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Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Wolston Park drives positive change

By Vaseline May30,2024

Frank Byrne remembers the light bulb moment.

It came at a joint GMA (Golf Management Australia) and ASTMA (Australian Sports Turf Managers Association) conference in Melbourne in 2022.

There were two presentations from golf clubs that had made progress on the sport’s great modern dilemma: how to get women and girls involved.

Byrne, general manager of the relatively small Wolston Park Golf Club in Brisbane’s south-east, just along the river towards Ipswich, was attracted to the ideas being mentioned. He approached the speakers to talk about the topic and came home to Brisbane determined to take action.

Less than two years later, Wolston Park still has work to do. But the number of female members has more than doubled, from just 25 (out of approximately 500 members) then to 53 now.

The tide has turned.

“It’s one thing to recognize it,” Byrne said this week. “Doing something about it is a different process.”

Back in Brisbane, Byrne engaged the Wolston Park board, including vice-president Nadine Hall. The club saw women’s involvement as a potential area for growth, to say the least; everyone jumped on board.

It offered women a six-month membership for just $200 from April to September 2023, ran a social media campaign and enrolled 28 women who took part in a series of clinics with PGA Professional Andrew Agea, enjoyed Meet and Greet sessions on Sunday and chatted in their WhatsApp group.

Megan Carr, Golf Australia’s acting head of clubs and facilities, dropped by to help with some advice.

The result was immediately impressive: 13 of those 28 women remained members after six months.

In 2024 the club doubled down, making the same offer for six months and signing a further 22 women.

Byrne, Hall and others tried to throw their arms around the newcomers.

“Anxiety levels were high,” Byrne said. “You could feel that. They didn’t know the rules or etiquette. The first thing we said was, ‘It will happen.’ It’s about enjoying yourself, having fun, learning how to progress. You don’t have to compete. Go outside, smell the roses, enjoy the sun.”

Said Hall: “From a woman’s perspective, joining a golf club is always quite intimidating. It’s a majority of men, you don’t know anyone, you probably don’t know how to play. That is what we put on paper last year. ‘How are we going to do this’?”

A highlight for everyone was seeing the first group of women from 2023 leap forward to embrace the new group in 2024 and put them at ease.

Another was the recent elevation of one of the 2023 group to the club’s pennant team, having first picked up a golf club just 12 months ago.

Byrne says Wolston Park, which has suffered several floods in recent years, has experienced strong growth and membership now stands at 640. Several husband-wife duos have signed up to become members.

“Because we are inclusive within the club, so many people recognize the benefits for the club and for themselves. The women have done a fantastic job and the committee realizes that this increases our membership.

“I like to talk about the golf experience. Our course looks the best it’s ever had, and the experience includes the bar, the pro shop and the rest. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Nadine Hall continues: “It’s a good environment to be in. We are a relatively small club anyway, but we all have a say. We are all equal within our club. I think it would have been better to have more women with a little more voice.”

Information about Wolston Park

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