Recipe for Success
It’s a stereotype because it’s true. Private golf clubs often see high numbers of male golfers, and much fewer female players. But Andalusia CC in La Quinta is doing something about that.
In the past two years, the club has doubled the number of female members playing golf on their course. The trick? A “9-Holers” club led by member Suzanne Grottendorfer and Asst. Pro Stefen MacMaster.
“I had a vision of what the 9-Holers could be, and it has far surpassed what I had even imaged,” said Grottendorfer.
Andalusia has a women’s group that typically plays 18 holes, and had a small, fledgling group of beginners that once a week played 9 holes. But two years ago, with little to no participation in the 9-Holers, Grottendorfer made an effort to bring more women from her club into the game. She met with MacMaster, and the two put together a plan in which Grottendorfer would work as the recruiter to bring more women into the fold, and MacMaster would provide content to keep them coming back for more. The formula has worked.
“I don’t think we’ve had even one woman just show up once and never come back again,” said MacMaster.
To get started, Grottendorfer approached existing female club members who weren’t playing golf. Her tactic? Emphasize that it doesn’t matter how good you are, that all are welcome, and that even if you’ve never held a club before, this is the group for you.
“There were a group of us women whose husbands were golfers, but honestly we were intimidated by the whole concept of playing,” said Vivian Pohl, who has been playing with the 9-Holers for two years now. “It’s been a tremendous experience.”
The weekly events are set up for women of all playing abilities. Before heading out on the course, MacMaster hosts an optional 30-minute clinic. Each time he covers something simple, and often it’s just Rules of Golf or etiquette tips. If it’s instruction based, it’s something as straightforward as alignment.
“At the beginning, I just wanted to help them feel comfortable on the course,” said MacMaster. “Know where to stand. Know where to park your cart. Learn how fast you have to play. But they are learning something each week, and it adds up. They don’t even see how much they’ve learned and how much better they’ve gotten, but I can see it.”
Grottendorfer and MacMaster knew their audience. On the first day, they had a margarita break on the third hole. And each week, golf is only played for two hours, no matter how far you get.
“I hope two hours is 9 holes, but if it’s 4 or 5 holes instead, that’s fine too,” said MacMaster.
The social aspect has been key, and equally as important as the golf activities. The group has lunch after golf, and mixes in some cocktail outings. “It’s really turned into college for old people!” said Pohl with a laugh. “We’re all having a blast with it, and have made incredible friendships.”
In addition, MacMaster set up all women with Handicaps, giving them a way to track their progress and become a little more focused on the game. At first, it was hard to get participants to post their scores, but now they’re all doing it.
“A number of us were embarrassed to post our scores, but the group is so supportive as a whole,” said Pohl, a 40.4 Handicap. “You swing and miss, and all you hear is ‘that was such a good swing!'”
The group has reached 31 players, and the effort has doubled the number of female players at Andalusia.
“It was a big opportunity for us as a club,” said MacMaster. “There are a lot of ladies out there that we can get to start playing. Nationally, it’s such an untapped market. But we’ve found something that has worked. Ultimately, my goal is if these women get invited to play in a member-guest somewhere, that they feel comfortable doing so and stop sitting those out.”
Apparently, he’s achieved that.
“I feel like I could play at any club and not feel intimidated,” said Pohl. “And at the beginning, I was scared to play just three holes!”
But both agree this group wouldn’t have been successful without a mastermind and organizer like Grottendorfer.
“You need that player-coach like Suzanne,” said MacMaster. “Someone that can reach out to people, knock on doors, and do so in a non-intimidating way. She kept her approach open and positive.”
In fact, as soon as new members join Andalusia, it doesn’t take long for Grottendorfer to pounce, and convince any non-playing female to at least give the 9-Holers a go.
“She may have no idea what she has done for the women here,” said Pohl of Grottendorfer. “Everyone is so grateful. She changed our lives, she really did.”