The female drive

1 Oct 2006 by business traveller

A few years ago, a female business traveller with a bit of spare time on her hands was probably directed to relax at the hotel spa while the men were taken for a tricky round of golf. But just as men have broken into the world of beauty and no longer think twice about having a facial, more women are making the cut on the golf course. And with the rise of young women golfers such as Michelle Wei, Paula Creamer and Kristie Kerr, all donning stylish attire, golf is rapidly losing its old-fashioned image and opening its fairways to all.

This shift has not gone unnoticed by leading golfing hotels and resorts. Both The Grove in Hertfordshire and The Westin Turnberry Resort in Scotland have beginner packages for women who want to learn more.

Stuart Morgan, senior golf instructor for The Grove, has played golf since he was three years old and has been a pro for 12 years. He says: "It's almost an untapped market, but recently with Michelle Wei bringing popularity to the women's game she is encouraging more women to play golf."

Golf has always had an intimidating male image and only recently have the club bars opened up more to women. But from 2007, clubs that ban women from the bar (or the 19th hole as it is known) or restrict times when they can play, will be violating EU law.

This levelling of the land has made the sport more accessible. Morgan says: "Now there are so many 'days out' on businesses. We have started to see more women doing golf clinics and there is definitely more interest."

The Grove started running a package called Swing Out Sister this summer. The package is five hours long for a minimum of four people, and aims to teach the very basics. But Morgan also emphasises that it should be an enjoyable experience: "The package is for a minimum of four because the biggest thing about golf is that it is fun."

Chris Brown is one of 13 other pros at The Westin Turnberry Resort and thinks learning in groups means you can compare your progression with others. "Individuals might want to be Tiger Woods by the end of a lesson and they get disappointed but if you are in a group you can give yourself a benchmark."

Brown teaches groups of women on the Golf Back to Front package. This includes six hours of lessons at the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy, part of the Westin Turnberry Resort. Both hotel packages work on the basis that it is better to start with putting and chipping before moving onto the driving range. Brown says: "It doesn't make any sense to start to develop the swing without the technical knowledge of putting."

Placing the ball around three feet from the hole and swinging "through" the ball rather than at it is the first thing you learn, Brown explains: "Putting is the hardest part of golf as it is all about feel and touch, and I think women tend to be better at this than men at the start, to be honest. Golf is more about the feel than the driving range. It is more about pitch and put than the drive, yet everyone places the emphasis on that."

After a morning of chipping and putting and the satisfaction of getting the ball into the hole, it was a good feeling to strike the ball as hard as possible on the driving range. The Westin Turnberry also has the technology to digitalise your swing by taking photos from three angles as you hit the ball. The pros then take you through your swing moment by moment and compare it with the techniques of professionals.

The Golf Back to Front package also aims to take away some of the intimidation a new golfer may feel. Brown says: "We teach rules and etiquette to the women on the package. Beginners are sometimes frightened off by original members because they do not know the rules, such as not putting the trolley on the greens and raking bunkers. The aim is to get the student onto the golf course and the feedback from women who have taken the course is that they are actually happy to go on the course not feeling intimidated by others."

Having never played before, my expectations were low. The idea of playing on a nine-hole golf course conjured up images of people diving into bunkers as my miss-hit balls spliced through the air. But after six hours of tuition, the fresh air and a good whack on the driving range, experiencing the course became a necessity feeding an addiction rather than a fear of the unknown. And the fact I have played since, and managed a bogey on a par three (to be fair to me, it was really an eagle because of my beginner's handicap) is testament to the tuition and the beauty of the sport itself.


The Grove: Swing Out Sister

Where is it? Chandler's Cross, Hertfordshire. A 10-minute taxi journey from Watford Junction train station.

The hotel Set in 300 acres of parkland, the manor house hotel has 227 rooms in both the original mansion building and in the West Wing. There are several rooms downstairs where you can relax with a coffee or beer overlooking the grounds, filled with sofas and large armchairs, which add to the homely country feel. As well as the championship golf course, there is an outdoor pool in a charming walled garden, and a spa.

The package Five hours' tuition with a minimum of four women. The package is aimed at beginners and you will be taught everything from the different grips to putting, chipping and swinging on the driving range. The fun aspect is heightened with a champagne breakfast and the fact that The Grove offers room service on the golf course so that if you fancy a burger and chips you can order it to arrive at the next hole. The package includes lunch in The Glass House, afternoon tea and a manicure.

Cost £150 per person (based on a group of four). Optional stays before or after from £250 in a West Wing room.

Contact Call +44 (0)1923 807807, thegrove.co.uk.

The Westin Turnberry Resort: Golf Back to Front

Where is it? Southwest Scotland, Ayrshire.

The hotel The five-star Westin Turnberry Resort is perched on the top of a hill with views over to the island of Ailsa Craig and the Atlantic. There are 221 rooms: nine two-bedroom cottages, eight six-bedroom lodges and four eight-bedroom lodges as well as a swimming pool and spa. There are two 18-hole championship courses – Ailsa and Kintyre and the nine-hole Arran.

The package Six hours of tuition from a pro at the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy. You start in the classroom learning the grip and some golf basics and move on to the putting green and chipping on the short driving range. After lunch its back to the classroom to practice the swing. The room ingeniously opens up onto the golf course so you can swing from inside to outside. A computer records your swing, which you can then perfect on the driving range (this can be emailed later to those keen to continue). The following morning is spent on the nine-hole Arran golf course talking about etiquette and putting new skills into practice. There is a follow-up package called the Full Monty.

Cost £785 per room (two nights).

Contact Call +44 (0)1655 333 991 and quote "Back to Front", turnberry.co.uk.  

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