Over the last few years, we have seen greater efforts and an increasing number of campaigns to support and advance women’s participation in golf. In America, we have the LPGA’s #inviteHER initiative, the annual Women’s Golf Day on June 4, and Women’s Golf Month in June. In the U.K., the R&A launched “Women in Golf Charter,” (what does charter mean … anyone?), along with other initiatives in the U.K. like This Girl Golfs, Golf Girls Rocks, Drive Women’s Golf, and We Love Golf.
Despite these efforts, women’s golf participation has stagnated at 25% for quite some time, showing only little slivers of increased participation.
The question is…why? With all these women’s golf initiatives one might expect there would be more women picking up the sticks.
More women are at least trying golf (more than 35 percent of beginners are women), but there is a significant disparity between the number of women who are introduced to golf and the number of women who become avid golfers. Why is the conversion rate so low?
The reality is that women’s golf initiatives don’t go far enough. So many of the current women’s golf initiatives focus on getting women to the course, but shouldn’t there be greater consideration given to what happens after women leave the range?
Changing the culture of golf courses will undoubtedly play a much more significant role in keeping women engaged and active in the sport. Here are just a few questions to consider:
Who is reaching out to women and asking them what support they need during their golfing journey?
Get every woman’s name and email and follow up with them. Engage with prospective golfers and make an effort to understand what’s holding them back from pursuing golf. If there are concerns or limitations that keep them from playing more consistently, look for opportunities to accommodate.
Are you treating women like your other golfers?
One of the biggest things that consistently holds women back from playing golf more regularly is that we are not engaged with as serious customers or treated as serious golfers. Too often we’re quickly disregarded. Let the women know that they’re valued and that you want them at your course. These conversations might even spark ideas for across the board changes that will make the course more inviting to female golfers.
What type of equipment does your course offer for women?
Most courses have limited options for women, which makes us feel less valued as customers. So often when I go to a course, there will only be one or two brands for women to choose from, and it’s all in the stereotypical colors. You don’t have to offer full sets to highlight what’s available on the market to women, but having a handful of irons and woods for women to try, you will make them feel like they’re not an afterthought. We notice when we’re not valued, and the optics alone will make us less likely to come back.
What type of discounts are offered to women?
Offer discounts to women who want to play golf. Offer discounts when women bring male or female friends. Offer them discounts if they bring their children. Offer discounts when they play a certain number of times or buy so many buckets of golf balls. Rewards breed loyalty while helping to remove some of the cost burdens when she’s learning.
What type of restrictive apparel guidelines are in place?
If you’re operating a public golf course that doesn’t allow leggings or tank tops, ask yourself if you care about having millennial women play at your course. Many of us like leggings. Some of us like tank-tops and many of us don’t want to spend more money on an already expensive game just to adhere to an archaic set of rules based on decorum.
Does the golf course have tees in place for true beginners?
Most beginner golfers aren’t equipped to play courses from even the forward tees, so courses should consider having another set of tees that are more beginner friendly. Could the course be set up as a par 3? This will help speed up play, as well provide beginners with a chance to play from an actual set of tees rather than being forced to drop in the middle of the fairway like I’ve seen done so often.
Do you offer childcare?
Childcare – yes, I’m serious about this. Gyms have childcare, why not golf courses? Imagine being able to drop your kid off while you hit golf balls or play for a couple of hours? With women often juggling the demands that come with working full-time jobs and being moms, onsite child-care could incentivize women to spend more time (and money) at the course. Dads would love it too. It’s not unreasonable to charge for it, and having the option would eliminate the need for women to plan ahead or hire a babysitter. Giving golfers the flexibility to be spontaneous can help fill some of the holes in your tee sheets.
Do you have a corporate discount plan for women?
More than ever before, women own businesses or are in the C-suite, and these women would almost certainly like to entertain their clients or have employee outings at the golf course. Support women who are breaking through glass ceilings by incentivizing them to make golf a part of their business development.
Are you thinking outside the box?
Why maintain the status quo if it’s not working? Try something different, and if it fails, try something else. Too many courses make the mistake of giving up on women because the first thing they try doesn’t hit the mark.
Have Your Say
Do you own or work at a course that has tried any of these ideas? Leave a comment below and tell us what worked and what didn’t. Tell us about an idea that you implemented that women embraced. Let’s not hold a monopoly on ideas when the growth of women’s golf is contingent on all of us doing our part to grow it together.