The R&A Women in Golf Charter

Stoke by Nayland Golf Club are signatories to the R&A Women in Golf Charter and have pledged several actions to involve women in the game of golf and the business of golf.

Our involvement is driven by Director of Golf, Karl Hepple and our Charter Champion, Lesley Garnett.

This is our commitment:

We, Stoke by Nayland Golf Club, call on everyone involved in golf to play their part in developing a culture that values women’s involvement in every aspect of the sport, from participating to pursuing a career.

  • Our aim is to increase the number of women and girls playing and working in golf.
  • To achieve this goal and to enable women to flourish throughout golf, we recognise the need for a fundamental shift in culture. There is a clear ethical need for change and the potential economic benefits of growing the sport through more women and girls playing are substantial.
  • The R&A commits to playing a leading role in this process and to working with affiliates, partners and the wider golf industry towards achieving this goal.
  • In signing this Charter, we Stoke by Nayland GC commit to making tangible efforts to develop a welcoming and inspiring environment for women. We will do more to attract women into golf, to remain, and to have rewarding careers.

The Charter:

  • Is a statement of intent from the golf industry and Stoke by Nayland GC, to unite and to focus gender balance at all levels
  • Commits us all to supporting measures to increase the number of women, girls and families playing golf
  • Calls for positive action to encourage women to pursue careers in all areas of the sport
  • Recognises the need for change that creates an inclusive environment within golf and our golf club

Signatories commit to activate this Charter by:

  • Developing and implementing an internal strategy for enhancing gender balance at every level
  • Establishing Management Board responsibility and accountability for gender balance and inclusion, which is discussed and reviewed at Management Board level at Stoke by Nayland GC
  • Strongly advocating more women and girls playing and working in golf.
  • Working with key stakeholders to develop and embed a more inclusive culture.
  • Promoting the Charter and our goal of encouraging more women and girls to play golf and work in golf.

How we at Stoke by Nayland GC Plan to achieve this

  • We have achieved and will maintain 33% female representation on our Management Board by actively promoting these positions linked to appropriate role descriptors that are not gender specific
  • To achieve an increase of, at least, 5% in actively playing members of the Ladies Section
  • Promote a membership pathway, for women/girls and families to progress within the club
  • To develop an inclusive approach with female imagery displayed throughout the facility
  • Have designated Champions/Mentors within the club who can assist and support new participants and members
  • Appoint a designated Charter Champion within the club who can assist with the promotion and reporting of the charter

Signed on Behalf of Stoke by Nayland GC:

Golf Manager: Karl Hepple Date: 1 October 2023
Charter Champion: Lesley Garnett Date: 1 October 2023

These objectives will be embedded into the club business plan and reviewed on an annual basis.

Turning a commitment into reality

Golf as a historically recorded sport has been played in the UK for almost 600 years, and for much of that time, was almost exclusively dominated by men.

There are a great number of misconceptions about golf, and about who plays golf, but today, it is undoubtedly a hugely popular activity across a wide base of the population.

According to the sport’s governing body the R&A, last year over 5.6 million adults played on a golf course somewhere in the country – which equates to almost one in ten of all UK adults.

And of those 5.6 million, for the first time ever, more than 20% of them were women.

This is a significant milestone for the sport and means the number of women playing the game has more than doubled in the last ten years.

Modern and progressive golf clubs now embrace this growing trend and give equal weight to Ladies competitions as well as Men’s competitions, and the handicapping system in golf means Ladies and Men can compete against each other in mixed competitions – something which would have been unthinkable only a generation ago.

Much of the credit for this demographic shift must go to the R&A who recognised the trend and gave it a huge push in 2018 with the creation of the R&A Women in Golf Charter.

With a wide ranging brief, the Charter aims to increase participation in playing the game, as well as creating opportunities for women and girls to work in the sport.

Getting involved

Prior to the Charter being introduced, women accounted for only around 10% of players, but that percentage has grown steadily since its inception.

Stoke by Nayland was the first club in Essex to sign up to the Charter in 2020 and we have been working tirelessly to meet the Charter’s aims ever since.

