Date: July 30, 2018
Author: Tony Durkin

Cairns sets sights on an Aussie first

Cairns Golf Club may not be a major player on the Australian golfing scene or calendar, but the North Queensland club is racing towards a national first.

With its Ladies Let’s Golf Program as successful as any in the country and female membership above the Australian average of 20 per cent, club General Manager Matt Bolton is zeroing in on a much bigger goal.

“This may sound egotistical for a regional golf club with just 650 members, but we aim to be the first in the country to reach the Golf Australia goal of 30 per cent female membership by the year 2025,” he said.

“And it isn’t just a boastful goal. It is a genuine goal that we certainly believe we can attain.”

Matt, who joined as GM just on five years ago after a career in sport, hospitality and marketing, says Cairns Golf Club will achieve its goal through what he describes as ‘the brilliant’ Ladies Let’s Golf Program.

The Ladies Let’s Golf Program is designed for ladies with little or no golfing experience to learn the game of golf in a friendly and fun environment. Participants sign up for a free ‘Come and Try Clinic’ which is followed by the Level One Clinic [four one-hour weekly clinics].

Cairns Golf Club established the Golf Queensland program into the club 15 months ago and already 35 ladies have graduated and become fulltime members. And such has been the flow-on effect in Cairns that the club has had to extend its introductory program from its original once a week, to three days a week.

“We run the program exactly as the manual says, and it has been a huge success here. It is a perfect example of the old adage ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’.”

Matt said his ‘light bulb’ moment about the potential of the program came on the very first day of the very first clinic.

“I was speaking to the ladies about what was involved and they were a little like the deer in the headlights,” he explained.

“While it was obvious to me they liked the idea of playing golf and were keen to learn the game, there was this trepidation about whether they would be welcomed. They asked questions about the dress code, the legal length of their skirts and whether they would be allowed entry to the clubhouse.

“It was evident to me then and there that their idea of golf clubs was stuffy places with strict, old-fashioned rules, and they were self-conscious because of that. As soon as I painted a different picture – which I do now to every new group coming through – the penny drops that we are an all-inclusive club.”

Not only are the ladies made feel very welcome at the North Queensland club, but a major bonus has been added to the four-week clinics.

“We are fortunate that we have a driving range and the ladies are offered free range balls at any time during that four-week period,” Matt revealed.

“And, we have introduced a special membership for the ladies when the four-week clinic has finished. For an annual fee of $375, they can play unlimited social golf for up to two years.”

An added advantage for Cairns is that 23-year-old professional Brie Webb is involved in the clinics, which Matt says helps the ladies feel a little more at ease, particularly in the early stages when they might feel uncomfortable. And the fact she is a huge advocate of the program also helps.

A graduate of the Hills International School at Beaudesert, Brie says Cairns Golf Club is doing a ‘fantastic job’ in making golf more inclusive for women.

“I don’t know of any other golf club that is doing a drive for lady members like Cairns is doing. It’s impressive, and that’s why I’m here,” she said. 

Find out more about the Ladies, Let’s Golf clinics.