Fore-ward thinking with women-only golf travel company.
Ashlee Ciora was living in downtown Los Angeles when her life coach told her repeatedly, “I see green in your future,” Ciora says.
As senior director for international travel at the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, her work world was upended in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. “Do I stay in L.A., or what?” she asked herself. Ciora called her family in Minnesota and moved back in early 2020. “I had to figure out a new path,” she says, although staying in tourism and hospitality was a given.
“I didn’t really have anything to do, so I played golf with my family,” Ciora says. She grew up in a golfing family, so it was a way to be outdoors, have fun and stay healthy. Ciora also joined the LPGA Amateur Golf Association, Minnesota Metro Chapter, the largest women’s golf organization in the world, and played with local members. She heard those women say, “‘When travel opens up, we want a golf trip,’” she says, and a light came on.
With her background, Ciora immediately thought about a business featuring women’s golf trips. She consulted with other golf and travel experts, and decided the niche was perfect for her.
Women’s golf is big business in the U.S. There were 6.2 million women golfers in 2021, and, last year, $1.53 billion was spent on women’s golf equipment and apparel. There is a meteoric rise in the number of junior women golfers taking up the game.
After doing more research, Ciora learned that there are only about five companies in the country that specialize in women’s golf trips. She founded Women on Fairways LLC, and was soon a solo entrepreneur, developing a concept of experiential trips for women golfers and bootstrapping her business from the ground up.
She’s done everything to get Women on Fairways rolling. Ciora designed her own website, wrote all the copy and built all the pages. She’s also her own public relations person, marketing professional, financial expert and operations leader. “Women want to talk to other women about a golf trip,” she says.
As part of the business model, Ciora puts together Swing and Sip golf experiences—small, escorted golf trips for women. She plans the transportation, activities, golf, shopping, spa time or whatever clients want. “It’s fun, noncompetitive and great for professional women, moms or a group of friends,” she says. “All they have to do is show up with their clubs.”
The trips aren’t just zeroed in on golf (two rounds are scheduled and a third round can be added). It’s that experiential element that sets Women on Fairways apart from men’s golf trips. “With guys, everything is about the golf. They go to Ireland [and] to Scotland. They play all day. They stay out all night then tee off again at 6 a.m.,” says John Glozek, publisher of NYGOLF Magazine. “What women want is beyond the golf. They want dinners, spas, getting together, the entire experience,” he says.
“Ashlee’s timing is perfect for this,” Glozek says, and destinations like Palm Springs, California, and Boyne, Michigan, are prime locales. “Imagine walking around Mackinac Island with a glass of wine at sunset after a day of golf,” he says. “She’s so focused and excited to present these trips.”
Other options include having a golf pro available before tee offs, and offering wellness, yoga and health opportunities during the trips. “Women always want to improve their game, but they also love the 19th hole,” Ciora says, referring to a bit of post-round fun. “We want these trips to be very relaxed, have drinks on the course if desired, take carts and enjoy how good golf is for you,” she says.
The cost for an escorted Women on Fairways trip is based on single and double occupancy and varies depending on the destination and resort. The second focus of Women on Fairways includes nonescorted golf travel trips, for which Ciora still does all the planning and event booking.
As Ciora continues to chart her business, she evaluates golf courses for future trips. “These are not bucket list courses [Pebble Beach or Torrey Pines],” she says. “Those courses are hard to get on, and they are male dominated.” Ciora has specific qualifications she looks for when deciding on a course. Yes, it must be playable, but the amenities are just as important to her. “Off the fairways, I look at the pro shop,” she says. “Does it have a good selection of women’s clothing and gear? What are the carts like? Are the bathrooms great? Is the clubhouse welcoming with good food? I’m not interested in a place has [just] a snack stand.” The resorts, in her estimation, need to be first class with great food, spa amenities and beautiful rooms.
As for the future of Women on Fairways, Ciora plans to offer golf trips for solo travelers and for couples. She’d also like to help design member golf trips for private country clubs. “I want Women on Fairways to be golf and lifestyle,” she says. While a lot of golfers gravitate to Florida, she’d like to book trips to California and Arizona, which provide different experiences than the Orange State.
Speaking of color, evidently, Ciora’s life coach was right. “Now, my life is nature and trees and golf—all green,” she says.
Admittedly, golf sports some of the best fashion options in the athletic world. Ciora shares her favorite styles.
- Pullover hoodies are a must.
- Golf attire translates off the greens, too. Think joggers on and off the course.
- Golf skirts are functional, sporty and classy. She favors navy and white skirts by Puma and Callaway as part of her traditional classic look.
- Leave your handbag at home. Instead, get a wristlet or small makeup bag for essentials.
- Splurge on golf shoes, which must be comfortable and structured to protect golfers from wet and cold surfaces.
While getting her business going takes a tremendous amount of time and travel, Ciora loves spending time with her young nephews and her parents. “Family has been a tremendous support system while I am building a company,” she says. As a Plymouth native who attended Wayzata High School, Ciora loves visiting Minnesota. And her favorite local course? Rush Creek Golf Course in Maple Grove.