LITTLESTONE Golf Club has pledged to become a beacon of equality for clubs across Kent after signing up to The R&A Women in Golf Charter.
The charter is designed to develop a more inclusive culture within the game, to encourage increased participation from women and girls and to allow them to reach their full potential as golfers.
Clubs that sign up to the charter are committed to providing a “welcoming and inspiring environment” for women to play the sport – or to work in the golf industry.
Littlestone – a renowned links course on the Kent coast since 1888 – is justifiably proud of its heritage.
In 1894, the course staged the first-ever Ladies’ Golf Union Championship and remains an innovator in the sphere of women and girls’ golf.
The club is already committed to driving up participation levels through a series of initiatives.
It has been a supporter of England Golf and the Golf Foundation’s ‘Girls Golf Rocks’ campaign in previous years.
Now with current ladies’ captain Sheila Stirling acting as Littlestone’s charter champion, the focus is on encouraging more and more women and girls to get out on the course as well as playing a full and active role in the governance of the club.
Littlestone’s club membership and marketing manager Sarah Saunders said: “The board has been in discussions for a long time about how to increase the number of women involved within the business – and to increase the membership.
“When we learned of the charter, we were very keen to sign up to it as a way of rubber-stamping the club’s commitment.
“We hope that Littlestone will be a beacon for equality across the region.”
Littlestone currently has 150 women members with six girls in the junior section.
However, it is hoped those figures will rise in the years ahead thanks to coaching programmes driving greater numbers towards the sport.
The club runs a successful schools’ programme which includes after-school clubs and free group lessons every Saturday.
Coaching and coffee mornings are also held for female non-golfers and improvers as they integrate into club life.
Saunders added: “Our charter champion is current lady captain, Sheila Stirling. She will continue to be our champion after her tenure.
“Sheila has proved to be an inspirational captain and through her we have seen an increase both in women’s membership numbers and in the number of women participating in events.”
With clubhouse facilities for women being upgraded and initiatives in place to inspire the next generation of girl golfers, Littlestone is excited about the future.
Club member Sarah McDonald believes improvements to the governance of the sport will play a key role in developing the game.
In 2020, there are plans to unite the Kent Golf Union and the county’s ladies’ association.
She added: “As Kent Golf Union secretary, I became the first female secretary of a golf union in England.
“I’m a firm believer that sport is for everyone irrespective of their background and gender.
“It has been great to see the way that golf has moved forward in recent years, particularly in Kent.
“There are now mixed golf events at our clubs, boys and girls playing and training together in the same competitions, and in our Kent Golf-approved junior academies.”
Littlestone has followed Pleasington Golf Club, in Lancashire, Enville Golf Club in Staffordshire, Boldon Golf Club in Durham, Yorkshire’s Harrogate Golf Club and Surrey’s Walton Heath Golf Club in becoming early signatories of the charter.
More than 30 clubs the length and breadth of England are currently working on achieving charter status early in the new year with many more ready to follow suit later in 2020.
•For more details on how clubs can apply for Women in Golf Charter status click here.