A world-first ‘free golf’ initiative launched by Saudi Arabia to get women and girls into the sport saw more than 1,000 new golfers sign-up in just four days.
Inspired by the weekend’s debut Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF – the Kingdom’s first ever professional women’s golf tournament – hundreds of women across the country registered to learn golf for the first time as part of Golf Saudi’s newly launched Ladies First Club.
The Club, which opened for membership on Thursday – Day One of the tournament – attracted more than 500 sign-ups in its first 24 hours. By the tournament’s conclusion on Sunday, there was waiting list room only.
Put into context, there were less than 20 female members across the Kingdom’s golf clubs ahead of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF.
Now, 1,000 new female golfers will be taking to Saudi Arabia’s fairways as members of the Ladies First Club, where they will be given free golf lessons, driving range access and full rounds of golf at courses across the country.
Organisers blown away by “phenomenal response”
The Ladies First Club was launched as a way of bringing more Saudi women into golf, aligning with the Kingdom’s wider ambitions under Vision 2030, which aims to get more Saudis regularly active.
Golf Saudi CEO Majed Al Sorour said: “We have been absolutely blown away by the phenomenal response to the Ladies First Club. One thousand new golfers is extraordinary for golf in Saudi Arabia and will change the entire landscape of the game across the Kingdom.
“Events like the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF are designed to inspire Saudis and to help grow golf in the Kingdom and enhance the game on a global scale. To have a thousand of our women and girls commit to learning golf on the weekend of our debut Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF is an unbelievable legacy, and goes beyond even our most ambitious expectations.
“This is only just the beginning for women’s golf in Saudi Arabia – but what a beginning!”
Arabic golfer Maha Haddioui was one of the 108 professionals competing in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF, which became the first Saudi-held international professional women’s sport event ever to be broadcast on Saudi Arabian television when it was beamed live over the weekend.
The Moroccan revealed she knew the event was making waves when she came off the course to Instagram requests from Saudi women desperate to know how they could get into golf.
Maha explained: “I got direct messages from Saudi women saying: ‘I want to play golf, how do I do it?’, which was great with the Ladies First Club launching this same weekend. So I sent them the link and they signed-up, which is so exciting! I can’t wait to follow-up with them a year or so down the line.
“They’ve just been awesome, messaging me and asking questions all about golf. It shows the impact this event – and the Ladies First Club – are having here. Something like this I’d never have been able to even imagine two years ago when I first came here to play.
“The goal with these events is to grow the game and get more people into golf, and get more people enjoying the game we enjoy so much. One thousand new golfers signing-up is an amazing feat and is a big win for ladies golf and a big win for Saudi.”
Ladies European Tour full of praise for “superb” initiative
Ladies European Tour CEO Alexandra Armas spoke of her delight at the instant impact of the Tour’s first event in the Kingdom, and paid testament to Golf Saudi for ensuring women and girls inspired by the tournament had a simple and accessible way to carry that momentum forward.
“As soon as I started conversations with Golf Saudi about bringing the Tour here I was very keen to understand what their vision was for the game in the Kingdom, and how they wanted to develop golf here,” said Armas.
“It was very ambitious, but also a very clear blueprint of how they plan on growing the game for men women and families, and we wanted to be part of that journey.
“Less than a week from the debut event and we’re already seeing the results of this. The Ladies First Club is a superb concept and with a thousand members joining in just its first four days shows that what’s happening on the golf course here is already translating into women and girls picking up golf clubs, which is just fantastic.”
Group coaching, full rounds, an online learning platform, Pilates and yoga
Last week’s inaugural $1million Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF has been followed this week by the $500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International, where amateurs have been competing alongside LET professionals – an event it is hoped will introduce even more Saudis to golf, and has a number of Saudi women playing.
As Ladies First Club members, women will be coached through the basics of the game at either Riyadh Golf Club, Dirab Golf Club or King Abdullah Economic City’s (KAEC) Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, host course of this week’s tournaments.
The membership will also include a digital ‘Introduction to Golf’ education pack, which will provide monthly seminars outlining the key aspects of golf for beginners. Each course will host a Ladies First golf clinic once a month, led by a professional, which will conclude with an on-course induction for all participants and an 18-hole round.
Off the course, and the Ladies First Club will also provide a range of social opportunities, including invites to social mornings, plus the likes of Pilates, yoga, bridge and other wellbeing activities.