Stiletto Golf is bringing the game into the lives of Midlands women. Debbie Hemming tries her hand at the sport.
What with all the rules and the complex etiquette, not to mention the sometimes stuffy image of male-dominated clubs, taking up golf can be a daunting and intimidating prospect for women.
However, a Warwickshire-based golf society for women is breaking down the barriers and encouraging a new breed of golfer to take to the tee.
Stiletto Golf is a successful network for women to enjoy the social atmosphere of golf and the benefits of business networking. Don’t worry if you’ve never played before or are returning to the game as all levels are catered for.
The society was founded by Helen Wilkes, from Kenilworth, in 2007. After a successful sales and training career spanning 15 years, Helen set up her own financial services business in 2004. Like anybody setting up a new business, she attended networking events that were vital in helping her expand, but there didn’t appear to be any events for women who played golf. So Helen, a keen golfer herself, decided to do something about it and established Stiletto Golf. It has been so successful she has now given up the day job to runs the society full-time.
I was invited to Stiletto Golf’s Midsummer Event at Stonebridge Golf Club in Meriden where you can opt to play nine or 18 holes. Beginners can enjoy a group lesson. This is followed by dinner and prize-giving. Not having picked up my clubs for three years, the group lesson was definitely the option for me.
The weather was perfect, the sun shining and a slight breeze, and I arrived just as the nine-hole golfers were preparing to tee off. For some, it was the first time on a golf course after completing a set of lessons so they were quite nervous. Others just preferred to play nine holes instead of 18 and Helen split the players into groups according to their ability.
Once she had seen all the groups off the first tee, it was time for our group lesson. There were 15 ladies, some who’d never picked up a club before, and we were shown the basics of the swing and putting in an hour-long lesson given by the clubs’ two professionals. With one adjustment to my swing, I managed to hit a ball about 100 yards – only one ball, but it was a start.
Helen was present during the lesson, making sure the professionals gave the women a great introduction to the game. Then she and I jumped in a buggy and headed onto the course to see how the nine-hole ladies were fairing. She told me: “I am passionate about introducing ladies to the game and once they get out on the course I want them to enjoy it so they will continue to play.”
Helen has expanded her Warwickshire events into Worcestershire, Shropshire and the West Midlands. Her plan is to expand into other areas and eventually go national, but she knows that will be hard. “At the moment, I am the face of Stiletto Golf and people expect to see me at the events. Obviously, I’m not going to be able to do that if I go national,” she said. So who joins – and why? New to golf was Amanda Volante, who works for Remploy. She said: “I am new to the Coventry area and want to make new friends with a similar interest. My fiancé also plays and I would also like to play golf with him.”
Jo Sharman has just become an independent distributor for Forever Living Products, the world leader in the sales of aloe vera products. She said: “I’ve joined for networking and to meet people who may be able to offer advice and support for my new business venture.”
Janet James, a solicitor, and Lyn Bromley, an image consultant, both belong to golf clubs but Stiletto Golf opens up new networking and social opportunities. Accountant Julia Whelan is not a member but joins in the events when she can.
Contacts made at golf can prove invaluable. Caron Lindley said: “I have had some lessons and want to be able to play on a regular basis with people of a similar level. When I was recently made redundant I used an employment solicitor I’d met through the group.”
You do not have to be a member of Stiletto Golf to take part in the events but membership attracts benefits including discounts on some of the events, invitations to additional members’ golf, social events, trips abroad and access to the online golf directory of members. As a member, new golfers take priority booking on the fast-track programme where players can benefit from sharing the cost of lessons.
There are two or three events per month but Helen is working on a schedule to increase this to five or six around the West Midlands.
On the website, www.stiletto-golf.co.uk, there are details of how to join and the events, and a directory of golf courses and ranges. There is also information including the rules of the game, scoring, handicaps, etiquette and what to wear – all things which can seem daunting when starting out in the game.
So, if you fancy giving golf a try, or increasing the number of people you have to play with, Stiletto Golf is definitely worth a try. As a new golfer, you’ll soon be striding down the fairway, making a winning putt or possibly striking a hole in one.
* WEB: www.stiletto-golf.co.uk for more information.