A few weeks ago, we asked you—more specifically, our female readers—to take our women’s golf survey. Our goal was to learn more about our female readers, their experience with fitting and how they perceive the options (or lack thereof) available to them. We were also looking for some insight into how we might do a better job providing information to the fastest-growing segment of golfers.
Our standard surveys receive upwards of 10,000 responses. This survey received 778 responses of which 147 of those were disqualified because the respondent wasn’t a woman. If nothing else, we learned there is opportunity.
Before we dive into the charts, here are a few notes from the demographic section.
- The highest female participation group by age includes golfers between 55 and 64 followed by 25 to 34. Between 35 and 54, participation drops by a few percentage points.
- Women were significantly less likely to answer the annual household income question than men. Nearly 25 percent preferred not to answer.
- Nearly 25 percent of respondents don’t maintain a handicap index. Among those who do, the highest percentage have indexes between 15.1 and 20 followed by the 25.1 and higher group.
- The highest percentage (23 percent) plays 11 to 25 rounds per year. Nearly 13 percent play more than 100.
Women are often cited as the fastest-growing segment in golf and, with a COVID-driven uptick in participation, we wanted to see what that looks like.
- Just over 28 percent (the largest group in the survey) have been playing for more than 20 years.
- 27 percent have played golf for five to 10 years.
- Nearly 13 percent have played for 16 to 20 years.
- New golfers (those who have played for less than 3 years) account for nearly 20% of the population of female golfers.
I suspect that if we asked men this question, we’d probably see a different result.
- The majority of women (nearly 70 percent) report “fun” as the primary objective.
- 16 percent list “playing competitively.”
- Just over one percent list “networking” as their primary reason for playing.
The female members on our staff were curious and, seeing how engaged the women at my club are with league play, I was, too.
- 57 percent of women say they don’t play in leagues.
- Perhaps notable: nearly half also report playing at a public course where league options aren’t as prevalent as private and semi-private clubs.
- Nearly 40 percent participate in outdoor leagues.
- Three percent play in both indoor and outdoor leagues with the former likely being predominantly in cold-weather climates.
With that out of the way, let’s move to the juicy part of our survey where we dig into fitting and a bit more about the equipment that female golfers are using.
- I’ll admit to being pleasantly surprised here. Nearly 52 percent of respondents have been fitted for something in their bags.
- At 20 percent, off-course shops account for the highest percentage. The majority of “other” answers fell into the off-course category as well, so the actual percentage is likely a bit higher still.
- Nineteen percent were fitted on-course.
- Manufacturer demo days account for 10 percent.
- Custom fitting chains (Club Champion, Cool Clubs, True Spec and TXG) account for a much smaller percentage (about 10 percent combined) than they do with male golfers.
- Big box (DICK’S, Golf Galaxy and PGA TOUR Superstore) also account for about 10 percent of fittings combined.
This question (and your answers) speaks directly to the challenges facing club manufacturers and likely fitters, too. How do you find the right balance between speaking directly to women without overtly pandering or giving the appearance that you’re treating them differently than men?
- The good news is that 72 percent of respondents felt their fitter was focused on their specific needs.
- Twenty-six percent feel they weren’t shown enough women-specific options.
NPS scores can be difficult to quantify. Generally speaking, anything above 0 is considered OK. That said, looking at irons and driver satisfaction surveys, the average Net Promoter Score was 36. When we’ve asked about brand satisfaction, the top-rated brands achieve Net Promoter Scores above 50. So, while technically 9 isn’t terrible, by comparison, it suggests that women are generally less satisfied with their fitting experience than their male counterparts.
As we did with our most recent driver and iron satisfaction surveys, we asked golfers who were fitted whether they decided to buy the clubs they were fitted for.
- Nearly 60 percent of respondents ultimately bought the clubs they were fitted for.
- As with the men, the majority who didn’t buy (51 percent) said the performance benefits didn’t justify the cost.
