Swing Fit draws more women into taking up the sport of golfPublished on 18th April 2017 in Latest News
The survey results did not make happy reading for Golf Australia. The reasons most women do not play golf are many and varied. There is the expense, the “funny clothes’’, the cost of equipment, the image of the sport as an arcane, clubby, male-dominated pursuit.
Once upon a time, in the days when men were “members’’ of golf clubs and women were “associates’’ at best and excluded entirely at worst, the national body may not have even thought to ask what women wanted. But the winds of change have blown through the musty corridors of traditionally male sports in recent years and brought a new zeitgeist.
The women’s game is booming in cricket, rugby sevens and, most recently, AFL as the professional sports realise this is a market they have studiously ignored for a century or more and must pursue if they are to continue to grow in the highly competitive Australian market.
Golf has laboured more than most to throw off its image as a staid and sexist sport. It is only in the last week that the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, otherwise known as the Muirfield Golf Club, voted to allow women to become members after more than 350 years as a male bastion.
And there are those who would argue that its arm was twisted by the Royal and Ancient Club at St Andrews, which runs golf internationally and has decreed that any club that wanted to host the British Open must have non-discriminatory membership practices. Golf Australia has long been a proponent of equality but has realised it needed to do more to encourage women after it conducted that nationwide survey of 1300 women last year.
So it came up with a new program called “Swing Fit’’, designed to bring in women who liked the idea of playing golf but were put off by the trappings of the sport.
The program was launched nationwide last year and personal trainer and golf instructor Andrea McGann is running it in Sydney.
As she explains it, Swing Fit is a beginners program that includes six 75-minute sessions, once a week, combining golf tuition and an exercise program.
Between hitting buckets of balls, the women do a series of exercises on mats, combining strength, fitness and flexibility, with a bit of yoga thrown in. All are designed to strengthen the muscles that get the most work out during a round of golf.
The students work through the various clubs from week to week and at the end of the course McGann does a course management session with them to teach them how to navigate their way around a golf course.
Crucially, they are not required to meet a dress standard and all equipment is provided. So they turn up in their gym gear and sneakers and swing away without a care in the world. “We have exemptions to wear this sort of stuff on the course for Swing Fit, and also it’s very social,’’ McGann says.
“We muck around a bit. They learn, but we have a good time, have a joke and the women just love it. We get such positive feedback, they love the program.’’
In six months McGann has introduced more than 100 women to golf and she is confident that almost all will go on to play regularly.
Once they finish their courses she organises playing days for them and there is an intermediate program to follow up.
On a windy Monday evening at Randwick Golf Club, where the view of waves breaking on Malabar Headland is uplifting even if your golf game isn’t, a group of women dressed in bright tights and aged anywhere from 25 to 60 are working on their game. They may not be taking it as seriously as golf star Adam Scott does, but they are having a great time.
Regina Downs, a business manager from Paddington, says she was always interested in playing golf but was put off by its image as a “men’s game’’.
She saw Swing Fit advertised in a local newspaper and jumped at the change.
“The word ‘beginners’ got me in,” she says. “I thought: fantastic, I won’t make a fool of myself, I’ll go with the ladies. There’s no pressure and it’s a nice way of meeting people.’’
It seems that a way in was all she needed.
“I’ve already got my set of golf clubs and I’m ready to go, and now my husband’s asking if there’s a program for him too,’’ she says.
Deirdre Wallace had tried golf before but it didn’t stick. This time she’s confident it will.
“Andrea just makes it so fun and it helps when we’re starting out knowing we’re all beginners, and we’re all ladies and you haven’t got men looking at you and we’re not playing for sheep stations,’’ she says.
“It’s a great way of meeting people who might want to carry it on and we’re all starting from scratch.’’
Wallace says the accessibility of the program has removed the barriers that were preventing her from taking the plunge.
“Playing golf is pretty daunting because a lot of people take it so seriously, so to come down on your own and say I want to join a golf club is pretty intimidating, unless you do it with a friend and then you have to find someone who wants to do that,’’ she says.
“But this way we can just get out and play socially. We don’t have to join a competition or anything.
“The course combines exercise and golf skills and it is fantastic. It’s been a long time coming, trying to get some women into golf who don’t want to take it too seriously.
“And it’s something you can do into your old age and it keeps you moving because you are walking kilometres. It’s been wonderful to get women out doing it.’’
As a personal trainer for 30 years, McGann is enjoying watching women discover a game she has long loved. She’s hopeful of attracting more corporate women to the program and is scheduling courses in the early evening to make it convenient for them.
A group of eight corporate women has just finished the course at the Eastlakes club and all are keen to test their skills on corporate golf days run by their various companies.
“I don’t think they are doing it to play golf with their partners,’’ McGann says. “They all talk about corporate golf days.’’
Golf days have long served as a prime networking opportunity for corporate high-flyers, a place where deals are made, alliances formed and understandings reached in a relaxed setting.
A five iron might just come in handy for any woman trying to smash through a glass ceiling.
To find out more about becoming a Swing Fit Centre call Serrin Bertino on 03 9626 5013 or visit http://www.swingfit.com.au/