Marian Riordan has transformed the make-up of the membership at Ireland's Great National Ballykisteen Golf Hotel where she has been head professional since 2012.
Q. Why did you decide to target women?
A. When I first arrived to Ballykisteen we were scarce on lady members, it was a major concern for the owners but also it was effecting the club both socially and competitively. I felt it needed an injection of energy which was going to appeal to local ladies in the community and that’s what Get into Golf offered.
Q. How does the programme run at Ballykisteen?
A. We’ve been involved since the pilot in 2012 which has allowed us to tailor it to meet the needs of the members and the new ladies. Its 8 weeks, 5 of which are of coaching focused getting a start on some of the basics and then it’s out onto the course with existing lady club members. It’s a feeder system that works really well as they immediately feel welcome and are part of the club. Eliminates that awkward uncomfortable feeling that some may have coming out to try a new sport, everyone is in the same boat at the same level.
Q. How successful has this been for you and the Club?
A. In Year 1 we had 40 women through the doors and it transformed the Club. It changed our profile in the community but it also changed the feel of the venue as a whole. In total I reckon we’ve had 110 women take part in Get into Golf over the last 5 years. We have grown our ladies section consistently over the last 6 years and hope it continues. More ladies playing golf and most of all enjoying a new sport.
Q. Why do women decide to learn to play?
A. Many reasons, and everyone different, some may have retired, some have been widowed and are looking for a outlet, and some are no longer able to play their first choice sport so golf is seen as the next step. Others are new to the area and want to make friends quickly. Golf creates an opportunity to make friends, get outside and provides a space for them to spend their leisure time.
Q. What have you learnt from the women you coach?
A. There are a few things actually. Firstly, everyone learns at their own pace; for me preparation in each lesson is key. Making sure the class is engaged and challenged to their appropriate ability is fundamental in the success of the programme.
Secondly, a lot of the women are really nervous about coming along to their first session, it’s out of their comfort zone so like above creating a fun friendly environment is central to the programme. Keeping it simple, and not afraid to make fun of myself puts everyone at ease.
The golf club environment can be daunting so some of the ladies may need a little support and encouragement to get through the doors. If I have to hand hold a little well that’s fine, I get a great buzz out of seeing that individual grow and progress with her golf skills and within the club element.
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