Joanne Mills’ life in golf made her the ideal candidate as Goulburn Golf Club’s new club manager.

Joanne Mills didn’t see herself as the management type. That’s why she was somewhat taken aback when Goulburn Golf Club approached her earlier this year about stepping into the role of general manager.

General managers tend to be accountants or business executives who know how to read a balance sheet, are au fait with corporate governance and have history in laying out 10-year strategic plans. Mills was none of those things. Yet she possessed a quality that Goulburn was craving above all else: golf knowledge.

Her father, Greg Mills, is a former club manager and the first chief executive of Golf NSW. Mills herself was a star amateur, won twice on the Ladies European Tour and won the inaugural Women’s NSW Open in 2006. When she retired from playing full-time, Mills undertook the PGA of Australia’s Tour Professional Articulation – formerly known as the bridging program – and set about building a career as a PGA professional.

She was first based at Pacific Dunes in Port Stephens before moving south to Canberra in 2013 where she reached what she thought was her ultimate ambition, head professional at Gold Creek Country Club.

“Having that position as head pro was one of my ultimate goals, but to step into club management was a little bit out of my wheelhouse,” Mills admitted.

Yet something of a throwaway comment during a Central Southern Golf Association Vets Day led Goulburn Golf Club representatives to approach Mills with a formal offer.

“Goulburn hadn’t really had any management the past few years, so they were struggling a bit on the golf side,” Mills explains. “Being a golfer for so long, they felt like I might be a good fit.

“They just really wanted someone with golf experience. The board have their own strengths in terms of keeping the club running, but they wanted me for my golf experience.

“They want me to increase the membership size, attract events to the club, generate income through club activities and trying to source some major amateur or professional events. I know that is something that I can help out with organising. I know how a golf event runs and if we’re going to attract major events to Goulburn, we need that experience to know how to prepare for that.”

That knowledge base was expanded by completing the Tour Professional Articulation to become a fully qualified PGA professional. In addition to providing the opportunity to teach, it gave Mills an insight into golf operations that she would not otherwise have had access to.

“The bridging course gives you a little bit of all aspects of the golf industry, whether you want to coach, run a shop or you have your own business,” Mills says. “The Membership Pathway Program as it is set up now is great in that it offers the choice of what pathway you want to take. I didn’t have that back in 2011, but those coming through now can set more of a direction in terms of the path they want to follow. I had the ability to touch on everything and I think you need a bit of everything to be able to run a pro shop.

“If I had concentrated solely on the coaching side of the bridging course there’s no way I would have been able to manage the head professional position at Gold Creek. I wouldn’t have possessed the knowledge around management of staff, the retail side of the business and dealing with members.”

With each day she spends in the chair, Mills is becoming more and more confident that she has the necessary skills to guide Goulburn towards a positive future. She intends to engage local resident Peter O’Malley more, Brett Ogle is returning in November for the Brett Ogle Junior Masters where 120 kids will take part and there are programs Mills wants to introduce to further engage the Goulburn community. Quite simply, she wants to see more people playing more golf.

“Each day I’m getting a better idea of where I’m going and what I want to achieve,” Mills says. “There are people out there, we’ve just got to go and find them and introduce them to the game of golf. That’s why I’m here, to come up with all of these ideas of how we can increase numbers and membership but also social rounds and bookings for functions.

“It’s been a big learning curve but I’m learning every day and embracing the change into the management side of the club.” 

• The PGA Learning Hub offers numerous educational training opportunities for people who wish to work within the golf industry. For more information on a PGA career pathway, visit