Breaking Barriers: How Shella Sylla is Revolutionizing Women’s Golf in Birmingham

How Shella Sylla is Revolutionizing Women’s Golf in Birmingham

Shella Sylla moved to Birmingham in 2013 with two plans: to be closer to her sister and to launch a company that teaches women how to use golf to get ahead in business. 

Settling in with family went well. But trying to get people to understand the concept of SisterGolf, her new professional and business development company, was a struggle for the former bank executive from Miami, who learned to play golf to improve her sales on a work team made up of all men. 

When she attended events and meetings to spread the word about SisterGolf in Birmingham, people were confused about her business. Was she a golf instructor? Was she a nonprofit? Was she solely focused on teaching Black women how to play golf?

She didn’t let the questions deter her. Since she was new in town, she worked to build her foundation. She also improved the messaging of her website content, which underwent four redesigns. 

She had to remain strong when she set up her vendor table at events because some women turned away at the mere mention of golf. “I’m not being facetious. They would turn around and sprint away like there’s the plague,” Sylla said. “I had a few people come over and say, ‘I could never do that,’ or ‘That’s just not for me.’”

There was so much fear and intimidation around golf and women that it shocked Sylla. 

But she knew this was something people needed in the Birmingham area. In late 2013-early 2014, she posted on social media that she was hosting an informational meeting on how women can play golf in business. To her surprise, a lot of women attended. That meeting is what gave her the impetus to continue. 

There was interest. She just needed to get the word out more. 

Sylla forged a relationship with Highland Park Golf Course in Birmingham and started doing post-work events and Saturday morning sessions that attracted more women. She then offered a four-week golf education workshop at Innovation Depot, covering golf etiquette, scoring, what to wear, golf terminology, golf rules, how to set a tee time, etc. Several women who had been going to the golf course with their spouses for years told Sylla that her course taught them more than their husbands knew. 

“That made me feel like I was definitely bringing value,” Sylla said, adding she is now working on offering a digital online class later this month. In April 2024, she will return with her group golf lessons. On March 20, she will host a monthly webinar for SisterGolf members. She also works with companies and organizations in providing workshops, which are open to women of all races.

“Every time I felt like giving up, I got a call the next day from someone or ran into someone who said, ‘Shella, thank you so much. I used this and it helped me in this fashion.’ Or ‘I just played in my first tournament by myself, and I connected with a CEO…'” she said. 

Most of her workshops are held at Highland Park Golf Course. Practice sessions are held at area golf courses with public access. And because golf can be an expensive sport, Sylla offers resources on where women can find deals on golf clothes and discounts on equipment. 

“I still feel like I’m on a journey and there is more to go,” she said.