Under the guidance of the our Charter Champion Lesley Garnett, female membership numbers have been growing steadily and now accounts for around 15% of the total membership and with ages ranging from 21 to 85.

Lesley, and Director of Golf Karl Hepple, have now revised and extended the club’s Charter strategy and adopted a new set of targets taking the club forward into the next three years.

Lesley said: “We are very proud to have been the first club in Essex to sign up to the Charter, although we welcome the fact that a number of other clubs in Essex and Suffolk have followed our lead.

“But we want to push on from what we have achieved at Stoke over the last three years and we have set ourselves some even bigger goals for the coming years”.

Board commitment

One of the loudest signals given out at Stoke is a commitment to have at least 33% female representation on the Management Board.

Board member Clare Nixon, said: “I was new to the game when I joined Stoke by Nayland as a member 12 years ago. I only joined because my husband and son were members here already.

“But I started having lessons with my son every Thursday night and discovered just how friendly the club was and how much enjoyment there was in the game”.

Over the years Clare has played regularly in Ladies and Mixed competitions and was delighted to be invited to join the Board with the functional role of creating and implementing a calendar of social events.

She said: “While it is the game of golf that draws in members, we cannot ignore the social side and my aim is to get the club members to come and enjoy events that aren’t just golf related. I’m hoping to be able to try new events that appeal to everyone, not just a few, and for members of both the Men’s and Ladies sections to bring their families along.

“I really do feel that the club has achieved inclusivity if you look at all the different members backgrounds, cultures, ages and how friendly everyone is to each other. And I think that the Ladies Section is now integral to the club and the whole club takes great pleasure in welcoming new ladies to it”.

Ladies Captain for 2024, Stella Hammond, also sits on the Management Board during her year in office. She too was a new entrant to the game when she first came for lessons at Stoke.
She said: “I was made to feel very welcome by everyone that I met in the club and made some instant friendships with playing partners. Although because I have only really been playing for a few years I was in initially reluctant to take on the role of Captain as I felt a little inexperienced.
“But really, golf is much more modern and progressive now and I feel that as a person, I can use my year as Captain to ensure all of the members in the Ladies Section feel there are opportunities for them to play the golf they wish, whether that is competitive or social, in teams or individuals and that the section is inclusive for all”.
Lesley Garnett says: “We are implementing a whole range of objectives, including a commitment to increasing our female membership by at least 5%; promoting a membership pathway for women and families to progress through the club, using female imagery throughout the club, and having mentors from the current membership to assist and support new members when they join”.

Behind the bar

One of the first people new members are likely to encounter is Becky Daniels our Sports Bar Manager.

Becky is a shining example of someone who entered the golf business as a non-player, but who has since made it her career.

She said: “I worked at Tesco as a checkout manager, but about 16 years ago, I wanted a change and I joined the golf club as a waitress.

“I really enjoyed the interaction with the members, chatting to them before they went out for their round and when they came back in, and I was lucky enough to then become events supervisor, then events manager and now Sports Bar Manager where I get to work with all members of the club, young and old, Men and Ladies.

“I think over the years, the presence of the Ladies in the club has definitely grown and they are an integral part of the membership now and it is great to see everyone mixing in and enjoying the chatter”.

At the other end of the scale is one of the newest members on the golf team at Stoke, Chelsea Adams. On most days, golfers can see Chelsea in the halfway hut serving up hot and cold drinks and snacks or working around the clubhouse.

She said: “I’ve been at Stoke for about a year now, before that I was a pub waitress. But I decided to join the golf team here because I really enjoy talking to the members on and off the course and, of course being out in the fresh air – although not so much when it’s cold and wet!

“The members are a friendly bunch and always give me a cheery wave as they see me. What they maybe don’t know is that although I don’t play golf now, I did have lessons when I was younger but I didn’t enjoy it as I was the only girl in the group. But now that I am here, I might well be tempted to try again”.

There may still be a long way to go, but here at Stoke by Nayland, the progress towards gender inclusivity is there for all to see, and the future is looking bright.