It’s no secret that business is often conducted on the golf course rather than in the office this time of year, and one local group is encouraging women to use that to their advantage.

The Des Moines chapter of Executive Women’s Golf Association began in 1995, just four years after the national organization was founded. Diane Stahle, one of the founding members of the local chapter, says the group continues to be an important resource for professional women.

“One of the appealing things to me about the EWGA is that it is really geared towards women who want to use golf in business,” said Stahle, a division director in the Iowa attorney general’s office.

When Stahle joined the EWGA, women were not mixing golf with business as frequently as men, and it seemed they were missing out on business opportunities because of it.

“Certainly, 10 years ago, it was very unusual for women to be included on the golf course in business outings,” Stahle said.” I think a lot of women realized that there was business being conducted on the golf course that they were left out of, and this was a way for them to break that barrier.”

The Des Moines chapter of the EWGA, one of more than 100 chapters nationally, has about 100 members. The only other Iowa chapter is based in the Quad Cities. According to Mary Knueven, president of the Des Moines group, people join the EWGA for several reasons. Some like the networking and social Opportunity; other want to hone their golf skill or learn More about course etiquette before they play at business Outing. Other members are new to golf and want to take advantage of the beginners’ instruction offered through the group’s golf pro, Sarah Ward from West Grand Golf.

Knueven, the executive administrator of affiliate relations for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, said networking was the main reason she got involved five years ago. She learned to golf as an adult, and said she continues to learn something new about the game each week.

“There is so much to learn about golf, and the group offers a comfortable environment for people to gain experience,” Knueven said.

“I find everybody willing to talk about their profession. I know there have been many business transactions made during our weekly games, and you keep in touch with people during the off season and call on them for business and social purposes.”

Des Moines EWGA members come from a variety of occupations, including attorneys, real estate agents and bankers, and range in age from their 20s to their 70s, Kneuven said. The group divides golfers into two categories: the birdie league for experienced golfers, and the par league for beginners. Members pay dues of $90, $150 or $250 to the national organization based on the level of membership benefits they choose, in additon to green fees at local courses.

Valencia McCown, the club’s treasurer and a member since 1995, takes advantage of some of the benefits of the national organization whenever possible, particularly the discounts she can get at golf courses around the country. She also calls on out-of-state members of the EWGA when she travel for work or pleasure.

“When I travel, I can call up a member of the EWGA in any place I’m going and get in some golf,” McCown said. “It gives me the chance to network with women outside Des Moines.”

McCown, an assistant attorney general for the State of Iowa, has met top-ranked women golfers at various events on behalf of the EWGA, such as the Hyvee Classic, a tournament played in Central Iowa each year as part of the Women’

On Monday, the Des Moines chapter of the EWGA will begin its weekly league, which continues through mid-August. Having a scheduled tee time each week, either on Monday nights at Willow Creek Golf Course or Tuesday nights at Copper Creek Golf Course in

“If you belong to an organization like this, it makes you get out there,” she said. “Otherwise you can just keep putting it off and never go. Before I joined, I wasn’t playing with any consistency.”

Wynn Wakers, the social chairperson for the Des Moines chapter of EWGA, joined six years ago to play more golf and meet new people. She has been playing the sport since she was 6 years old, but she wasn’t playing regularly until she joined a local lea

“I was playing in a league where you play with the same foursome each week, and what I like about the EWGA is that you play with the same partner each week, but you’re paired with a different twosome on league nights,” Waiters said. “I love to meet people and make new friends.”

Walters, an investment assistant for Piper Jaffray Cos., helps plan activities for members besides the weekly league rounds. At least once a month in the summer, the group gets together for dinner or drinks, and programs are occasionally offered in the off-season, such as how to get in shape for Golf through yoga. During the season, members get together once a month for weekend outings to out-of-town Golf courses such as the Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City or The Harvester Golf Club near Rhodes. This year, the group is adding weekly tee times on Saturdays at The Legacy Golf Club in Norwalk for any member who wants to play.

“It’s a lot of fun to play at these other courses outside of the weekly golf league, because you get a chance to get out to a course you wouldn’t normally play on, and your score doesn’t have anything to do with league standings, “Walters said.

The EWGA also provides a competitive outlet for its members. The top finishers from the local chapter championships advance to the Midwest championships, and winners from there go on to higher-ranking tournaments. Stahle said she never would have played in tournaments had she not joined the EWGA.

“Previously, if someone told me I was going to play in a golf tournaments, I would have said, ‘No way,'” Stahle said. “But this organization has taught me that I can compete.”

Not only has Waiters sharpened her golf skills since joining the group, she is encouraged by seeing fellow members’ confidence grow as they become better players.

“There are really a lot of great women golfers who can hold their own on the golf course, “Walters said. “I listen to these women who work for big companies, and it sounds like more and more of them are going on golf outings with men, which is great, because it had been such a male-dominated sport for so long.”