FORE! WOMEN is the female-friendly guide to golf. An online community that helps women find other women who are interested in taking up the game, as well as local clubs that are offering taster sessions.
I met founder Felicity Dunderdale, the brains behind this brilliant idea at the American Golf Show in Manchester.
I quizzed her on where she came up with the idea, how she’s helping new golfers, and why not all clubs are as welcoming as we’d like them to be…
When did you start playing golf?
I started 17 years ago. Back then I didn’t know anybody else who wanted to learn with me and I didn’t know which golf club to go to. At the time there weren’t really many clubs offering taster sessions or women’s group sessions.
Do you think that some golf clubs aren’t very welcoming?
When I first went to sign up to play golf it took me a good hour or so to build up the courage to drive into the golf club. I just had all these perceptions in my mind about what it would be like.
Then when I got into the car park I had to ask some guys where I needed to go. Often when you go to a club it isn’t obvious which entrance to use, and the directions aren’t very forthcoming.
It was an anxious time for me when I first went to play golf. I knew right then that there was a gap in the market for something like FORE! WOMEN.
I wanted to create a website that would guide women along to golf clubs who were actively encouraging more people to take up the game and offering taster sessions. I wanted to help women feel comfortable and confident about trying golf.
When did you form FORE! WOMEN?
My business started four years ago. With the information that’s out there now it’s easier to see that there are women out there who want to play.
The business just reflects the difficulties that I faced when I got into golf. It’s there to introduce and guide women into the game and help women meet other like-minded women who also want to learn to play.
How would you help a lady who was looking to take up golf?
We have a list on our website of about 40 clubs from across the UK who have said they are interested in growing their number of female golfers. I don’t put all clubs on there, only the ones who have responded to me.
There’s a whole mind field of clubs out there and you don’t know what they’ll be like before you get there. Sometimes you go in and you don’t know where to go and it’s full of men who will all look at you when you walk in. You don’t realise how that will make you make you feel until you are in that situation.
I’d also encourage them to get involved and ask questions. We say that no question is a silly question and we want people to ask what they might feel silly asking anywhere else. People sometimes just take it for granted that everyone knows everything about golf.
Do you also work with the golf clubs themselves?
Yes, we work with clubs to help them identify what women will like about their club and how they can improve the experience for women. We want to help bridge the gap between the golf clubs and the women who want to start.
We help clubs come up with a 12-18 month plan of taster sessions. Some might just do one or two and think that’s enough and won’t do any more. Then we help them set up an introductory course and academy. These can then lead to women deciding to join as a member. It’s about consistency, it can take some women up to a year to decide if they want to join a golf club.
It’s about bringing the club back into the community. I feel like a lot of clubs have removed themselves.
Is it a rewarding job running FORE! WOMEN?
Yes, everything I’ve done so far in my career has been building up to this.
I’ve had some really positive responses from women. A few women who come along to the coaching sessions I do on a Wednesday have become members now and one has just won the first golf competition she’s ever taken part in.
How do you want to expand your brand now?
My vision is that wherever you are in the world, when you see the FORE! WOMEN branding at a golf club you know that you are going to feel comfortable there. Having branding for clubs is the next step, but we have a long way to go before we get there.
I’m running the business by myself at the moment but I have visions of partnering up with different golf businesses to help me grow my vision and women’s golf in general. We have to join together if we want to do that.