VISION 2025: THE WAY FORWARD

 

In Part II of our look at Vision 2025, we examine the framework of the strategy, its aims and how it plans to deliver them. 

With the launch of Vision 2025, Golf Australia has set about not only increasing the rate of female participation in golf but changing the way we view and play the sport into the future.

Why is this needed? The numbers tell the story. Less than 20% of all golfers are female. Less than 25% of participants in MyGolf (Golf Australia’s junior program) are female. Less than 10% of Australian professionals are female. And only 5% of accredited coaches nationwide are female.  Add to that the changes in broader society since female participation peaked at 34% in 1970 and the need for action becomes obvious.

 

vision 2021 - young women golf clinic
womens golf - the way forward

“I think we’ve got some important challenges as a sport and we need to recognise them. In some ways, I don’t think we’ve done a very good job as a sport catering for women and girls over a long period of time,” said Stephen Pitt, Chief Executive of Golf Australia at the launch of Vision 2025 at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Kooyonga in February. 

 

“There are some benchmarks and markers that would indicate that’s the case. We need to be aware of them and try to fix them.”

That recognition is acknowledging that the product offering is no longer cutting it. Hence the complete overhaul of how the game is presented to females, and measures put into place to align it with the needs and expectations of modern society.

“We are very forward-facing in our approach,” said Jill Spargo, Golf Australia Board member and one of the driving forces behind Vision 2025. “As we see it, the main reason to look at the past is to identify the problem in order to find the solution. And that solution is very much about planning for the future.”

Critical to this is the creation of two new roles. Chyloe Kurdas has been appointed National Female Participation Manager and Stacey Peters as National Female Pathway Manager. Kurdas has the task of recruiting females to the game in the first instance and Peters of then directing the talent-identified along further targetted pathways.

There are four pillars to Vision 2025, each with its own goals, its own manner of delivery and its own measures of progress and success. In summary:

Culture and Leadership seeks to lead from the top. Golf Australia has committed to critically self-examine its culture and promote gender balance within, to actively foster more women onto boards and committees based on merit, to develop a contemporary diversity and inclusion policy, and to support clubs in implementing it. It also aims to encourage clubs and facilities to make golf a more welcoming and accessible place for women and girls.

Grassroots aims to improve the experience of women and girls as they begin their journey in golf via “introduction to golf sessions” around the country, placing more emphasis on enjoyment than competition, offering a suite of programs and initiatives to encourage females to give golf a go – both in schools and the community – and by building relationships with “third parties” such as driving ranges, pitch-and-putt and mini-golf centres, and other outlets to further hone the idea that golf is a cool activity.

High Performance and Coaching looks to produce more females with the potential to compete on the international stage, to increase the number of teaching professionals and coaches, and provide high quality events for emerging and current elite females, including exploring innovative formats and extrapolating the Vic Open model across other states.

Marketing and Positioning challenges the traditional perception of golf and the stereotypes of the people who play it, using “heroes” as role models and “ambassadors” as promoters. It also seeks to position golf as an ideal second sport and form alliances with other sports so that they cross-promote each other. It emphasises the attributes of the game through brand campaigns and implementing measures to ensure that media outlets report equally on golf and responsibly portray women golfers.

Achieving these ambitious measures requires two significant things – collaboration between all key golf bodies, and funding.

Golf Australia and the R&A have an important mutual relationship, with Golf Australia aligning Vision 2025 with the R&A’s Women in Golf charter, recently approved by its Board and due for formal launch in late May, while the R&A has thrown its support behind Vision 2025, partly funding the role of National Female Participation Manager for three years.

Vision 2025 also has the support of key industry bodies – the Australian Sports Commission, PGA of Australia, Australian Ladies Professional Golf, Golf Management Australia and Public Golf Facilities Australia – as well as from sponsors and government agencies. It also has the support of the various state bodies, something which augurs well for the implementation of OneGolf.

2025 - women golfer on the range

“The great thing is that all states have acknowledged and offered their support for what we’re doing, so this is a great way to demonstrate that OneGolf can work very well in a collaborative way across our sport,” Spargo noted.The steering committee, chaired by Spargo, comprises representation of a cross-section of interested parties including Pitt, Kurdas, Peters, Cameron Wade (Golf Development Director, Golf Australia), Sally Kirkright (Golf NSW Board), Karrie Webb (ALPG), Karen Lunn (CEO, ALPG), Gavin Kirkman (CEO, PGA), Jim Cail (EO, Golf Management Australia), Merrilee Barnes (Australian Sports Commission, Lead Participation and Integrity) and Rachel Piastri (Stretch Forward, Consultant).

That leaves the clubs. In the words of Pitt, “the clubs are where it’s going to be won or lost.”

With clubs themselves realising the need to recruit members and to comply with equal opportunity guidelines in governance, it makes sense for them to embrace innovative initiatives wherever possible – and many do. Curlewis is a fine example of outside-the-box-thinking generating widespread community interest while Lake Karrinyup in Perth regularly has Friday afternoons pumping with music and an influx of kids playing golf to the beat. Others will surely follow in some form.

It is estimated that Vision 2025 will cost around half a million dollars per year to implement and run. “That is a lot of money for us as an organisation, which shows our commitment to it. Our fundraising strategies are obviously going to be very important but we’re confident we can get there because we’ve got a great story to tell,” said Spargo. Pitt estimates that 20-25% has already been raised, with other avenues still to be tapped.

With Kurdas and Peters in place and the Steering Committee decided, a national roadshow taking the program around the country will soon be underway. From that, submissions will be sought and feedback used to refine the draft strategy further.

While the current state of female participation in golf has prompted these very necessary measures to take the game into the future, the glass can be either half-empty or half-full depending on perspective.

Although 20% is sub-optimal, it is still a solid launching pad for growth. Other countries have higher rates –New Zealand is at 30% and the Scandanavian area is higher again, while enthusiasm in China and India has outstripped the UK and even the US – but a look at local trends shows some encouraging numbers.

In AFL footy, females – after a stellar period of growth – account for 27% of players while in cricket, also growing rapidly, the rate is at 28%. Given the scope for growth in golf from the female sector as well as inclusion communities, the future looks a lot more promising than some might believe. Certainly, Spargo thinks so.

“It’s an ambitious vision but we’re committed to doing it and we have a lot of support. It’s an exciting time.”

First published in Golf Victoria magazine, April-May 2018 issue

Photo credits: Golf Victoria magazine

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Tee for Two is produced on the Traditional Country of the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation in Victoria and extends its respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging.