Women’s golf has grown steadily across the nation, but it is absolutely thriving at Saint Andrew’s Golf Club in Hastings. The Ladies Golf Association at the venerable club has made a concerted effort to change the culture over the last four years with the result that today, women’s golf programs are packed, new golfers are taking up the game, and club governance has become a model of gender equality.
“We are gaining a good reputation as being a woman-friendly club,” says Karyn Lantier, president of the LGA. “The entire club rose to the challenge of embracing women golfers, finding ways to make us more comfortable both playing and around the clubhouse, and respecting our voice in running operations. I don’t think there’s a more female-positive club in the Met Area.”
Saint Andrew’s does more than write policy statements about gender equality. Since 2019, for example, women have had no restrictions on when they can play. The tee is open to women and men equally, virtually any time, any day. Women sit on the board of governors and serve on every club committee so their voices are being heard in all aspects of club operations.
But policies aren’t the only reason more women are playing golf at Saint Andrew’s. The club’s women members work at the individual level to create a welcoming, encouraging atmosphere as well. Nandita Atal, LGA VP, points out, “When women are comfortable with another woman, it reduces the intimidation factor in golf. You have to get them comfortable socially in the community.” To that end, she says, “When you join the club, one of us is there to greet you, take you on the course, make you feel welcome.”
The LGA also works with the Saint Andrew’s professional staff to introduce new players to the game by staging fun events that enable golfers of all levels to play together without intimidation. These include step-aside scrambles, where the “best ball” hitter can’t play the next shot, (involving every player on nearly every hole) and Cha-cha scoring, where a different combination of scores on each hole brings each player into the team effort. The LGA stages informal events on Wednesday afternoons, while the club’s professional staff hosts “Lunch & Learn” sessions and clinics throughout the year that give members the chance to socialize, ask questions, and improve their games.
All of these efforts are reflected in a burst in women’s participation in the game at Saint Andrew’s. Ladies’ rounds are up 39% for the three-year period of 2016-19 and participation in tournaments has increased by almost 32% during that same time.
“We think we’ve cracked the code of women’s engagement,” says Lantier. “We’re seeing the effects everywhere, from the locker room to the dining room. It’s made a big difference in the social success of the club, our participation in local tournaments, and in putting Saint Andrew’s at the forefront of member equality in the Met Area.