In my last post for MyGolfSpy, I discussed how club manufacturers and club fitters need to stop gendering golf clubs and start looking at female customers more holistically. It sparked an interesting discussion amongst golf club enthusiasts and MyGolfSpy members about what exactly constitutes a women’s club.
Generally, when we think of women golfers, we envision them hitting from the forward tees and barely poking it down the fairway. According to a USGA report, women who are 6 handicaps or better average 196 yards or more, while women with 13-20 handicaps average 150 yards. This is in comparison to men who at a 6 handicap or better average 236 plus, while 13-20 male handicappers average 198 yards.
There is no question that men are typically stronger than women and can swing the club at faster speeds on average, but there are outliers that need to be taken into consideration when labeling clubs. A woman who may naturally swing the club at a higher speed and who is just starting out may find that women’s clubs aren’t actually the right fit for her.
First, what often happens with women’s clubs is that already weaker shafts are cut down to accommodate presumably smaller golfers. That changes the club, making it feel noticeably different at the bottom in terms of weight compared to a men’s club. Secondly, the grips on women’s clubs are smaller; often too small, leaving some women feeling like they’re gripping something little more than the width of a pencil.
The typical LPGA player swings her driver 95mph. Any good club fitter would never hand her a driver from a “woman’s” set simply because she’s a woman. Nor would a good club fitter hand someone on at the Champions Tour a senior set simply because of his age – at least he (or she) shouldn’t.
The gendering of golf clubs creates a couple of problems: for starters, it creates an environment that can lead sales associates to classify customers by category, like age or gender, rather than as unique individuals. Additionally, it can cause unknowing golfers to buy clubs based on these labels, which despite their age or gender, may not be the proper fit for them.
What you can end up with are disgruntled beginners who may decide not to continue playing.
What Makes a Woman’s Club
So when it comes to women’s clubs, the question remains, what exactly makes them “women’s clubs”?
Is it because the shaft may be pink or purple? Is it the smaller grip? The weight of the head? Is it the length of the shaft?
Truthfully, I don’t know because I have never played a “ladies” club, just as I didn’t use Bic’s “Pens for Her” when they first put them out on the market. A regular pen will do just fine, thank you.
But in all seriousness, while they may be lighter, shorter, and outfitted with smaller grips, women’s clubs really aren’t women’s clubs at all. Most are just modified versions of what’s already in the lineup. The truth is, egos aside, women’s clubs are a great fit for some men and an absolutely terrible fit for some women.
As one of the commenters wrote:
“I see this with my girlfriend all the time- and she’s 6-1 and athletic! We were at a demo day last year, and the Callaway guy (first booth) foolishly handed her a Rogue Draw with a ladies flex shaft, even after I warned him not to. Within a few minutes she was swinging a Rogue Standard in regular at around 9.5°, baby fades about 265 all day, and all the reps were lining up to have her try their gear. I hope they learned something, but alas…”
And herein lies the problem: everybody is different. Even though Charles Barkley was an incredible basketball player, and at first glance might look like he can whip the club around him, we know from video evidence, that’s not true.
In contrast, Anne Van Dam, a rookie on the LPGA tour, is averaging 306 yards off the tee this season. Take a look at her swing (below). Would you hand her a woman’s club?
Now, while the gendering of golf clubs likely won’t go away any time soon, there are some things the golf industry can do on its own to make the space feel more inclusive for women, such that we don’t feel singled out simply because of our chromosomal makeup. In fact, the solution is pretty simple: every club fitter and sales associate should give women options and treat them as valuable consumers. Give women the opportunity to show you what type of club they should have in their bag, rather than assuming that a woman’s club is one-size fits all situation.
We don’t buy our jeans that way, and we certainly shouldn’t be forced to buy our clubs that way either.
Got Questions? Ask Anya.
If you have a question about issues affecting women in golf (or women who golf), leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter using hashtag #AskAnya.