Q1. When did you start playing golf?
I took up golf properly as a sport in June 2020. My boyfriend Ben has played for a few years now and has previously taken me along to the range or to a local pitch and putt with his friends, but I would just have a go with one of their clubs, walk around, not actually playing or knowing what to do. The last time must have been a couple years ago.
Fast forward to now, the football season ended early due to Covid and during lockdown I got major cabin fever. I find exercise really helps my mood, keeps me balanced and I was desperate to get out and do something. Golf was the first sport that opened back up and my boyfriend was back out playing with mates. I decided that maybe I should give it a proper go and get out in the fresh air! And now I'm hooked!
Q2. What was your perception of golf before your first golf lesson?
Tricky, I didn't enjoy watching it on TV, I didn't understand it and found it a bit boring. My impression of the sport as a whole was probably similar to many … golf clubs with members mostly in the older generation, plus some younger lads who have played since junior. As a kid my grandparents would take us to club carveries and Christmas parties and growing up my dad played each Sunday, but I never really engaged with golf directly till Ben took it up.
By walking around with Ben and his friends I saw the social aspect of golf, the silly £1 bets or the enjoyable end of round pint. I really liked that, seemed a great way to spend a sunny afternoon!
I didn't know anything about professional ladies golf, and never remember seeing it on TV. I'm not sure whether this has only happened recently, or coincidental in timing, but since getting into golf it's been amazing to see the Rose Ladies Series, LET and LPGA events on television!
My perception of golf has completely changed, it isn't boring or stuffy, ladies do (and should) play and there are plenty of clubs interested in increasing female engagement!
Q3. What was your experience like during your first Golf Access session?
I was quite nervous. I hadn't been out on a proper golf course before, nor played with anyone but Ben. I was partnered with two other ladies and they had been a couple of times so knew the set up. Ben was allowed to walk round with me which was really nice and Andy, the pro at China Fleet, was on hand to offer advice.
It was quite daunting to go on the course, which obviously has rough, bunkers and other hazards to avoid. It has been such a useful experience to be able to practice having these in play, as not something you come across on the range hitting off a flat matt e
ach time. As a beginner the chances of being on the fairway in a flat lie all the time are somewhat small... so the more you can practice getting your ball out of thick grass and sand the better!
Q4. Did you enjoy playing from the forward tees?
Definitely. As I mentioned there is a lot of other stuff going on at a course, and as a beginner I'm only thinking about actually hitting the ball, and if I do then hoping it is in the right direction! Not having to worry about playing a full length hole makes it so much easier and less intimidating. The format is clever because as you progress through the levels you play from a variety of distances. This helps you practice with a range of clubs and begin to develop an understanding of short game, which is arguably one of the most important aspects of your game! With most beginners spending all their time on the range, key skills such as chipping and putting are neglected. The forward tees and Golf Access really encourage these skills to be developed.
Q5. What would be your advice for any female golfers who might want to try golf but are a bit nervous or don’t know how to begin their journey into the game?
Firstly, please don't judge before you've tried it! It is most definitely a sport for all ages and not just for old men! You don't have to be sporty or athletic either. Anyone can play.
If you're nervous that is totally understandable, going to a golf club if you don't know anyone is intimidating, especially the first time or if you don't know what to expect. Start off at a crazy golf, pitch and putt or dedicated range centre, as opposed to an actual golf club. These are designed for the general public and you won't be expected to have any attire or equipment. But honestly, the same goes for most ranges at a club, you can hire equipment, they are open to the public and whilst you probably can't turn up in your sandals, general sportswear is fine! Trainers, leggings, whatever is comfy. If you aren't sure, double check the website first.
See what programs your local club is offering such as ladies only hours at the range or group beginner lessons. Common UK wide programmes to look for are Get Into Golf and Golf Access.
You can check for participating clubs on the England Golf website!
Ask your friends to come along, they might be surprised. If you know someone who plays, a friend, boyfriend, family member, ask to go along. To the seasoned golfer - take your girlfriends and friends! Invite them along, please!!
Q6. You are conducting a survey about female golf participation, how do people contact you to fill in the survey?
Yes! I sent out a survey to all the clubs in Devon and Cornwall, in a bid to understand the current level of engagement and participation in female golf across the counties. This survey looked at membership numbers across different age groups and also what opportunities are available for girls and ladies. The uptake wasn’t quite what I was hoping, with 26% of clubs contacted having completed it. I have kept it open longer than first anticipated due to the various lockdowns and clubs not being open, but plan to publish these initial results shortly. I plan to keep the survey available in case other clubs wish to fill it in, or existing clubs can update this as the season continues if they wish.
The survey can be completed by any club representative with club permission and who has access to the relevant data. So far this has included Secretary's, PGA Pros and Golf Operation Managers. Although I have been able to speak personally with some contacts via the Instagram community, for the most part I am relying on the general contact information available on the website. If there are any pros, shop staff, membership secretaries or other club representatives who would be happy to fill in the survey and aren't sure if their club has been emailed or it hasn't reached the right person, please feel free to contact me via my Instagram @mep_golf or by email which can be found on my profile page.
I have had some really interesting conversations with clubs who are keen to pursue more opportunities and it is exciting to see new things cropping up for ladies golf in Devon and Cornwall.