The split between the number of women and men playing golf on a regular basis is closing each year, and this decade could mark the beginning of a major change in the sport.
This might be coming later than most will have hoped, but there is almighty progress being made in regards to the female game.
Traditional or many might say outdated attitudes, have, for many years seen women sometimes put off teeing off. As recently as 2016 years ago, the historic Muirfield Golf Club, 16-times a host of the Open Championships adopted a strict ‘men only’ policy.
Thankfully, that ruling came to an end after the venue was stripped of hosting of the 2017 event having originally defied calls to retract this 228-year-old rule.
Muirfield’s change of heart might just have removed the last of the blockers in the way of women’s golf.
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COVID pandemic marked a dramatic shift
The signs are there that appeal of golf is beginning to transcend gender. The Royal and Ancient reported that 25% of British female golfers were actually trying the sport for the first time during the COVID pandemic – that’s a big chunk of new blood on the greens in the last couple of years.
To put that into bare figures, American Golf reported that 1.5 million women played at least one round of golf in 2020, three times the number of the previous year.
To take it one step further, on a global scale, Golf Digest suggested that 25% of golfers that year were women. Compare that to the 15% of UK golfers who were women in 2019, and it’s clear that progress is being made.
Taking a look around the UK in particular, it’s clear to see that the direction of travel for the sport has changed for the better in a number of areas.
What’s being done to attract women to the sport?
More women golfers mean more tee times booked, more interest in the sport, and ultimately more money pumped into the game – that can only be a good thing.
Encouragingly many organisations and individuals are seeing the need to attract more people to the game, particularly from lesser represented demographics.
But what, specifically is being done?
A changing of attitudes
The impression that golf is a game for rich men is changing. Firstly, the belief that the sport is reserved for the middle and upper classes has slowly ebbed away, and now the golf world appears to be coming around to the idea that the sport is for everyone, albeit far too late.
Muirfield’s U-turn after the backlash against its old ruling may have been the catalyst for change among golf clubs. While few will have had such stringent rules about women becoming members, venues are now actively recruiting women to its membership base.
Many have signed up the R&A’s ‘Women in Golf Charter’ which sets targets on local and national institutions towards levelling out the gender imbalance in regards to membership figures.
Some clubs offer discounted membership for women in a bid to increase numbers, while others put on special ‘women only’ days and offer special events for its female customers.
England Golf is on a mission to improve the rather disappointing figure of 15% of all club members being female with a number of initiatives.
Girls Golf Rocks is a campaign targeting 7-14 year-olds and claims to have introduced over 5,000 girls to the sport.
The body is determined to ride on the back of the success of its ‘Get Into Golf’ programme which reported that 40% of its participants were females.
Other organisations are getting involved in promoting the women’s game too. Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ presented girls with the window into the sport that they might not ordinarily have investigated.
Female golf influencers
Like it or loathe it, the world of influencers has the ability to do exactly that – influence. ‘Personalities’ on Instagram, TikTok and other social media accounts hold huge sway with their often-enormous follower base.
One in particular, ‘The Jazzy Golfer’, has made it her mission to increase the awareness of, and interest in, the women’s game.
With over 56,000 followers on Instagram, she set out to get more women into golf. And through the creation of the UK Women’s Golf Community, has organised dozens of meetups for female golfers across the country. She is just one of a number of women who play golf, using the power of social media to pull in more golfers.
Continuing the trend
Of course, the progress being made by the sport is admirable, but the pressure is on for golf to continue to attract more women to its greens.
Two-hundred-year-old rules have all-but been abolished across the country preventing women from joining and now golfing institutions are recognising the need for more female golfers.
The upward curve looks encouraging and so long as the enthusiasm remains, it’s hard not to see the male-dominated world of golf changing further over the next few years.