A welcome environment is crucial to enticing more women to play golf
Stephen Pitt, the chief executive of Golf Australia, and his team are now addressing a major issue in Australian golf: the rapidly declining number of females in the game at every level.
The national body recently launched a program called “Vision 2025” that targets four areas in an effort to boost female participation. It is commendable and courageous of Golf Australia to take on the challenge of changing the current climate. Commendable in that finally one of our major golf organisations is trying hard to instigate change, and courageous in that this is not an easy fix. There are some giant obstacles to overcome to see improved numbers in female golf.
In order to better understand the complexities of this subject, I asked several female friends who do not play golf for the top reasons keeping them away from the sport. The overriding theme, one consistent with each, is that the game was deemed to be too male-dominated and too restrictive to women. This ultimately led them to believe the game is too intimidating and a general feeling of discomfort when at a golf club or on a golf course.
Many of the concerns women have with golf would be eased if golf clubs simply contained more females, a situation recognised by Golf Australia and now one of their focus areas.
The body has announced it will be committed to increasing female golfer numbers by encouraging more females in board positions, a greater emphasis on top female players inspiring other women to play the game, more females in high-performance coaching roles and a greater focus on marketing and promoting the game to a female audience. These efforts by Golf Australia are respected and appreciated enormously, however golf clubs are the ones that can make the biggest immediate impact.
The major work needs to be done by implementing radical change in golf clubs by creating ways to entice women onto courses. Golf clubs and facilities are the only places females can experience golf; if they don’t feel welcome and it is an arduous and expensive process getting through the door, then it is extremely difficult for them to pick up the game.
A strong message needs to be sent to clubs across the country that it is time for change and a systemic influence from the top is required. General managers, committee members and head professionals need to be committed to change and that means restructuring boards, staff and tradition to make females feel more welcome
Golf clubs and the people in them are the direct point of contact and can hugely affect the experience – good or bad – of female golfers. It’s up to the leaders of golf clubs to guarantee a positive impact on women in the game.
Changing the way people think in clubs is a long-term project, but providing solutions and strategies is what we can do now. One suggestion could be to create an offer across the country where females can access golf clubs for free for a certain period of time. Perhaps it can be introduced as a one-off, limited-time offer whereby females can access their local course and facilities and be offered a discounted joining fee upon completion of the specific timeframe. Perhaps some form of collaboration between Golf Australia and golf clubs across the country is called for.
This would mean clubs agreeing to forgo their normal fees and engaging in an experiment that could significantly boost numbers among female golfers. If we want women to enter the game, we need to find ways for them to try the sport without serious financial commitment. Until there are affordable options, potential female golfers will be lost to other sports and activities.
Well done to Golf Australia for paving the way for change and implementing smart strategies to encourage more females to play golf. Other than continual focus on the No.1 priority – grassroots golf – it will take an initiative from clubs across the country delivering an easy entrance into golf for women and an offer they can’t refuse when it comes to membership. If women feel welcome and comfortable in golf clubs, they are far more likely to become golfers with a lifelong commitment to the sport.