It’s all over. We had our AGM last Wednesday and I am no longer Lady Captain. I thought I’d reflect on my year.
To my great shock, I’m asked to be Lady Captain
It was a Wednesday after a competition, two and a half years ago. I was having a coffee and chatting in the conservatory when Judy arrived with Delia, who was to be our new Captain a few months later. They sat down and Judy asked in her usual direct manner: “Céline, when are you thinking of being Lady Captain?” Taken by surprise, I replied “I haven’t thought about it at all, but if I was asked, I would consider it.” She replied: “So when do you think that would be, then?” I made a quick mental calculation and estimated that the youngest Captains in the club must have been in their mid-fifties. I rounded down to seem generous: “In ten years?” “Too long, she snapped. How about next year?”
I was stunned. “Judy, I’m very flattered, but I really have no idea how to run a women’s section. I’m not even on the committee. I know nothing about the social and charity side of things. I don’t like dressing up!” “These things you can learn”, she replied. “I don’t know if I want to. I’m all about the golf, really,” I countered. “That’s exactly why we want you,” she said. Of course, if Judy had reminded me that I would get a jumper that says “Lady Captain 2017”, I would have agreed there and then. The parking space is another much-loved perk, but I didn’t even have a car at the time. I asked a few people who’d been Captain for advice, which went from a horrified “Don’t do it! It will suck the life out of you” to a resigned “There were a few nice bits, I guess.”
The jumper, though.
To my great shock, I say yes
On reflection, I was attracted by the idea that I might be in a position to move the section in a more modern direction. There were a few things that didn’t sit well with me, although they certainly weren’t enough to put me off being a member. As a newcomer to the world of golf, I loved mixing with women of all ages and backgrounds, but I was often at odds with the more traditional side of things. I also felt that I had the skills to improve particular areas, like communications and new member recruitment. Our section was small and ageing and I thought efforts should be made to grow it.
But really, it was mainly the jumper.
So I said yes. The good thing about being asked 15 months in advance is that it gives you plenty of time to think about what you want to achieve. You’re only Captain once, so this was my one chance to try and gently steer the section in a different direction. Following a chat with Heather, a former Worthing Lady Captain who also is a business owner, I decided I needed goals. I gave myself three:
- Grow the section
- Encourage women to play more golf
- Improve communications
Being Lady Captain was hard
This was on top of organising all the usual events, and there are many: Lady Captain’s Day, Away Day, Autumn break, various charity events, various invitations, dinners, lunches, etc. On reflection, I have to recognise that I was so focused on my three goals that I didn’t put all my energy and attention into the day-to-day running of the section. Function sheets for the catering didn’t have the correct information. Cards weren’t always prepared in advanced. Prize tables could have looked better. Players went out without markers for nearest the pin. I kept losing receipts and I got more than a few wrathful looks from my treasurer. My first committee meeting was a disaster. Afterwards, I hopefully asked someone who I knew would be honest with how she thought I did and she said: “This was the worst meeting I’ve ever been to. You might as well not have been there.” Ouch.
Frankly, in some ways, it’s a mystery how I wasn’t sacked fairly early on. Thankfully, my committee, and particularly my secretary and my treasurer, rallied around and patched things up for me. I guess they were prepared to compensate for my total lack of experience. Helped on by everyone around me busy papering over the cracks, I mostly managed to pull things off and my Lady Captain’s Day, my away day at Seaford Head, our committee away day at Littlehampton Golf Club and our Autumn break at Dudsbury Golf Club were great fun. And of course, my charity day will stay with me forever.
Being Lady Captain was satisfying
Anyway, goals: we did well in all three. Of the 73 members we now have, 23 are in their first year at Brighton & Hove. That’s a 47% increase. As I said in my AGM speech, one of my highlights of the year was the day when Anthony took me aside on a Wednesday because “A complaint was made”. The complaint was that the men now had to wait to tee off on a Wednesday (ladies’ morning) because there were so many women out on the course. This post on one of our Get into Golf days gives you an idea of how we went about encouraging women to play golf. Getting players to try golf wasn’t enough. We also made sure we created a welcoming, friendly environment. Amongst other things, we provided an Academy pack to allow women to try out golf membership at a reasonable cost. We also made sure they were made to feel welcome by existing members, who took them out on the course. We gave them information on various topics, like pace of play. And we provided a WhatsApp group to help them find buddies to play with.
My second goal was more difficult to quantify, but my eclectic competition was popular and the two extra competitions I put in the calendar should now be regular fixtures. Finally, communications were greatly improved by my monthly newsletter and a general effort to reach out to members via Facebook, email, our website and the WhatsApp group. All this, I think, has fostered a stronger sense of team and community within the entire section. A few of our older members spend winter in milder climes and they told me they loved hearing what the section was up to via all our different communication tools.
Would I do it again?
So all in all, and even though there were many, many things I could have done much better, I feel I did myself proud and I had a great year. I played SO much golf. I had a lot of fun. I met some lovely people. I now understand how a golf club works and as I’m still on the committee, I can help future Captains avoid some of the mistakes I made. The changes I’ve made are here to stay. I will carry on producing the newsletter, which I will now write in collaboration with Kim, our new Lady Captain. Our culture of welcoming new members is well established. The Brighton & Hove women’s section is a good, fun place to play golf for everyone.
Would I recommend female golfers to say yes when asked? Absolutely. Don’t worry if you’re not sure you’re up for the job. No one in the history of Lady Captaining was more clueless than me. It doesn’t matter: you’ll learn and you’ll get help. What’s important is that you get the chance to influence the future of your section and you get a lot of love for all the work you do. You also get to learn a lot of useful skills: after my awful first attempt, I got much better at chairing meetings. You get used to standing up and talking, singing (yes!) and acting (I know!) in front of a lot of people. You will learn to listen to people’s views and as a representative of you club, you’ll have to learn diplomatic skills if you don’t possess them. These are all things that will benefit you in your social and professional life. But most importantly, you get to play a hell of a lot of golf.
And of course, you get to keep your jumpers.