What’s right and wrong with women’s golf.

WOMEN’S sport has never been in a better place, with the recent surge in exposure and promotion across all platforms. Except, unfortunately, for golf.

Women’s AFL, cricket and rugby are being embraced and supported in all facets, including significant financial support, which leads to increased participation at every level. There are several aspects of women’s amateur and professional golf making it challenging for women to enter and stay in the game.

To encourage new golfers to the game, there must be innovative initiatives developed that perhaps forgo golf for other sports and activities. Currently blockages exist that need rectifying.

There are some gaping holes in terms of support for the elite and young female professional golfers:

1. There is no government support to launch golfers at an elite or introductory level. A handful of elite amateur golfers receive financial help from the federal and state governments, but there are no government initiatives or handouts to golf bodies like Australian Ladies Professional Golf to help grow the game. When golf is a game for young, old and all levels, it is of the utmost importance that the Australian Government supports the sport, not only for its merits as a great game on a competitive level but also for health reasons and keeping as many golf courses open as possible for environmental reasons. The lack of government support also means a lot of talented golfers in Australia go to waste, as they can’t afford to travel overseas and spend extended periods playing tournaments. This is 100 percent necessary to have any chance of making the grade.

2. The older, more successful golfers don’t sponsor the young. In other countries, the veteran professionals take the initiative to look after the up-and-comers. This does not mean asking tour pros to make themselves available all the time, but there could be formal channels created by bodies to create and establish an ongoing mentorship program.

3. Big companies are not sponsoring the women’s game. At a time when the media and society are really getting behind women in sport, it is shocking that golf is left in the dark. Why not women’s golf? Women’s golf is very relatable to the average male amateur in terms of how far they hit the ball. Although there is more buzz than there was 20 years ago, there is still plenty of room for improvement in terms of gaining more exposure.

Grassroots golf is one place to get more girls into the game.
Grassroots golf is one place to get more girls into the game.
Several areas of club golf could do with an overhaul as well.

1. The current club format means female player numbers are diminishing. Clubs must start adjusting programs to cater for working women. In generations gone by, it was commonplace for women to be “stay-at-home mothers”. This is not the case in 2017 and what worked in the old days does not work now. Change needs to occur in the club membership structure to cater for the working woman. This means introducing membership categories that appeal to working women and instruction and playing programs that assist improvement and enjoyment.

2. Encourage junior programs and make space for them in the playing field. Local primary and secondary schools need to be approached and offered golf clinics at their local golf club or facility. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of grassroots-level golf. This pool is where we will discover our champions and also bring many more girls and young women to the game.

3. Short-term memberships, like gyms use, need to be introduced to entice fence-sitters: 12-month memberships for people that move around or don’t see the value in a membership if they can only play golf sporadically. Adjusting regulations around reciprocal rights should be altered as they currently only cater for a very small number of people. This system could be adjusted to create more freedom for travelling golfers that are already members at clubs to get the most value out of their membership.

4. It’s time for archaic rules and regulations at clubs to go and the social side of golf boosted with fun and attractive offerings. After all, women are social creatures, so create a “Wine and Nine” and other such initiatives to bring them together. Women should not be treated differently to men at golf clubs. This means providing the same amount of opportunities to play and fully embracing the female membership.

5. Introduce “Feel good golf”, a system – played in the United States – where you give yourself a point when you hit a great shot. There needs to be greater focus on the enjoyment of the game and the health and fitness side, rather than solely on the competitive side of the sport. Golf is an extremely challenging game and there must be certain times when the score isn’t everything.

Overall, females of all ages play a pivotal role in the future of golf and although there are a number of organisations, like the ALPG, doing their utmost to boost the game for females, we need to see a whole lot more support at every level. With golf clubs closing all the time and more old men dying than young men joining clubs, female golfers could be the saviour of the game. So let’s look after the future and address some of the current drawbacks.

  Annabel Rolley is an Australian golf professional and host of Australian Golf Digest TV www.annabelrolley.com