Burrage guiding changing face of Kingston Heath - PGA of Australia

Burrage guiding changing face of Kingston Heath

As one of the premier golf clubs in Australia, there is a reputation that Kingston Heath Golf Club is expected to uphold.

A showpiece of the Melbourne Sandbelt, ‘The Heath’ is a place where the greatest of traditions of the game are observed and where the game of golf is celebrated.

Whether rightly or wrongly, that can be an intimidating place for new golfers to join but under the guidance of club management, the board and Director of Golf Justin Burrage, a new wave of members are being welcomed with open arms.

The construction of the highly anticipated short course will cater to beginners, juniors and the club’s low-markers alike but it is the establishment of the Women’s Heath Gateway Program that has had an immediate impact.

Conducted by PGA Teaching Professional Tom Corker (pictured), the program has proven so popular that after three iterations there is now a waiting list for the fourth.

A total of 105 women have taken part, 35 have already progressed to full membership and it is expected as many as 15 more will join once the third program is completed.

Named the Victorian PGA Club Professional of the Year in 2021, Burrage says the Women’s Heath Gateway Program is just one way in which Kingston Heath is opening its doors to new people.

“It’s essentially a try-before-you-buy program where the women will come in for inductions to golf and the club, go through a series of clinics which have been brilliantly run by Tom Corker and then participate in some social activities,” Burrage says.

“They then have the option to take up a trial membership for a period of six months which provides some access to the golf course and to competitions and some more one-on-one coaching with Tom.

“We’ve developed to a point where it’s actually achieved its goal in getting more female members and a female membership that is slightly younger than what the traditional club has been. It’s ticked a lot of boxes in actually filling the demographic that we were hoping to fill.

“There could be a slight intimidation factor of joining a club such as Kingston Heath so one of the key components was making it about friendship and creating the right atmosphere that we all see that the club has anyway.”

A large intake of the women taking part in the program has come via family members who are existing Kingston Heath members and Burrage expects the short course to have a similar impact on junior numbers.

Designed by the team of Ogilvy Cocking Mead, the nine-hole course will feature holes varying in length from 75 to 130 metres that will also help to foster the feeling that Kingston Heath is a place for the whole family.

“This is a family and we want people to feel part of the family as soon as they walk through the door. That this is their home away from home,” said Burrage, who is coming up on 20 years at the club.

“That’s something that I’ve encouraged my team to really, really work hard on; making sure that everyone that walks in the door feels like they are part of the family, even if they’re only here for four hours.

“I think the short course is going to be phenomenal. It’ll be a great place for nurturing and growth of interest in the game, whether it’s for juniors or for just new people into the game of golf.

“We’re putting that spare land into purposeful use for the betterment of golf, for the betterment of members and for the betterment of members in the future. It’s great to see that the committee and the members have been brave enough to do that.

“The Women’s program with the wonderful support of Women’s Captain Nikki McClure was also a brave thing to do that wouldn’t have happened 15 years ago.

“As one of the people involved there are a couple of decisions that have been made that makes us quite proud to be part of a club that is thinking progressively at this point in time.”

PGA Professionals throughout the country offer programs for all members of the family to get started in golf. To find the nearest PGA Professional to you and your family visit www.pga.org.au/find-a-pga-pro.

Headlines at a glance