Last weekend something unusual happened at Walton Heath Golf Club, one of the best courses in the world whose first captain was King Edward VIII and which has had four prime ministers including Winston Churchill, among its members.
The prestigious club, located in the middle of the Surrey moors, first hosted the English Women’s Championship in 1914. A century later, it launched a women’s academy to encourage more women to take up the sport.
But the group that took to the fairway on May 29 broke through new barriers. “We are women, we are women of color and some of us are women who cover,” Ambereen Khan said, referring to the hijab she and some of her friends wear.
Khan was taking part in a series of initiation sessions for Muslim women this summer at golf courses in England and Scotland. The Women’s Initiation Tour was organized by Amir Malik, founder of the Muslim Golf Association and advocate for inclusivity in the game.
“Most Muslim women have never had the opportunity to play golf. But it’s the perfect sport for them,” he said. There is no physical contact between players, and modest clothing and headgear are no impediment.
Within days of launching her online roadshow, 180 women had signed up. Another 500 are on a waiting list to participate.
When he approached the clubs about his Muslim Women Introductory Tour, Malik said he had “conversations about diversity and inclusivity. In some clubs there are members with very traditional views who do not want change. Golf is still perceived as elitist and white.
But he was encouraged by those who “opened their doors” to Muslim women. At Walton Heath, the club’s chef offered to prepare a halal meal. “They made us feel comfortable,” said Khan, who signed up for the session with nine friends.
She had never hit a golf ball before. “We were all pretty calm at first, but by the end we were throwing golf terms.”
Shabana Gadit left with her sister. “I had thought about taking lessons, but I felt a little discouraged. It was an opportunity to try in a welcoming environment. Both women have since signed up for a six-week course.
“It would be great to see more diversity in the sport, especially golf. Sport must be accessible to everyone, we must break down barriers and everyone must be welcome,” said Gadit.
The Muslim Golf Association has partnered with love.golf, which encourages women to get into the game and provides female coaches for the initiation tour.
Malik said, “My mission is to bring women in niqabs to golf courses. It is a sport that is ripe for upheaval.
Alex Woodward, Managing Director of Walton Heath Golf Club, said: “We are fully committed to increasing participation in the game. Every golf club should reflect its community, regardless of ability, age, gender or beliefs. nuns. It was wonderful to see these ladies dipping their toes in the golf course water.