Women Should ТDivot A TryУ

My first golf experience didn’t reveal an undiscovered raw talent just waiting for a bit of polish on the way to the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour. Instead, I ripped up chunk after chunk of plush tee-box grass and, when I eventually sank a clumsily putted, but very long putt, I celebrated like it was 1999 --complete with jumps of joy (on the green) and hoots and hollers of happiness.

If you’ve ever played the game, you can imagine my foursome’s chagrin and other golfers’ surprise, not only at the intensity of my vocal celebration, but at the damage I managed to do to the green. My friend, probably regretting his invitation to teach me the game, simply shook his head in disbelief and then patiently explained why jumping on the green is poor form--my first lesson in golf etiquette.

Since that fateful day, I’ve been bitten by the golf bug and can honestly say it’s become an enjoyable hobby, one I expect to play for many years.

I haven’t yet mastered the techniques, but I now feel comfortable playing the game. This new hobby is due, in large part, to the generosity of that friend who had the patience to take a beginner out on the course, walk through the rules, and help with club selection.

C’mon, “Divot A Try!”

It is this same attitude that now permeates the Grand Forks women’s beginner golf program. After reviewing the number of women who participated in our golf programs, we decided we needed to revamp the woman’s beginner program if we hoped to increase attendance.

The first decision was to run the program at our nicest course, the King’s Walk Golf Course, an Arnold Palmer Signature Course, owned and operated by the Grand Forks Park District, and to use the course’s wonderful teaching pros to provide instruction and help create programming that would appeal to women of all ages and backgrounds.

To encourage all women in the Grand Forks area to participate, we mailed invitations to working women, stay-at-home moms, retired women and any other group we could think of, imploring them to gather a group of friends and come “Divot a Try!”

The response was immediate and positive. Women from Grand Forks and surrounding towns joined the program in hopes of experiencing something new, while enjoying the company of friends and neighbors. In many cases, they made new friends and built larger personal networks.

No Obligations And Flexibility Keep Participants Interested

We knew the participants were busy people and might have difficulty devoting personal time and energy toward any one program or event. After all, these women’s lives boast of overflowing schedules, and they often feel like taking personal time is a selfish act. So, our main goal in planning the “Divot a Try” program was to provide an open-ended program that afforded participants a choice to come whenever they were free--no obligations, no long-term financial investments.

Our philosophy was simple, ”Come when you can.”

And, it worked, wonderfully. The number of participants from the previous ladies beginner league more than doubled, and the training facility at King’s Walk was flooded with activity during each session.

The Program

Held every Tuesday night throughout the summer months, “Divot a Try” provided lessons on driving, chipping and putting for a minimal fee. To keep things fresh and fun, the instructors put a different “spin” on each session, devising ever-changing games and challenges to underscore the session’s lesson plan. We also provided gift incentives and special events to keep the women showing up.

One of our most popular special events, the golf-attire fashion show, took place in July. While the women golfers enjoyed a wine and cheese buffet, local vendors dressed models in their apparel, escorted them to the King’s Walk Golf Course outdoor patio via chariot (cleverly disguised as a golf cart), and had them walk the “aisles” to be ogled by potential customers.

To wrap up the season in August, we hosted the “Divot a Try” golf scramble at the nine-hole Lincoln Park Golf Course, another Grand Forks Park District property. It was wonderful to watch the course fill with color as ladies, dressed to the nines, golfed through the early evening and ended their day with a well-received players’ social in the clubhouse. To honor the occasion, many great prizes were given to contest winners (too many to list), and the clubhouse was adorned with a wonderful tropical theme.

As with the fashion show, everyone had fun--and the golf was only part of it.

Season II--Improving The Program

Because of the success we had last year, this year’s “Divot a Try” season will kick off earlier, in April, with our “Spring Swing” event. Like the program itself, “Spring Swing” is open to any woman who wants to try her hand at golf.

For our “Divot a Try” graduates, those ladies who feel they’re ready to play more league-style golf, we’re offering a Tuesday evening ladies league at the Lincoln Park course.

In the end, we learned that, by providing a light-hearted, no-pressure approach to golf, women in our area learned golf etiquette, safety and rules of the game, and also developed the confidence to play the game in other social settings. And, of course, they laughed, a lot, which is yet another reason to invite your women to “Divot a Try.”

Brandy Chaffee is Communications Specialist for the Grand Forks Park District in Grand Forks, S.D. She can be reached via e-mail at brandyc@gfparks.org.