When I started my internship with EGCOA I knew little of the golf industry. Without experience in playing, the game seemed to me, as a young woman from a country larger then Europe but with only 18 course, somewhat unwelcoming, with strict game etiquette and a strong prevalence of male players. As the weeks have gone one though, I have learned more about the game’s rich culture, tradition and the special charisma underlying the game. Its constant strive for self-improvement, a spirit of camaraderie, reunion with nature and the ability to spend quality time with loved ones are all aspects that I have come to discover typify the game.
My interest in the game continues to grow steadily. However the 21st century, with its ever increasing pace of life, brings a variety of challenges to the game of golf. For me, the strong gender imbalance among players does remain an issue. According to the KPMG’s Golf participation in Europe report, only 25% of golfers in Europe are female. It is in the best interest of golf course owners to leverage the gender gap and attract and retain female players.
According to Forbes, women drive about 64% of total purchasing, either by their own purchasing power or by personal influence. It is only through attracting more woman that more will be spent on the game and we can see the levels of growth so prevalent in the 1990’s.
Currently, woman’s professional golf does not enjoy as strong a profile as men’s, which prevents the game from gaining popularity among a wider audience. Whilst this is true of most sports, I have faith that number of upcoming initiatives and events will help attract more of my compatriots to the game.
The upcoming Olympics in Rio and the (for the first time) equal coverage the women’s tournament should receive gives me hope that women will gain greater exposure to the game. The fact the Ladies Teams will host the top talent whilst the top male players are dropping out like flies shows that the players themselves also see this as a pivotal moment.
Initiatives such as the The “This girl golfs” campaign from the GCMA, which aims to show how great the game can be for ladies and how easy it is to get involved is. #Thisgirlgolfs is a popular hashtag on social media, depicting numerous ladies enjoying the game. Moreover, PGA initiatives strive to promote the growth of the game by finding out their motivations and obstacles of getting involved with golf. I believe that these actions such as these will help increase the appeal of the game to woman such as myself with little prior knowledge of the sport, promoting golf as a dynamic, fun and social game.
Lodewijk Klootwijk teaching me the basics
To help these initiative succeed it is important to understand what there is in the game which makes it attractive to female players. What makes me to admire the game is its elegance and the importance of precision over brutal power. It facilitates communication and interaction among players and is gives the opportunity to explore fascinating natural surroundings. These are just a few factors which, I am sure, are highly appreciated by female golfers. These are areas that you as clubs must ensure are repeatedly out forward to potential players.
There are however a number of challenges which prevent woman from engaging or make them more likely to quit. One widespread perception is that golf is a game created by men, for men. As a result many feel unwelcome and intimidated by the environment and their insufficient knowledge about the culture and the etiquette. Females in general often value customer service and communication more than their male counterparts. Thus, it is essential for club owners to ensure that woman feel accepted and that newcomers are thoroughly guided through every step of their journey.
Sufficient time and effort should be put into understanding needs and wants of women. When do they have time to play? What is their motivation? Do they see golf as an opportunity to have a quality time with friends and family? Or is an opportunity to get away from their regular routine and relax from the stresses of everyday life the most important drive?
The challenge here is not to become overconfident about knowing best what female players need. It is essential to listen their opinions and problems and react accordingly. Many modern females today, including me, feel time constrained due to a large number of social roles they fulfil, combining work, childcare and household maintenance. Even those with a passion for the game frequently feel that the traditional 18-hole game is too time consuming to fit into their busy schedules.
A potential solution to this could be the introduction of a faster game, such as a 9-hole instead of 18. Some clubs provide such alternatives, such as “six after six” or “nine and dine” initiatives. Striving to maximise the utility of their spare time, women particularly value additional services which the golf course may provide, including, for example, restaurants and bars, equestrian and fitness centres, spa salons, hotels and dare I say, the bane of old school male dominated clubs, child minding.
In conclusion, with changes in external environment, changes in the game of golf are inevitable. In order to attract more woman to the game, golf course owners need to understand the needs and challenges of their potential female players and strive to fulfil them with elegance and style of the game itself. Thus, added value services and shorter games are likely to capture their attention and help to transform a mere curiosity in golf into loyal following or a favourite pastime.
Furthermore, it would be interesting to hear about the initiatives you employ in your club in order to reduce gender imbalance. If you have any thoughts on what I have written here or would like to share your own clubs plans to capture the female market, please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you!
By Kamilla Ishalina