexible space that we can rent out and a great view and it is one of the best priced spaces in the area.

Do you ‘holiday’ as a group?
We arrange an annual ladies’ tour. Last year we went to Celtic Manor and played three rounds on the course there.  They had never seen so many ladies turn up in one group before – 24 of us!

We have a Ladies Open and invite all the local clubs to take part and they have. Last year 36 ladies from local clubs took part and we play in the Pearson Trophy, Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday competitions.

What relationships do you have with local businesses?
We have had an excellent relationship with World of Golf for many years.  We supply them with our brochures, they promote special 2-for-1 deals, and we offer their pros our course for playing experience for their golfers. They in turn offer our members a deal on balls.

  We also have a special Sunday deal with the Dog and Fox restaurant/pub in Wimbledon Village.

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