Emily Christy has the ambitious goal of doubling the number of women participating in the game of golf in the United States, and she’s starting in Myrtle Beach.
Christy moved to the Grand Strand from Maine in September to develop the grassroots shecaddie organization she founded in February and hopes to expand nationally.
shecaddie encourages women to take up the game by initially hosting outings that include clinics and emphasize the social aspects of the game.
“I want to double the number of women golfers in the U.S., for starters,” Christy said of shecaddie’s mission. “If I reach my goal then I’ll think about something else.”
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Only about 20 percent of the approximate 24 million golfers in the U.S. are women, according to the National Golf Foundation, and Christy believes there are reasons for that low statistic that can be overcome.
The demands of time, cost and difficulty of the game are inherent deterrents to picking up golf that are common to men and women. Christy believes there are more challenges to women that she is trying to alleviate to make them feel more comfortable in the game.
“I’m trying to remove the intimidation factors women encounter when they think about taking up golf,” Christy said. “There’s not feeling welcome and the physical challenges. The social aspect is the biggest pull for them, and there are ways to enhance that and show them that’s part of golf, it’s not just the sport of it. It’s hanging out with your friends while you take a walk outside.”
A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that well over 30 million women are interested in taking up golf, and Christy wants to tap into that potential.
She chose Myrtle Beach after researching information such as golf courses per capita, percentage of public courses and areas with a high percentage of retirees.
“My question going to Myrtle Beach was could I find strangers who were interested in learning golf, and I have found that there are,” Christy said. “Eventually I want all levels of golfers to be part of it. For now my target is beginner women because if you’re going to grow something it has to be people who aren’t doing it yet.”
She has some more experienced women involved to help the new players.
Christy still has a home in South Portland, Maine, and has a condo rented in Myrtle Beach through the end of March. She at first had a condo rented through Thanksgiving but she was encouraged enough to extend her stay at least another four months. She put her house on the home rental business Airbnb to help fund her Myrtle Beach venture.
“There are lots of ways it could go after March,” Christy said. “I’ve got a runway of cash, I know when I’ll run out of money. I have a detailed budget.
“At some points in each day I’m sure it’s going to be a wild success and I’m sure I’m wasting my time.”
The first shecaddie event on the Strand was held Oct. 6 and there have been two or three events per week since then prior to the Christmas holiday. The outings include clinics and/or nine holes of golf and a social aspect.
Events have been held at the Harbour View and Tupelo Bay par-3 and driving range facilities, Possum Trot Golf Club and Blackmoor Golf Club. Whispering Pines Golf Club is being added in January and upcoming clinics are scheduled at Barefoot Resort and River Oaks Golf Club.
“I’ve had a good response from the golf community,” Christy said. “This wouldn’t work in all places but Myrtle Beach is set up for it with all the courses.”
Becoming a shecaddie member is currently free. Christy has 226 women registered through either an email group or MeetUp.com group. About 60 have participated in events. She signed up about 100 at the South Carolina Women Expo hosted by South Carolina Woman Magazine at Myrtle Beach Sports Center in November.
The clinics and nine-hole outings have a fee that is shared by the course/golf pros and Christy. “I’m looking for volume, so I have a small cut now and it will probably become smaller the more women join,” Christy said.
While in Maine for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Christy is working on improving shecaddie’s website and Facebook technology. She wants the site to include educational information and a path to follow for new female golfers, and enable members to communicate with each other and courses/pros and schedule their own splinter events.
“What can I learn from Myrtle Beach is can it function without me there at each event, and make sure the experience from start to finish is what I want it to be,” Christy said. “That’s the transition I’m trying to work through now.”
There are other organizations for female golfers in the area including the Grand Strand Women’s Golf Association, which has regular outings and tournaments. Christy hopes to eventually expand to include 18-hole outings but is focused on beginners first and would like to have experienced golfers from other organizations serve as mentors.
“I see them as more partners than competitors,” Christy said. “I’d like them to continue within shecaddie doing other things.”
Christy, 41, began the shecaddie organization after meeting challenges in several other interests.
She was a history major at Princeton and considered both law and medicine for careers. She said she worked in a law firm and in a district attorney’s office in New York as a paralegal, then worked in a lab and volunteered as an emergency medical technician.
She then turned to baseball as an intern for the Class A Vero Beach Dodgers and was promoted to assistant general manager then general manager of the team, running spring training for the Los Angeles Dodgers and overseeing operations of both the Single-A club and a half-season rookie ball team.
