Single golfer seeks Stableford relationship . .

 

IN FOCUS GOLF DATING:IN MANY a golf club, hither and thither, there can be an element of luck – or misfortune – about who you get paired with in the weekly competition. In her own way, Aoife Cooling, a Dublin-based businesswoman with a penchant for golf, would like to be the matchmaker who ensures everyone finds the perfect (golfing?) partner. She’d love to take luck out of the equation, writes PHILIP REID

If there was a time, especially during those days of the Celtic Tiger, when it seemed Irish business was conducted on the golf course as much as in the office, Cooling – who has come up with the idea of a dating agency for single people who golf – would like to see networking of a different kind being conducted on the nation’s fairways.

Cooling, who has worked as a wedding photographer before branching out and developing this socialising concept, has set up an agency – Fairway Friends (www.fairwayfriends.ie) – that has golf as the focal point in allowing like-minded people to meet.

“I just felt it would be a great way for people to meet and get to know each other. Blind dates can be so daunting, but at least this way people can spend a few hours meeting in a more relaxed environment on a golf course.”

So, it would seem, the kittens of the Celtic Tiger have a new playground. Could this be the new speed-dating? A rival to online dating? A legitimate excuse to use the country’s fairways and greens for a series of chat-up lines? For Cooling, an avid golfer and member of The Hibernian, based at Citywest, who first took up the sport as a 12-year-old at Courtown in Co Wexford where she spent annual summer holidays, the move to setting up the members club using golf as the tool to introduce people came about after hearing how daunted some friends felt about going on blind dates.

“My idea is to build up a community of golfers based on a number of golf outings throughout the year, ranging from pitch and putt to playing some of the top courses in the country,” she explained.

The outings are based on four-balls, two men and two women in each, with anything up to 60 players involved.

“Golf’s an ideal tool for getting out and mixing. In our outings so far, some people have come on their own, others have come with a friend . . . . but we like to break them up, maybe have them playing in the group ahead of the friend they’re with, so that they’re not too far out of their comfort zone.”

Although most of the interest so far has come from people in their 20s and 30s, Cooling believes there is tremendous scope for older players who are “widowed or separated” to join and, as such, the club is aimed at singles of all ages.

“It’s for people from 18 to 80. It can be hard to meet people, and a lot of people don’t like the pub or club scene.”

Registration for membership is done online, but Cooling and her team will follow up with confidential phone calls to ensure a personal touch (“we know most people don’t like filling out forms”) that potential “dates” are set up based beyond the initial questionnaire to allow age, ability, other interests and location to be taken into account.

“It’s aimed at people of any age and any golf level. Our goal is to create a community where relationships and friendships will grow.”

An example of the kind of outings organised include an upcoming nine-hole (aimed at experienced golfers) at Howth Golf Club, while another outing, for beginners, will take in the pitch and putt course close to Willie Fox’s in Glencullen followed by a social evening.

Golf dating sites are common in the United States and, ironically, it was while attending the Masters at Augusta one year that Cooling first proposed setting up such a site in Ireland. However, her first love, photography, meant she didn’t have the time to follow up on that idea until now, having given up her photographic career to pursue this social networking concept.

“Unlike other dating websites, we don’t ask our members to submit a public profile. All information is private and we ensure they’re paired with other members that have a similar profile and requests. The fact that groups go out in fours, two men and two women, provides the opportunity for a potential romantic interest and you’re also introduced to two other golfers who could become very good friends. It’s not so much a blind date as a getting together.

“With mixed groups of four, there is less pressure and would not feel so much like a blind date. It’s fun, instead of scary.”

Cooling aims to appeal to existing golfers in search of new relationships but also hopes to attract beginners. Indeed, she will organise group lessons with an Irish PGA professional and will even arrange to hire clubs out to those who would like to use the fairways as a new way of getting our and meeting people.

“We’ve selected some of our outings for courses aimed at beginners and improvers . . . but also included some of the country’s top courses, links and parkland.”

Regardless of age or size or golfing ability, Cooling has a piece of advice for all members. “Go in with an open mind. This is a blind date. If you set your expectations too high, you may be disappointed. We’d all like the tall, dark handsome man with plenty of money or the blonde bombshell but that is not always the reality. Give everyone a chance, and you might be surprised!”