SURREY’S Walton Heath has become the latest English club to sign up to The R&A’s Women in Golf Charter.
The renowned Ryder Cup venue has committed to increasing the numbers of women and girls participating in golf with the introduction of a three-year rolling plan.
The strategy will see the club actively strive to increase membership, develop women’s, girls and family golf while also encouraging more women to become closely involved in its administrative elements, Walton Heath declared this week.
All that is in line with The Royal & Ancient Golf Club’s modernising vision of growing the game and the enthusiastic adoption of a fresh approach has already started paying dividends for the popular Surrey club.
Walton Heath captain Alison Taylor and Kate Hill, who sits on the club’s general committee, are leading the drive as charter champions.
Taylor said: “We already have an academy that started in 2016. It has been very successful and nine women have graduated to full membership this year.
“Everyone in the academy has a mentor to help them integrate into the club. In addition to group and individual lessons run by the professionals, there are regular playing sessions with mentors.
“We are now also hoping to introduce a similar initiative for girls.”
Hill said: ‘’Among the seven core commitments which form the basis of the Walton Heath Charter is a desire to increase the ladies’ section to a minimum of 120 playing members.
“On January 1, this year, we had 94 members and that figure has now jumped to 105, which is a very significant increase.
“Until recently, we were averaging just one new member a year, so this is an extremely positive step.”
Walton Heath’s aim is to increase the number of women members by 10 a year and create a community of girls, who will enjoy learning and playing together.
Two of their members – Charlotte Griffith and Nichola Taylor – represented Surrey at the English Women’s County Finals at Delamare Forest, in September.
The club have also recently been crowned winners of Surrey Ladies’ Hicks Trophy in 2019.
Alison Taylor and her vice-captain at Walton Heath already sit on the club’s board and other women will be encouraged to stand for committee positions in line with the charter’s aims and objectives.
Taylor added: “Walton Heath is a traditional club, but we recognise the need to look forward to the next generation of golfers.
“We want grow the ladies’ section and be the family friendly club that women and girls want to join. Signing up to the Charter provides us with a great foundation to achieve this.
“We are proud to be the first golf club in Surrey to adopt The R&A Charter and to pledge our commitment to supporting the continued growth of women and girls golf.”
Surrey club steeped in history
LAST year Walton Heath hosted the European Tour’s British Masters – won by Abingdon’s Eddie Pepperell – and since 2005 it has hosted the USGA’s European qualifier for the US Open.
Walton Heath’s other recent connection to the men’s professional game was as host to the European Open five times from 1978-1991.
As well as hosting the 1981 Ryder Cup – the first time a European team rather than Great Britain and Ireland, took on the USA – its famous Old and New courses have hosted the English Amateur four times, The British Ladies Amateur three times, and The Brabazon Trophy twice.
It has also hosted the Walton Heath Open, formerly known as the South of England Open Amateur Championship since 2005 with Danny Willett among its past winners.
Kent’s Alfie Plant was the first player to be crowned European Amateur Cahmpion at Walton Heath, two years ago.
Having been founded in 1903, the club – which was originally owned by The News of World newspaper – which staged the professional matchplay championship it sponsored 21 times – was a favourite haunt of politicians between the wars, including Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.
The Prince of Wales was its first-ever captain and however briefly was the first monarch to be a golf club member when he became Prince Edward VIII before his abdication in 1936.
Open Champion James Braid was Walton Heath’s first-ever club pro, and only four professionals have held that post in 117 years.
His successor King George VI became Walton Heath’s patron on succeeding him as monarch.
Past members Sir Ernest Holderness won The Amateur Championship twice in the 1920s while Jill Thornhill was crowned Ladies Amateur Champion in 1983 and went on to captain the GB&I Curtis Cup team against the Americans in 1990.