Golf and Tacos! Introducing young women to the game of golf

Written by Rennay Craats

Golf & Tacos

It has been said that golf is a good walk spoiled, and for those new to the sport, that can feel all too true. With all the rules, the etiquette and the unforgiving nature of a golf swing, it is a difficult game to navigate, which can discourage newcomers before they even get started. On top of that, women looking to get into the game are often intimidated by the male dominated  atmosphere and can fear encountering the stereotypical stuffiness associated with golf as they try to learn and improve their game. In fact, for many women, golf has become just another four-letter word. Good friends Birkley Doll and Caitlin Buckell are aiming to change that four-letter word – to ‘taco’.

Golf & Tacos is a program that presents young women with an incredible opportunity to learn the game and have a lot of fun in the process. Doll and Buckell founded the group two years ago to fill a need they found in their own lives.

“It came from a place of wanting to get more of our own friends into golf. We decided to come up with a way to make it fun to go out and play golf,” says Buckell.

The duo started an Instagram page to attract young women like themselves to golf so that they would not only have partners on the course but also an increased Rolodex professionally. They looked at finding a good day to organize lessons and landed on Tuesday. They joked that what more could a girl ask for than Taco Tuesdays and Golf & Tacos was born.

The response was immediate; women quickly responded to the Instagram posts wanting to sign up for lessons and to find out what the group was about, which is taking away the barriers that many women experience and creating a welcoming, fun environment in which to learn the game.

“We didn’t realize that we hit such a niche market,” says Doll. “We knew who we were and the target market because it was the people we wanted to hang out with. We wanted to feel comfortable.”

This target market is a big one made up of like-minded women between the ages of 23 and 35 who are new to the game or who played as kids but are just getting back into it. Most important, they are all looking for a fantastic community of supportive women that they can have a blast with. In keeping with the Mexican theme, the ‘chicas’ have the option of joining a mild, medium, hot and now a new spicy level of lessons depending on their experience and golf ability.

Medium players would have some experience on a course and while they occasionally swing and miss, they are working on their consistency whereas spicy players are more experienced golfers looking to fine-tune their skills. Players can decide at what level they are comfortable and where they need to be for their skills to improve.

Last season Golf & Tacos put together three consecutive sold-out sessions at Golf Canada Calgary Centre on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with each session running five to seven weeks. Intimate groups of eight golfers per session encourages the ladies to really get to know each other. The ideal location boasts a teaching facility that allows players to practice on grass while also offering covered tees with heaters to combat Calgary’s volatile weather.

“It really helps take some of the elements out from a scheduling and planning perspective—we can be out there when it’s colder or going to rain,” says Buckell. “Earlier in the year those heated stalls make a huge difference, especially for beginner or intermediate golfers.”

GCCC Teaching Professional Todd Halpen instructs the women on everything from how to hold and swing a club to which club to use for different shots, all the while encouraging the ladies to visit with each other, listen to music, and have a beer or glass of wine.

“Todd is fabulous. He makes the girls so comfortable, so relaxed and at ease. He’s definitely not stuffy at all, which if you hadn’t been on a course much I think maybe you’d expect,” says Corey Davison, who has been part of the Golf & Tacos family since the beginning.

Davison golfed as a youth but drifted away from it until she recently lost a bet with her boyfriend that required her to join him on the course. He encouraged her to take up the game again, both because she is naturally athletic and because as a lawyer it would benefit her to be able to take clients out golfing. She knew he was right and signed up with Golf & Tacos.

“It’s really difficult as a female, especially a young professional female, to feel included in the golf tournaments when you’re not quite so comfortable around a set of golf clubs or on golf courses as some of your male counterparts,” says Davison. “Caitlin and Birkley wanted to do away with that uncomfortable feeling or feelings of embarrassment.”

Some Golf & Tacos participants have never stepped foot on a golf course, and that’s just fine. The lessons are geared toward demystifying the golf world so that ladies understand what they need to do when they arrive for a game, where and how to warm up, how to take part in a tournament, and of course how to successfully move that little white ball around the course.

At the end of the session they head to a host course where the chicas put their newly acquired skills and knowledge to the test. Halpen and other course pros are on hand to walk the ladies through the process, counselling them on how to set up their tees, which club to use when, and where to aim in order to get the ball in the hole. Buckell and Doll mix up the foursomes so the chicas meet people from the other sessions to further expand their networks. There are prizes and, of course, wine and tacos to celebrate the occasion.

But once the lessons are over the relationships are just getting started. All of the 170 Golf & Tacos graduates are encouraged to join the group’s Facebook group to keep in touch. There, the chicas can post notes seeking to round out a foursome or organize golf games with alumnae to encourage everyone to get out and golf. Given this, Buckell and Doll are looking at ways to grow the program to facilitate that desire to golf more and to accommodate the growing number of women interested in joining Golf & Tacos. They are looking at opportunities to partner with additional courses and organizations throughout Calgary, add more sessions, expand the brand to other cities, and possibly set up a Golf & Tacos league to get clubs in the women’s hands as much as possible.

After all, that’s the objective – to get more young women playing golf so they can both improve their game and network with clients and senior management. In two short years, Golf & Tacos has grown into a fun, encouraging, vibrant community of women who are bringing a tough-to-attract demographic into golf courses by making the game approachable.

“We want to remove the barriers to entry as much as possible for beginners and intermediate golfers,” says Buckell. “We make it inclusive and make everyone feel really welcome and keep it really fun.”

And what could be more fun than golf and tacos?

Golf and Tacos

This article was originally published in the 2019 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.

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