Blog No.3: Encouraging girls to stay
By Stacey Mitchell, Golf Foundation lead on girls golf
Saying hello to pet goats, buying Selection Boxes, Boy/Girl “goss”, and “my first birdie”: Stacey shares the thinking behind our brand new Girls Retention Pilot…
In recent times as a charity, the Golf Foundation has focused on bringing new girls into golf. Now is the time to help them become our new girl and women golfers for many years to come.
Tall, short, six or 96, boy or girl, and whatever your background or culture – golf should be for everyone. In order to grow the game for girls, we must address the disparity between boys’ and girls’ participation.
There have been recent fabulous projects taking place in recruiting new girls to try golf, a momentum achieved with the hard work of PGA Professionals, volunteers and club members.
We will be right there helping these projects to continue. However, now we are at a point where we have actually seen a growth in girls’ participation at the golf clubs we work with, we now need to really raise our game on ‘retention’. We must ensure the girls we are bringing into golf are encouraged to keep playing and succeed; being nurtured and given the opportunity to flourish.
Our Golf Foundation team has recently started working on our brand new ‘Girls Retention Pilot’ (powered by our ‘Box of Tricks’). It’s a genuine ‘pilot’ focusing on seven golf clubs to begin with, an experimental voyage of discovery into what really ‘works’: to find the very best outcomes for retaining girls and then later share this knowledge wider to clubs later in 2021. Clubs will look to introduce ideas from the Box of Tricks such as roll-ups/supervised practice, seasonal or social events such as Ten-Pin bowling/Easter Egg hunts, Young Leaders training and much more.
We have a great team of seven Regional Development Officers (RDOs) and each of us is guiding one club in their region through some inclusive, dynamic and fun ideas to help ensure girls who have just started in golf really form a connection and a bond with all at the club, to make them want to stay for years: a recipe that can be great for the girls but also for the whole feel of the club going forwards.
“My Shot at golf and life”
When consulting with girls at these clubs around a ‘brand name’ for the Pilot, the suggestion was to call it “My Shot”. It got me thinking, what does this really mean? My shot at being a golfer? My shot at building confidence? My shot at being a leader? My shot at friendship? My shot at being my best ‘me’? Well, the Pilot is about all of these things. Giving girls ‘their’ shot! Not just playing but in leadership, social activities, creating an inclusive community, making golf a place for girls and providing friendships that last a lifetime.
In my experience as a volunteer within girls golf, the playing side is only a fragment of club life. The girls regularly fill me in on the latest girl/boy “gossip”, we talk about our day to day lives and the fun things on the horizon. I’ve bought and wrapped up 28 selection boxes for Christmas to share out, I’ve heard about, and often witnessed, “first pars” and then “first birdies” – and I’ve even had the privilege of meeting (and almost wrestling with) two pet goats named Giorgio and Giovanni which belong to our Squad members at my home club.
And the girls are always super-eager to tell me when they’ve done something well or funny on the course. Sharing fun and chat is a good thing about a healthy sport. It’s ultimately about feeling welcomed and included.
This Pilot project homes in on this question of culture and acceptance at clubs, and also training volunteers. Both are essential to keeping girls in the game. Girls have often reported a lack of acceptance and of feeling unwelcome. Some face barriers around negative attitudes so this is an area we are now working to address. It’s about preventing poor experiences on the one hand but when issues do arise, having solutions ready to properly address these.
The seven golf clubs selected to take part up and down England are Ponteland, Gog Magog, Hagley, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Enville, Stonelees Golf Centre and Cayman Golf Centre. We are delighted to work with each one, they have already been brilliant, really collaborative and eager to get stuck in. To date, we’ve had briefing meetings and will shortly be rolling out Retention workshops and Girls Leadership Training.
A team approach is growing – we won’t just be working independently with the PGA Pro or Junior Organiser but a Girls Lead Officer has been recruited in each club to drive this project forward and we will be empowering girls to become leaders; giving them a voice too. This thinking can not only produce more young female leaders within clubs, but help create a future generation of female leaders within sport, golf and society. We look forward to sharing our results and findings from this Pilot in the months ahead.
Support from The R&A
Ultimately, girls need to feel like golf is a place for them or else we will continue to see a drop out of young female golfers. It will take a real industry effort but there’s no better time than the present to start! Female participation is the biggest area for growth and there are many benefits for clubs; from increasing memberships and financial gains through parents coming to the club to spend, to some of the long-term benefits such as giving girls a game for life, developing ‘Skills for Life’ and sustaining the future of our sport.
We are really pleased to have the support of The R&A in these aims. This Pilot adds to our commitment to the #ForeEveryone campaign and the Women in Golf Charter, which sets out to develop a more inclusive culture and enable more girls to flourish and maximise their potential. The values of the Pilot very much fall in line with those of the Charter. Each of the seven Pilot Clubs will pledge their support to the Charter and it is worth noting, any club can do the same – see more here.
This Pilot also fits into our growing work to make golf more inclusive; a game for anyone regardless of gender and background. We hope to see female participation increase (our wider aim is to create 5,000 new young members) but importantly, we want golf to be a game enjoyed by everyone who wants to take part.
Girls golf is something I am very passionate about; having been a junior girl golfer myself and having experienced many of the benefits that golf has to offer. I am fortunate to utilise my passion and interest within my role – I’m sure most golfers will agree, what better job than working in golf and developing opportunities for youngsters to take part!
I am eager to see the results from the Pilot soon. Meanwhile, we have the continuation and expansion of other girls’ programmes to look forward to; Girls Golf Rocks (with England Golf), Girls GolfSixes League, HSBC Golf Roots and Satellite Clubs (to name a few).
We have recently developed the Elsham & Cosby Girls Retention Case Study to support the Pilot Clubs but also any other clubs wanting to develop their girls offer. Our ‘8 Principles for Success’ was also created based upon insight from Women in Sport; the leading researchers for Women and Girls Sport. Both of these documents are published shortly.
Without doubt, the future is bright for girls’ golf.