Growing The Game

By Faith Zwemke and Kathryn Gainey

Equipment gives women a much better chance to enjoy some success and stick with the sport. Too often women are thrown to the wind with little instruction and some man’s cast-off clubs. I don’t know how much “recruiting” of girls is in the junior circuit, but our guess is that there are oodles of adult women out there who have had little or no experience with golf. This would be a great opportunity for golf equipment companies to partner with golf courses to build present and future clientele.

Bill it as a thrill. Let women experience the oversized driver made for women. For us, one of the biggest thrills and therefore, the biggest “hooks,” in golf is feeling and seeing the ball fly off of the driver. We were fairly casual golfers until one day the pro shop attendant at Chomonix in Lino Lakes, Minnesota invited us to try a couple of demo oversized drivers. We never even knew that demo clubs existed and the shop sold one of us a driver that day. Within days, the other of us bought a similar driver and use of that club is our favorite part of the game.

To reach women who don’t already play, distribute some free coupons to a driving range connected to a golf course and provide oversized drivers at no charge. Maybe offer a cash prize or prizes in different categories and or age groups. Have some light refreshments and a short tour in a cart of at least part of the golf course. Finally, just for attending, offer a coupon for nicely discounted round of golf.

Promote golf as a fitness tool and a game for women of all ages with an emphasis on “you are never too old to play golf.” Men make up the largest percentage of runners; women make up the greatest percentage of walkers. What better place to walk than a golf course? Making the course “women friendly’ to walk with more than one purpose would recruit many women. Set up booths at women’s expos, shopping malls, fitness centers and any place frequented by women. Offer special deals and a two-minute putting lesson. Award a prize for a made putt.

Solicit and publish more golf articles by and for women. Yes, there are a few pictures of women golfers, even one on the cover of GolfDigest a few months ago, but overwhelmingly the pictures and articles feature men. We took a count in the 2013 April and May issues of Golf World and GolfDigest of how many pages had a picture of a woman (ads and crowd shots included). Especially in GolfDigest women were nearly invisible. Out of nearly 200 pages not even 10% had a picture of a woman. We give kudos to Golf World for a much better 23% – 25% of their pages having a picture of a woman. It’s not hard to see why recruiting of women isn’t working when they aren’t even seen.

Get beyond the “White Male Club.” Mike Hughes, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association, is quoted as saying, “We can’t get to where we want if we don’t increase women’s participation.” He continues his quote by lumping women with other minorities. “Targeting other ethnic groups is really not so much about ethnicity as it is socioeconomic status. We just have to make sure we’re not sending a subliminal message that you don’t belong here.” (Golf Digest, June 2013, vol. 64, no.6, p 124) As women golfers we would like to respond to this comment by saying the message is far from subliminal, it is blatant.

All ages and varieties of women, but especially those of retirement age who have raised their children and now have more free time, are prime for the game of golf. This untapped market is out there ready to respond to a welcoming approach, jump at a deal, learn a new skill, embrace the chance to stay active and relish in the lush wonder of nature. All they need are the right and bright CEO’s and managers of the golf world to start SEEING them and meet them where they are.

This article was written by Faith Zwemke (retired pay equity coordinator) and Kathryn Gainey (University Professor).

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