The ladies first club will offer free golf lessons, activities and full rounds of golf.

Trailblazing individual and teams championships are just the start of the game-changing women’s golf strategy being orchestrated by Golf Saudi.

by Kent Gray
With a $1 million purse luring a stellar cast to the Kingdom’s first ever professional women’s golf event, the Aramco Saudi Ladies International couldn’t help but create global headlines.

And then Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation doubled-down on their commitment to the Ladies European Tour. And tripled-down on their pledge that golf will become a game-changer for women across Saudi Arabia.

The result is an innovative $500,000 Saudi Teams International (Nov.17-19), complete with unique NFL-style draft system, bolted onto the already pioneering 72-hole event scheduled for Nov. 12-15. But the legacy of this month’s Saudi Women’s Golf Week will extend far beyond the fairways and final leaderboards at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

Golf has been chosen as a vehicle to help Saudi Arabia achieve its “Vision 2030” socio-economic goals so the real winners shape as a nation of women overcoming traditional gender barriers.

Golf Saudi has unveiled a ‘Ladies First Club’, an initiative that will offer complimentary membership – inclusive of golf lessons, driving range access and full 18-hole rounds – to local women. The initial membership intake will be capped at 1,000 registrants.

“[This] is our most exciting initiative yet aimed at developing the great game of golf across Saudi Arabia and is the ideal way to celebrate the historic nature of the Kingdom’s first ever women’s golf tournament, the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund,” said Golf Saudi CEO Majed Al Sorour.

Golf Saudi CEO Majed Al Sorour

Players signed-up to the scheme will receive a digital ‘Introduction to Golf’ education pack providing access to monthly seminars outlining the key aspects of golf for beginners. Each of the three golf courses in the scheme – Riyadh Golf Club, Dirab Golf Club and Royal Greens – will also host a monthly golf clinic which will conclude with an on-course induction for all participants and a chance to play 18-holes.

Full range access will then remain available to all members of the club, with the programme’s top 12 performers being offered a full, year-round membership at their course of their choice.

Golf Saudi later rolled out a video series featuring five trailblazing Saudi women to underline the landmark nature of this month’s golf events.

Mariam Fardous, the first Saudi and just the third woman ever to scuba dive deep into Arctic waters in 2015, is delighted to be part of the push to put young Saudi women on their very first 1st tee.

“I hope to be a source of inspiration for women, especially girls who don’t believe that we can achieve the impossible,” she said. ”I imagine that our vision, and the fact we have achieved something, will make girls see that they can overcome anything and achieve their dreams, and that they can think outside of the box in creative ways. We can be poster women for our country.

Our two tournaments will be only the second and third international, professional women-only sports events to be held in our country. We feel that’s something of incredible impact…

“These famous golfers who are coming to Saudi Arabia have certainly had their own difficulties, but we can see how they’ve managed to succeed and how they were able to make their own mark in life. They are all great achievers. I’m so excited to learn more about golf here in Saudi Arabia, in my own country, and see these inspirational female athletes compete.”

Sara Salhab, 27, who plays regularly with friends at Dirab G.C., is one young local grateful to have discovered the royal and ancient game.

“Golf is a very nice sport that works both your mind and your body and you’re outdoors in greenery, which is great, especially here. I really enjoy it. More women should play because it is very healthy, you get to be outdoors and it’s a social activity that, with the Ladies First Club, is more accessible than ever.”

With the likes of Solheim Cuppers Georgia Hall and Charley Hull joining LET legends Dame Laura Davies and Trish Johnson and Golf Saudi ambassadors Amy Boulden and Camilla Lennarth at Royal Greens, the top flight golf will take care of itself. But the last word goes to Al Sorour who is just as inspired by the deeds of Saudi’s Famous Five: Fardous; Nelly Attar, the founder of Saudi Arabia’s first dance studio, Move Riyadh; Maram Al Butairi, General Manager of the Eastern Flames, the Kingdom’s first female football team; and DJ Cosmicat.

“…We are highlighting the pioneering Saudi women who have helped make these tournaments possible,” he said with a nod to the video series.

“It is our honour to have these exceptional women encapsulate the ethos of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF – and the excitement around it – in this way.”