Feb 26, 2024

Building Iron Lady Golf with Lindsay Knowlton

beginner golfers golf tips and tricks podcast

Tori, host of the T-Time with Tori podcast, sat down with Lindsay Knowlton, founder of Iron Lady Golf, to discuss Lindsay's journey in building a golf community for women in Canada.

In this wide-ranging conversation, Lindsay shares how she got into golf herself, building the business from scratch, managing operations and growth, and her vision for the future.

Getting Started with Golf

Like many golfers, Lindsay's start in the sport came from her dad wanting a little golf buddy. Although finding it "boring" and "hard" at first, Lindsay ended up chasing a crush around the golf course one summer and got "really good at golf".

"I have to thank him very much. He's since married another Lindsay, so all is well, but it was really kind of a fun start to the game."

Lindsay went on to play golf at Ohio State University on a golf scholarship for over 4 years. She describes her college golf experience as:

  • "Wild"
  • "Really fun"
  • "Really intense"

With the golf and baseball teams having the longest seasons of any college sports.

A Typical Week

A typical week involved:

  • Practicing golf 6 days a week, 4 hours a day
  • Fitness training 3-4 mornings a week for 1.5-2 hours
  • Travelling every other weekend for tournaments

They would even play 36 holes in one day sometimes, carrying their own bags and getting handed a little brown bag lunch between rounds.

"I mean, it was like 10 hours of golf. So that was a really interesting part."

Transitioning to a Golf Career

After graduating, Lindsay was still an amateur golfer on the Canadian national team. But her parents encouraged her to get a "real job".

She worked in marketing roles at golf companies like TaylorMade and Puma, while continually getting asked by friends and colleagues to help them learn golf for work events or personal reasons.

"I was sitting in Starbucks one day down the street from my house with one of my best friends and I was like, this is crazy. I just wanna help more women say yes to golf."

A stranger listening in validated her idea, saying she was onto something and to give him a call. He worked at a major bank and asked her to give a "lunch and learn" at his office about leaning into discomfort, which included golf analogies.

"That was kind of the beginning of Iron Lady 12 years ago... thanks to this person randomly at Starbucks that heard me talking about, I didn't think, honestly, I wasn't thinking about it from a business perspective."

Building the Iron Lady Golf Community

Lindsay shared how after that first corporate "lunch and learn", she was asked to actually teach a group of women golf.

Having no teaching experience, she enlisted a golf pro to teach while she focused on etiquette and the mental side. At the end, the women asked "now what?". This led Lindsay to start offering monthly golf programs, then getting them out playing on course.

These golf getaways turned into over 50 trips so far.

But Lindsay realized the key ingredient was community - women seeking other beginner female golfers to play with regularly. This led to the creation of weekly 9-hole leagues, partnering with local golf courses.

"It's kind of like a no-brainer on the golf side... You also have us that's running all the organizational administration operations piece of it."

The leagues have grown exponentially, with over 30 locations now across Ontario.

Running Golf Leagues

Here's a high-level overview of how the leagues work:

  • Pay upfront for the season to secure tee times and revenue for the course
  • 12 week seasons, with flexibility to give your spot to a friend if needed
  • Lindsay's team handles all logistics and administration
  • Coaches on site for tips and lessons
  • Virtual training on golf skills, fitness, nutrition and more
  • Social events like club nights, drink nights, game nights
  • Safe environment for beginner and intermediate female golfers

On the back end, Lindsay admits running leagues smoothly is an "operational beast". But after 12 years they've got it systemized, freeing her up to focus on other areas of the business.

Managing Growth

Lindsay emphasizes the importance of starting off doing everything yourself initially:

"I feel like you have to do everything at first... I remember it was really hard to have hard conversations. So what I did was I created Debbie, and Debbie was my fake admin... So that when I had to teach them the next day, it wasn't so awkward."

But over time she's learned to delegate and trust her team to execute programs & events:

"I saw that guess what, everything still ran and, you know, a trip as he was passing away a trip went to Ireland so I couldn't go... And, you know, all of this stuff was happening and I thought, okay, here we go. Like this, this business can still run."

Letting go of control has allowed Lindsay to focus on the next evolution of Iron Lady Golf.

Golf Getaways

In addition to leagues, Iron Lady Golf offers incredible golf trips to destinations across North America and beyond.

Last year they did a staggering 10 trips, but Lindsay intentionally reduced that number this year knowing she has a little one on the way, due March 9th.

"You know, it is great for the game. It's, it's super exciting for the game. And I think that also what did come out of it was the interest that women have in golf. And that being the biggest growth category for the game, which is great."

Even during COVID, with strict lockdowns in Canada, Lindsay got creative - teaching golf online from her living room and using a kitchen spatula for swing practice!

The Role of Social Media

Lindsay admires Tori's use of social media, particularly her bravery talking on camera, as that kind of visibility doesn't come naturally.

She aims to share golf tips and behind-the-scenes of Iron Lady Golf to entertain and educate followers, while avoiding being overly promotional.

Getting the balance right between showcasing their programs and building community is an ongoing effort.

Keys to Growing a Business

Throughout the conversation, Lindsay emphasized some key lessons she's learned over 12 years of entrepreneurship:

  • You have to start somewhere - "I remember my very first trip, I was like, nobody's gonna come."
  • Do everything initially - no task is beneath you in early days
  • Create support systems - whether it's an alter ego to have hard convos or an actual team over time
  • Loosen the grip - learn to delegate and trust others to execute your vision
  • Stay focused - avoid chasing every new idea, get aligned on priorities

By the way, this is sort of this funny little side note, but when I first started this business, and of course you literally are the only person that exists. So you're doing finance, sales, marketing, teaching, like you name it, we're doing it.

Vision for the Future

In 3 years, Lindsay wants Iron Lady Golf leagues and programs to be nationwide across Canada and in 6 locations in the US.

Tori suggested within 2 years based on her obvious passion and momentum!

The ladies also dreamed up an epic Canada πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ vs USA πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ golf trip, rallying 10 top players from each country for a friendly battle abroad. Consider the seed planted.

The One Second Rule

Lindsay's best golf tip for both beginners and experienced golfers is what she calls the One Second Rule - wait an extra beat before lifting your head to see the results of any golf shot.

Keeping your head down helps ensure a full finish and prevents common errors like:

  • Leaving puts short
  • Topping iron shots
  • Pushing or slicing drives

Just think, stay down for one extra second on every shot.

Final Thoughts

In 12 years, Lindsay Knowlton has built Iron Lady Golf into Canada's leading golf community for women. What began as a calling to help more females try golf has grown into a movement of 32 local leagues, over 50 golf trips so far, and an engaged online community.

Lindsay's passion for growing the game comes across clearly, as does her business savvy to systemize operations. She emphasizes starting small, doing everything at first, and learning to delegate over time.

Her goal is to continue expanding leagues and programs for women golfers across Canada and into the US. We have no doubt she'll achieve that vision and keep introducing the sport she fell in love with to new players.

Tori summed it up nicely:

"What you're doing is incredibly special and I know it has helped. Well I, I can see the numbers. It has helped thousands and thousands of women get started in golf."

With a little girl due in March to carry on the "Iron Lady" legacy, we expect big things ahead for Lindsay Knowlton and women's golf!

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