Women can change the fortunes of golf
Go to any golf club today and the chat among older members will invariably be about the fact that young men are no longer visible at their club. And, by young, we’re not talking university students, but men under 40. Cycling has seduced them away from golf, is the main complaint, as has membership costs, and greater family commitments than the older generation faced at that age.
However, when you look around the 19th holes of clubs, another group is also missing from the room. It’s women golfers. Golf clubs have missed a trick in this country by not making a greater effort to embrace more women into the game and give them access to courses whenever they wish to play.
It’s a worldwide problem too. A global study has shown that women account for just 24 percent of golfers worldwide – in South Africa it’s more like 12 percent.The study, presented at the HSBC Golf Business Forum, concludes that increased female participation could add $35 billion to the global golf economy.
The beauty of golf is that it is a natural fit for men, women and children.Yet the fact that it continues to remain a maledominated sport in the 21st century is holding back growth among women. Many have good reason to believe that Golf still stands for “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.”
Women are drawn to golf for various reasons other than trying to master the game – spending time with family and friends in a relaxed outdoor environment being one of them.The study found that 29 percent of non-golfing females and lapsed players were interested in taking up the game. And, women are 38 percent more likely than men to bring children to golf, which indicates that increased female participation would significantly boost the number of juniors taking up the game.
But do male and female golfers have to coexist at the same golf club in a manner that befits an old fashioned marriage rather than a modern one? The mistake made years ago was to presume that women would be forever happy to play second fiddle at what were essentially “men’s” golf clubs, and not put up a fuss when their tee times were haphazardly taken away and given to corporates. Maybe they should be given a turn in charge?
An interesting story came to my attention in Australian Golf Digest about McLeod Country GC in Brisbane. Nothing about the name gives away the fact that it is one of the world’s few golf clubs governed by women. It was founded in 1968 with 163 inaugural women members who had the unanimous conviction that they were no longer prepared to put up with being bossed around at a men’s club where they had no say and were only allowed to play on certain days. There was a groundswell among women golfers to establish a club of their own, and they developed their course amidst a real estate development. Today, McLeod is a mixed club, with only 40 percent female membership, but they make 100 percent of the decisions, running the club and having access to the tee times they want.
Further investigation reveals the Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto, founded in 1926 in Canada. Men were welcome from the start, just not as members or, in the early days, in the clubhouse. They still don’t get the best tee times, and the original men’s locker room was in the basement below the pro shop – a pro shop, incidentally, which is packed with women’s golf equipment and apparel. But the women never tried to make their club a statement or protest, but rather a nice place for them to play.
The message out there is that millions of women worldwide are interested in taking up golf. It’s time that the golf industry began to listen.