Rudding Park golf coach Steph Davies hoping the Helen Skelton effect will draw more women into golf

“It’s not an old man’s sport. It’s much more fun than it looks, so give it a go.”

Learning the ropes: The TV presenter Helen Skelton is being taught golf by coach Steph Davis on a weekly basis at Rudding Park Golf Club in Harrogate. 

So says Steph Davies, a 29-year-old golf professional from Yorkshire who is making it her life’s work to get more girls into the sport she has made a career out of.

“When I got back home to Harrogate from university I realised I was the youngest female golfer at my club by about 30 years,” continues Davies, who sought to make changes at that club Rudding Park, by becoming a teaching professional.

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“So ever since I’ve wanted to bridge that gap, and wanted to get more ladies into the game.

Helen Skelton and her fellow members of the Slingsby Gin Golf Academy.

“I didn’t want to be the only woman.”

Slowly but surely, Davies is breaking down the barriers. One morning every weekend she teaches a group of 20 girls aged from five to 14 the basics of golf. When she began her career the number of girls on the mixed beginners course was two.

“We’re getting there, but there’s still a long way to go,” she says. “Ideally we’ll get that number to 40. With women aged between 20 and 40, they’re trying to get their career going, they’ve maybe got kids so it is quite a hard sport to get into, because it does take time. But that’s the great thing about Rudding Park, we’ve got the short course which only takes an hour to go around. Parents can come up with their kids; it doesn’t take all that time.”

Davies’ own story is one that should help attract young girls to take up golf, either recreationally or as career.

As a teenager growing up in Harrogate she played golf and netball, but it was only when she suffered an injury in the latter that the former became a priority.

And she is not even a tour standard player. When she took her playability test to become a PGA professional she played off a handicap of six, but has still been able to carve out a career in golf.

And that hard work and dedication is now being rewarded. Because Davies is teaching TV presenter Helen Skelton how to play golf as part of a programme backed by Slingsby Gin to encourage more women to take to the course this summer.

Davies will be teaching Skelton on a weekly basis, after which Skelton will compete against three other celebrities (Fleur East, Bela Shah and Natalie Pinkham) in a play-off to qualify for a celebrity tournament ahead of September’s PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Davies has been building Skelton’s game from scratch, with the journey to the PGA part of a documentary series.

“I was really keen to get involved,” said Davies of the Slingsby Gin Celebrity Golf Academy. “It’s a bit of a no-brainer trying to get more ladies involved.

“I’ve been very impressed with Helen, she practices all the time and is very keen to get going.

“She wanted to learn the game but also to play more with her dad who is very keen. Her husband Richie Myler plays a bit.

“I’m also teaching her daughter who is five, and I think as a family they’re all looking to start a new adventure.”

Skelton said: “People assume that I’m good at sport but I’m not good – I just give it a good try. I’m quite competitive with myself and if I agree to do something, I’m going to give it my all and don’t want to lose. My dad has always tried to get me into golf but working away and with young kids, I never carved out time to do these things for myself. Now is my opportunity.”

On a broader theme of getting more women into the sport, England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson said: “We are committed to supporting and encouraging female participation in golf and sharing this vision in practice with Slingsby forms a hugely positive part of this.

“Breaking down the boundaries that many women face when wanting to get into golf is no easy task and I believe this documented series will help us on our journey to eliminating the misconceptions about the game.”

Slingsby Gin is a proud sponsor of the BMW PGA Championship, and has launched its celebrity Golf Academy to encourage more women to take to the course this summer and to champion the social side of the sport. Please click here for more information, and follow Steph’s and Helen’s journey on @slingsbysocial.

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