I needed a new driver. My professional playing days on the LPGA were long behind me, and my ability to swing the club at 100-plus mph had diminished. The stiff shaft in my TaylorMade JetSpeed was too much for me to handle, and I wanted a new driver that I could swing confidently again.
So, I walked into a large golf superstore, approached an associate, and asked him to show me some new drivers as I was in the market for one. He glanced at me quickly and said, “We have some great new women’s drivers that came in.”
I entertained him as he walked me to the tiny women’s golf section, and showed me two new drivers that they had in stock. “Here,” he said, handing me a club with a pink shaft and grip, “You might like this one.”
“Sure, I’ll give it a try,” I responded, and we strolled over to the indoor simulator.
I set up to the ball, did my hip waggle, and true to Anya form swung hard. The ball flared way right according to the simulator, but my swing speed surprisingly clocked in at 98mph. I looked at the sales associate, and he said, “You might need a stiffer shaft.”
For women who go into golf stores or search for clubs on the internet, the experience of how they’re treated in the store or marketed to can feel patronizing. Sales associates at stores or pros at golf courses often assume that female customers are either beginners, like pink, or aren’t strong enough to swing certain clubs.
Teal, purple, and pink are dominant colors that women can select from, and because of this, it can feel like, “Why am I being singled out this way and why are these my only options?”
Currently, women make up a little over 20 percent of the golfing population. It has remained stagnant for some time. But according to the National Golf Foundation, 48 percent of women want to learn how to play the game. This is a huge market opportunity for club manufacturers, golf courses, and golf stores to activate that base by looking at women in a different light: we’re not all damsels in distress who want to be covered in pink and glitter.
If you have a woman come into your facility, don’t make assumptions about her tastes or ability. Instead, take the time to ask her questions:
- How long have you been playing?
- What are your goals?
- Do you have a preference with style?
These three simple questions will show that you aren’t making assumptions about her preferences and skill levels simply because of her gender. And I cannot tell you how many times I have spoken with women who were simply turned off to golf because of the lack of options presented to them, and how only “women’s clubs” were deemed suitable for them.
So when it comes to equipment, stop gendering it. Don’t pander women with stereotypes. We’re not one-trick ponies who gleefully buy stuff simply because you “shrink it and pink it.”
For comparison, when the NFL started offering women’s apparel the clothing was often not in the team colors, but as you guessed it, pink. The clothing was also often adorned in sequins and sparkles. When the NFL started offering more apparel options that didn’t fall into the trope of the stereotypical woman, the increase of women shoppers went up 40 PERCENT.
And as Bridget Brennan, author of Why She Buys, said, “Pink is not a strategy unless you’re raising money for breast cancer research. Marketing to women is all about being inclusive. That doesn’t mean excluding men; it means excluding stereotypes.”
For women, we certainly do want products made for us in mind. However, we also want choices. Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women, pointed to how the lack of choices can lead women to feel hostile towards a company.
“When pink is a color women can choose, they will choose it. When it is the only color that isn’t the ‘normal’ one, women will not choose it. They don’t want it forced on them,” Barletta said.
Ultimately, women want to be treated like serious consumers and not like afterthoughts. If the golf equipment industry begins to take the time to truly understand that women are diverse in their likes and interests, they might actually want to play golf.
As for the new driver I decided to purchase, I ultimately gave my money to a place that did not make assumptions based on my ability or my tastes: I gave my money to a place that made the effort to look at me holistically as a consumer and as a golfer.
So my take? It’s time that golf equipment and golf stores start treating all female consumers like golfers, not like women who happen to play golf.