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April 2021

How to Turn Your Welcome Mat into a Red Carpet

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By Doug McPherson

“There is little in life so reassuring as a genuine welcome.” –Robin Hobb, author

Linnet Carty may be the perfect person to help you make your course a more welcoming place. Why? When you hear her story about her first golf outing, it all makes sense.

When she was in college, she had a crush on a guy. And as luck would have it, one of their professors invited them both to play.

“I was thrilled,” Carty said. She immediately accepted with visions of her new love interest standing next to her, teaching her the game, helping her with her swing. “It gave me butterflies,” she said.

When they arrived at the course, Carty, whose mom is Cuban and dad Jamaican, said she was a bit surprised that in the diverse city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the staff was mostly white. She admits she was feeling a little nervous – uncomfortable even. But that changed almost instantly. It wasn’t that Carty just felt welcomed. She felt special.

“Everyone welcomed me so warmly – from the young man at check in, to the gentleman in the golf shop to the staff in the restaurant. Everyone made me feel special.”

When strangers make you feel welcomed to the point of feeling special, it sticks with you. It stuck with Carty. And even though her relationship with the crush didn’t work out, her relationship with golf did – no doubt due in part to those friendly faces and warm welcomes.

“It was more about the experience I had versus actually playing,” Carty said. “There’s an unmistakable, authentic feeling of being genuinely welcomed that’s the spark – the spark that ignites the flame that makes the experience of playing golf so special.”

Today Carty is all about sparking that flame as the Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement for the PGA of America. And earlier this year she unveiled the organization’s Inclusion Guidelines for Golf Facilities, a 35-page publication for course owners and operators Carty wrote after visiting nearly 100 courses around the country.

You may find this booklet to be a refreshing addition to the goal of making the sport more inclusive because it’s actually a workbook – a tangible tool to turn golf’s welcome mat into a red carpet.  What’s more, you can complete it in a couple of hours with your staff, have fun doing it and end up with ideas you can start using immediately to get more players from all walks of life on your course.

“There’s always room for improvement,” said Carty, who adds that she sees the guidelines “as a flashlight” for you to better see your diversity and inclusion efforts. “I think they can help you look at things through the eyes of someone with a disability or someone who’s older, for example. If you’re able bodied, you may not think about how far you have to travel through the parking lot to get to the front door.”

The booklet, which can be downloaded free of charge at https://news.pga.org/members/inclusion-guidelines-for-golf-facilities includes several questions in each of four areas: marketing/communications, physical environment, policies and practices and a welcoming staff. The questions, 80 total, cover everything from ensuring non-golfers can understand your written materials, to clear maps and signage, to orientations for new players, identifying who in your community is missing from your course and much more.

Carty said the questions are designed to give you a feel for how others may see your facility, how welcoming they may view it and even how likely they may be to visit and play or want to work there.

“Not many people go to a course by themselves – golf is a game of invitation and that first invitation has power,” she said. “We want to welcome people to the game in an authentic and intentional way so that golf reflects what the U.S. looks like. We want to remember that golf is about the experience. You and your staff may be a part of the story a person tells years later about their first time golfing.”

Maybe a story just like Carty’s.

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