Date: March 08, 2018
Author: Golf Australia

Leading the way

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

A powerful phrase, and one that has been prominent during the recent advancements in women’s sport – perhaps nowhere more so than in the rise of the AFLW.

It’s a phrase that is as true of the boardrooms of Australia’s sporting organisations as it is of the arenas in which the athletes compete.

So, whilst we need many more, we thought International Women’s Day 2018 would be a great opportunity to celebrate three of Australian golf’s female leaders.

Our tour starts with Lyndsay Sharp, who heads up all things marketing, sales and customer experience for Jack Rabbit Vineyard, Flying Brick Cider Co, Leura Park Estate and, most importantly for us, officially the fastest growing golf club in Australia, Curlewis Golf Club.

Lyndsay has been a senior consultant with the Clemenger Group, a journalist at Reed Publishing and a lecturer at both RMIT and Deakin Universities, so she has seen the world from several complementary angles. So how is she finding the world of golf?

When you talk to Lyndsay, you soon discover that it’s great customer experiences that drive her, rather than golf. It’s refreshing to hear her talk about our sport.

From purchasing Kilgour Estate Vineyard turning it into Jack Rabbit Vineyard to building and opening Flying Brick Cider House in Wallington, Lyndsay has led all things front of house (marketing, sales and hospitality), whilst her husband has focused on things like vineyards, overall golf operations direction, logistics and finance. They started with two part-time employees and now have more than 200, so they’re clearly doing something right!

Lyndsay’s customer-centricity and objectivity have enabled her to think differently about golf, with Curlewis now reaping the rewards. More than 200 people have joined the club since July 2015!

“Golf can be a bit boring and, at times, intimidating. At Curlewis we want to present the game in a more fun, approachable, less rigid way. We want to shake things up a bit on a lot of levels,” says Sharp.

“We recently opened The Range @ Curlewis – the riskiest thing David and I have ever undertaken. It’s a healthy, sporty entertainment hub for all ages; state-of-the-art but unpretentious. We think it’s very welcoming and the local community seems to agree.”

With 18 bays, automated tees, launch monitors, a teaching area, a two-tiered mini golf course, X-Golf simulators and a great hospitality offering, it’s hard to argue with her – the place has been buzzing ever since it opened.

In a sport where change and innovation can be hard to push through, it’s no wonder Lyndsay is so delighted with what is being achieved.

“I love seeing smiles on faces,” says Sharp, grinning broadly herself.

“The definition of ‘club’ is essentially bringing people together with common interests – those interests don’t have to focus solely on traditional golf. That means we can become one of the premiere 18-hole golf courses in the region whilst embracing new ideas like footgolf and the golf boards!”

“A golf club is also a venue that women (and not only professional women) should be looking at using for myriad other purposes – to host, showcase, learn, meet and exercise – the options are endless.”

The Curlewis mantra is all about making people feel welcome.

“We are constantly on the lookout for how we can extend our offerings to women of all ages. We are starting yoga, Pilates and other forms of group exercise at the range. I sincerely hope we can blow any notions of golf and clubhouses being intimidating out of the water!”

Like all of us, Lyndsay would like to see more women in senior management roles. As we progress this agenda, she is a shining example of what women bring to boardroom tables, as well as our fairways and greens! 

Sarah Chia, who recently joined the Golf Australia board, is another such example.

Sarah has been a lawyer for over 15 years and is currently a director at Kain Lawyers. She’s unflappable unless you mention the Power’s 2014 preliminary final loss to the Hawks!

To her eternal regret, Sarah was a relatively late starter to golf but, in 2017, was selected for Royal Adelaide’s Sanderson Cup (A1) pennant team – her first experience of team golf.

She’s been part of a lot of change at the club in recent times. In 2016 women became full members and, soon after, Sarah was the first woman to be elected to the committee in the club’s 125-year history. There is still a long way to go for golf in Australia though.

“Changing mindsets at golf clubs and facilities is so important. Every golf club should have gender neutral membership categories. Playing rights and voting rights should not be based on gender,” says Chia.

In line with the International Women’s Day theme for 2018 of pressing for progress, Sarah wants both men and women to call out traditions, behaviours and initiatives in golf clubs that are contrary to gender parity or inclusiveness.

She’s also looking forward to changing perceptions through the marketing component of ‘Vision 2025: The future of women and girls in golf’ because she says “many women and girls currently don’t see golf as an attractive proposition.”

It’s great to have Sarah on the Golf Australia board as we push for modernisation around the country.

To complement people like Sarah and Lyndsay, we also need more general managers of clubs and facilities. People like Di Fisher at Royal Hobart Golf Club who, after two decades of management in three other Victorian clubs, became the first female general manager of a royal club in Australia.

“I can certainly say that I have encountered many challenges along the way, both as a golfer and in my career,” says Fisher.

“However, there is nothing more rewarding than waking up each day knowing you can make a difference to the club.”

Di is keen to emphasise how different today’s golf club manager role is than it was during the peak of golf club membership.

“We need to be creative and innovative to ensure the health of our clubs improve. Everything points to women as the key to success, so let’s work hard to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable within our environments.”

You can hear the passion in her voice when Di talks about golf. Her passion for diversity and inclusion in the game is really driven by a desire to share that love for the game with as many people as possible. 

“The game is so versatile. It can be played by anyone on an equal footing. You can play on a course or practice fairway, with friends or people you’ve never met. It’s a game you can play socially or competitively your whole life, with wonderful health benefits. Golfers, in the main, are wonderful people and, no matter where you travel in the world, you are always able to find conversation through golf as a common interest.”

What better reason for us all to press for progress.

So let’s make sure, in the golf industry, women and girls can be because they can see.