- There was an even split between golfers who felt the fitter recommended the wrong club(s) and those who felt the cost was too high.
With the fitting stuff covered, we wanted to know a bit more about not only the equipment women are playing but some of there perceptions of that equipment.
- 54 percent play women’s clubs or clubs marketed specifically to women.
- 34 percent play what are typically considered men’s clubs.
This again speaks to the challenges of the women’s market. The need for gendered clubs likely has less to do with performance and design attributes and more to do with the individual woman buying the club.
- 42 percent play a Tour-level ball.
- 28 percent play a “women’s” ball.
Again, what’s the right approach for a company to take? There’s absolutely nothing from a design perspective that makes a golf ball a “women’s” golf ball. Just like male golfers, performance-driven women are likely going to choose a Tour ball and preference-driven women are going to play something based on that preference.
Once upon a time, that preference was soft but the Precept Lady spawned the Laddie and now everyone offers a soft ball. More often than not, what makes a ball a women’s ball is the color—and that color is typically some shade of pink.
This one came from our female staffers and, while admittedly the list could have been a thousand options long, we wanted to focus on some of the things we’d heard from women in the past.
- 30 percent don’t buy women’s equipment.
- 26 percent feel there’s too much emphasis on color.
- 11 percent feel the marking is manipulative and that women’s products aren’t really designed for women—which is mostly true.
- 20 percent are completely satisfied.
- Among those who selected “other”, there were two interesting trends:
- Many noted the lack of women’s options, especially compared to what’s marketed to men.
- Several respondents said their husbands buy or build their clubs or that they get the hand-me-downs.
Given that many women feel short-changed by the market itself, we wondered how they perceived the quality of what is available to them.
A single bullet point tells a compelling story.
- 64 percent of respondents believe current women’s offerings are of lower quality than men’s.
That’s probably not true but it speaks to a belief that not a lot of effort goes into women’s offerings. That’s a double-edged sword because, frankly, women’s offerings shouldn’t require much effort. Other than some changes to stock length and flex based on the average female physique, there shouldn’t be much to do. Should you paint it to look like something different? Some women clearly want that while the same approach for others reeks of pandering.
This is another question driven by our female staff members who are decidedly not satisfied with the current apparel offerings. While putting the survey together, they told me that when they need golf apparel, they hit up the tennis section.
- 30 percent say they are satisfied with current apparel options which means 70 percent aren’t.
- It’s perhaps interesting that there’s a near-even split between “it’s not designed for athletes” and the most common response among the other answers which was some form of “not made for body type” (terrible fit, form-fitting for small people and women without curves).
- Other frequently listed answers among those who chose other were:
- Puts fashion over function
- Too casual (gym wear)
- Old and made for grandma
Some background on this question: Five years ago or so, I spoke with a senior executive at one of the major golf brands. When I asked how his company’s women’s line was doing, he said he thought they were doing well but that it’s challenging to reach women because they don’t consume golf and golf equipment information in the same ways and places men do. Specifically, he mentioned that women don’t watch Golf Channel, read Golf Digest or frequent MyGolfSpy. Obviously, that’s not to say all women don’t get information from those outlets but it’s definitely not nearly at the same rate as their male counterparts. His larger point was that there aren’t any media resources with a large female reach or a predominantly female audience.
With that said, our objective here was to understand where women turn for info on golf equipment.
- Comparatively, we do pretty well, but we also know we don’t do particularly well with women—and we certainly benefit from being the home team for this survey.
- 34.51 percent rely on their significant other. This aligns with the previous question about the clubs women are playing.
- Significant others (presumably husbands and boyfriends) are a significant source of info (and sometimes the equipment itself).
- Building on that, Husband was listed more often than anything else by those who chose Other
- Not a single respondent listed “Mom” as a source of golf equipment information. It seems this is the one place where we don’t rely on our mothers.
- Sons, golf pros and the internet/social media were also listed often.