Splendid vision on the Mount

Bill West

Mount Macedon Golf Club is one of three contenders in the running to take out Golf Australia’s Visionary of the Year award.

It’s the culmination of almost two years of progressive planning by the small club, which has enticed dozens of women to try out golf through the ‘Ladies Get into Golf@MMGC’ program.

What has unfolded is truly a success story any sporting club would surely be proud of.

Visionary of the Year celebrates and rewards those doing terrific work to achieve gender equality in golf, and inspires others to follow.

The Mt Macedon Golf Club’s whole club approach to get women into golf resulted it being chosen as a monthly ‘Vision’ winner early last year.

Now it is in the running to take out the yearly award, which includes a Callaway Golf women’s golf equipment prize valued at $10,000.

“Online voting runs from February 6 to 12 and we’re hoping as many Midland Express readers as possible will support our little club as we are up against a large private metropolitan club and a large Geelong club,” MMGC secretary Marcus Ward explained.

From humble beginnings just under two years ago, there have been just over 100 ladies through the program at Mt Macedon.

When the program was first contemplated it was almost exclusively a men only golf club, with just one female playing in regular competition, plus several others socially.

Such has been the impact of the program the club now has around 140 members, with nearly 40 of those being female. A remarkable turnaround.

Dalhousie Golf Association and Golf Australia has praised MMGC for its progressive and trailblazing move.

Ward said that as a small club it was always looking to grow, but has relied primarily on men to bring in new members – most commonly dads bringing sons or mates bringing mates.

“Our 10-member all male board realised we were not tapping into 50 percent of the potential market.

“This desire to bring more women to the club, ensuring it was a welcoming and inclusive space where women could enjoy golf at their own pace was really the catalyst for adopting out Get into Golf program,” he explained.

Support from Golf Australia’s regional development officer, Sharna Faralla, was obtained to implement Get into Golf. She described the current outcome as “amazing”.

Ward said the aim was to make women’s first experience with golf as fun and social as possible, as it is likely they will continue to play and enjoy the benefits of ongoing participation.

“It’s not as simple as just bringing women to the club to play. They need to feel safe, supported and nurtured throughout their journey.

“Providing an opportunity for participants to socialise is critical as friendships made through clinics is really what keeps them coming back.”

Initially the largely self-help club had no equipment to run clinics or lend out, but this was resolved through a grant from the Victoria Golf Foundation and generosity of the Gisborne Bendigo Bank, which has been very supportive.

New participants welcomed the ‘come and try’ approach after the program was contemplated Ward and fellow committeeman Bruce Fraser completed Golf Australia’s community instructor training and several other members offered to help.

Promoting ‘Get into Golf’ paid off, with the initial response far in excess of what had been anticipated.

In the space of 12 months, 15 women joined up as new members, and numbers have continued to increase.

To encourage ongoing participation, all Get into Golf graduates were given free round passes and free club hire. The $40 cost for clinics was deducted from membership fees.

“Our priority should not just be getting members. We want more women playing golf in a way that suits them,” Ward said.

The flexibility of golf handicaps means that ‘hackers’ can be as competitive as budding champions.

Co-ordinator Bruce Fraser’s dedication to the tuition role has been widely recognised.

Some of the ‘new’ women have enticed friends to try out golf as well, and the social aspect has resulted in visits to other district clubs, and venturing much further afield.

Mt Macedon Golf Club was wiped out in the disastrous Ash Wednesday fire of 1983, but the nine holes (with 18 teeing grounds) has been revitalised.

Golf Australia has applauded the outstanding efforts made by male volunteer counterparts to get more women playing what is described as “a wonderful game”.

Latrobe Golf Club and Barwon Valley Golf Club are the other two clubs in contention for the major Visionary of the Year prize.

Mt Macedon is hoping for plenty of support via votes on line from many country golfers and residents – it’s not only the big clubs which can win such awards.