She moved to New York to work on Wall Street as an equity research analyst who analyzed businesses. “That helped me build a company,” she said.
She moved back to her home state of Maine in 2011 to work for a hedge fund that dissolved within a year, then worked for a retail financial advisory firm in research.
“I like learning new things and challenging situations like that,” Christy said. “History would show that once something gets too routine and I can’t find challenges in what I’m doing I look for new challenges.”
A car accident on her way to her first golf round of the year in April 2015 resulted in long-time concussion complications that kept her from reading for awhile. About all she could do was play golf that summer, and she became a member of the board of governors for her course, Purpoodock Club.
“I saw a disconnect from the board seat between the women golfers in the club and the board, and an even larger disconnect between the beginning golfers,” Christy said. “I knew I wanted to work for myself and I thought the startup world might be interesting.”
She took online coding classes and created an app for golf clubs to communicate with female golfers, but it wasn’t utilized.
She shadowed some women’s golf groups to learn more about golf from the female perspective, including a group at Val Halla in Cumberland, Maine, that had a regular beginner’s Nine and Wine outing that included a clinic, hour of golf and wine social. shecaddie worked off that.
“The challenge was getting the women to come back after the clinics. That’s where I tried to step in and invited them out to bridge the gap,” Christy said.
The clinics ended the first week in September and Christy brought the concept to Myrtle Beach. She still does business consulting, research and financial modeling part time, generally at night or when it’s raining, but her focus is growing shecaddie.
“You have to think small, you have to think big. You have to think now, you have to think later,” Christy said. “If you don’t have that longer-term goal, why bother with what you’re doing now.”
She hopes to help women become more empowered in the golf industry, as she did in the similarly male-dominated sport of baseball. “Golf is systematically run by men. That’s just the way it has been and is,” Christy said. “If we can double the number of women then maybe we can change the decision-making.”
Christy can be reached through shecaddie.com or Emily@shecaddie.com.
A South Carolina layout has been named the 2017 Golf Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association.
Atlantic Dunes at Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head Island, which was recently constructed by Davis Love III on the site of Hilton Head’s first course, Sea Pines’ Ocean Course, has earned the national honor.
The NGCOA annually honors member courses based on course quality, management, contributions to the community and significant contributions to the game.
Atlantic Dunes will officially receive the coveted accolade at the NGCOA 's "Celebration and Awards Dinner" on Feb. 8 at the Golf Business Conference held at San Antonio's Marriott Rivercenter.
In August, Atlantic Dunes was named "Golf Course of the Year" by the South Carolina Golf Course Owners Association (SCGCOA), beating out a few courses including Man O’War Golf Club, the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association’s Course of the Year.
The state distinction automatically nominated Atlantic Dunes for the national award. Atlantic Dunes recently debuted at No. 7 in Golfweek's “Best Courses You Can Play in South Carolina” list.
Love Golf Design architects Scot Sherman, Mark Love and Davis Love restored natural sand dunes, created new dunes and incorporated coquina shells and seaside grasses into the native pines and oaks that line fairways to give the layout both seaside and Lowcountry feels.
Sea Pines has hosted the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing for the past 50 years on Harbour Town Golf Links.
The Grande Dunes Resort Course in Myrtle Beach was named the NGCOA national course of the year in 2009.
BCG enters area
Billy Casper Golf has been hired to manage Cape Fear National in Leland, N.C., by course owner Lord Baltimore Capital Corporation. It took over management in November.
Located within the community of Brunswick Forest in Brunswick County, Cape Fear National was designed by Sunset Beach architect Tim Cate. It opened in 2009 and features forests of mature oaks, maples, pines and magnolias.
Billy Casper Golf was chosen as a strategic management partner to oversee and operate all aspects of Cape Fear National including accounting, golf operations, food and beverage, general and administrative services, human resources, and marketing.
The management company operates 140 courses in 29 states but is new to the area. It doesn’t manage any courses in South Carolina and now just two in N.C. along with Harbour Pointe Golf Club in New Bern.
Cape Fear National ranks No. 15 in Golfweek's 2017 list of “Best Courses You Can Play” in North Carolina.
Event feeds pets
The annual Shiver For the Shelter Golf Tournament presented by Slimbo Events on Dec. 17 at Farmstead Golf Links collected five tons of pet food and cat litter for the shelter at the Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach.
Participation required 100 pounds of pet food and/or cat litter per player and a $30 per person registration fee. The event has now raised 113 tons of food and litter for the shelter over its history.