As I’ve stated in an earlier post on improving communications within the ladies’ section, one of my goals as Captain is to grow the women’s section at Brighton & Hove. We’re very small and this season, we’ve struggled to field teams in the two divisions we’ve entered. We started working on this around a year ago, when Lindsay, our club Secretary, was contacted by England Golf to organise an event to encourage women to get into golf. A few of the members got together with her to think up ways of reaching out to women and plan what we wanted to offer. We came up with a two-hour golf taster session and an Academy pack as a first step towards golf club membership. We ran the first couple of sessions last year, then another two sessions recently. Overall it’s been a great success. We learnt a lot along the way and I thought I’d share this information here, so other clubs can find ideas to encourage women to try golf.
Promoting our free Get into golf taster session
Planning a session is one thing, but how do you get women to come up to your club? We used a strategy based on three main tools, which were all successful in different ways.
Good old word of mouth
We all made a conscious effort to mention our Get into golf sessions to whoever cared to listen. We have members who play football, tennis, hockey and we encouraged them to mention them to their sporty friends. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. This is how the majority of our participants heard about us. News travels incredibly fast!
We used social media, mostly Twitter and Facebook. I created a Facebook event, shared it through the club and my personal account and encouraged our members to share it to their networks. I also spent a whole £5 to boost our post as an experiment. Facebook offers some great tools and I targeted women between 30 and 60 who were into a range of physical activities.
As you can see, a very small investment allowed the post to reach 621 people and got 9 responses. Four of the women who engaged with it came to the taster session. None of them signed to the Academy pack, but they gave us great feedback and I would be surprised if we didn’t see them again. Sometimes, the timing just isn’t right. Perhaps more importantly, they are now aware of us and whenever they decide the time is right to start golf, they’ll know where we are. Also, this raises awareness about Brighton & Hove being a club that welcomes beginners.
We also used Twitter to share photos of the event and raise awareness.
A dedicated page on our website
At the beginning of the year, we revamped the Brighton & Hove Golf Club website and I created a page dedicated to our Get into golf taster session for women. It’s very simple, but it’s packed full of the right keywords and is very well ranked by Google. I’ve also made sure that our women’s section page stresses that we welcome beginners. The website turned out to be a great promotion tool as well: it brought us five of the 14 ladies who came to our most recent event.
We had support from the county development officer of England golf and we also are lucky to have a sports development specialist in the section. We put a little team together to plan the two-hour session.
It was based on three activities (see the planning document at the bottom of the page):
- 20 minutes on learning the basic mechanics of holding and swinging a club with Anthony, our pro
- 20 minutes on putting games around the practice green
- 20 minutes on chipping into an inflatable target
We then wanted to put these three skills together on the course: hitting the ball into the green from a 100 yards, then putting out. We really wanted the beginners to experience what it’s like to be out on part of the course, enjoying the views, the walk and the satisfaction of getting the little white ball in the tiny hole.
In the four sessions that we’ve organised in the last 12 months, we’ve used a variation of this template to suit the weather and numbers. We made sure that a lot of the drills took the form of games. The feedback has been excellent, the participants indicating that it was a good mixture of fun and challenge.
It seemed important to us to have the chance to chat with the participants not only during, but also after the sessions. That’s why I asked my army of bakers to produce some delicious goodies to enjoy once we’d put the clubs away. This was a great idea: it allowed us to relax and answer questions about the club, golf and how to progress. We also took that opportunity to give them leaflets about our Academy pack, which offers three months of golf (six rounds of 18 holes or twelve rounds of nine holes) and an individual lesson with our pro for £100.
When the participants arrived, we asked them to fill in a sheet giving their name, email address and where they heard about us. This is invaluable information, as it allows us to stay in touch with them and also to work out the most efficient ways of reaching out to them. A couple of days after the session, Lindsay emailed all the participants to thank them for coming and included the Academy pack flyer in the email. That’s it. No hard sale. We thought that providing all the information they needed if they wanted to carry on with golf was enough.
We made sure we gave the women who did sign up to the Academy pack two main points of contact (Lindsay and me). That way, they could easily find people to play with. We made sure enough members were available to take them out, show them the course and mark handicap cards if that’s what they wanted. We also encouraged them to sign up to our biweekly clinics with Anthony to improve their technique. And finally, we added them to our WhatsApp group to help them find playing partners.
All this support and follow-up has meant that the majority of women on the Academy pack have progressed to signing up for our one-year membership. We currently have 16 women on the Academy pack and 11 women on the introductory membership, which is an amazing boost for a section which was only 41 strong when we started. Considering that we were hoping for ten new members at the start, this is a great result. I feel like the later events were better, with more people taking up the Academy pack. Maybe we just learnt to run them more efficiently with experience.
Our golf taster sessions have been a key element of the whole strategy, but it’s not the only one. A regular presence on social media, where we celebrate the women’s section’s achievements, also helps to promote it. An awareness that our new members need support is also essential if we want them to enjoy golf and stay. To this end, we’ve organised regular group clinics to help them work on different areas of their game. We also make sure that they know they can join in our competition days even if they don’t put a card in. It’s certainly an involved, long-term endeavour, but it’s the only way to make sure the women’s section at Brighton & Hove continues to thrive. And that’s very important to me.
Please use the comments’ sections to tell me what your section does to attract new members. I’m always keen to learn more on the subject!