2017: the year that Golf addresses its gender imbalance
Posted: Fri, 07 Apr 2017 17:26
The US Masters has kicked off. A bit like when people dust of their racquets at the beginning of the Wimbledon fortnight – it marks the traditional start of the year for the avid golf fan and spurs regulars to pick up their clubs. However, the glamour and profile of the professional game risks masking major challenges at the grassroots, with participation and club membership in long-term decline in most mature golf markets.
Our sport needs to be shaken out of its traditional, conservative mindset and appeal to new audiences, especially women. Golf in the UK suffers from a serious gender imbalance. According to research undertaken by consultants KPMG in 2016, only around 15% of UK golfers are female compared to 25% across the whole of Europe and 35% in countries such as Germany. .Another research survey, commissioned by golf industry supplier Syngenta, has indicated that almost four million women in the UK and Ireland would be interested in taking up golf in the next two years. This should give all of us the confidence that we can encourage more women to take up the sport if it can deliver the right experience.
As someone who has been involved in golf all my adult life, I'm determined to ensure that 2017 becomes the year that changes the game for good. Despite some progress in recent years, there is much more that all of us within the golf industry must do to address this gender imbalance. It is essential for its economic health and reputation of golf in the UK that it encourages more women onto the nation's courses and driving ranges. An increase in the number of female players will not only grow overall participation numbers, but also help unlock the family market and freshen-up golf's somewhat stuffy image. I'm pleased to say that this view is matched in all corners of the industry, with governing bodies designing new initiatives to encourage women and girls to take up the sport. More importantly, there is a genuine belief from those within the sport that they have something to offer to new participants.
This is the reason why we are focusing this year's National Golf Month on encouraging women to try or return to the sport. The core objectives are simple: make opportunities attractive for women, make opportunities searchable for women and make opportunities affordable for women. We are working with the country's clubs and pros to offer a wide range of activities for women during May, including taster sessions throughout the UK. We have also secured the support of some of high profile current and former female golfers including Charley Hull, Mel Reid, Henni Zuel and TalkSport's Georgie Bingham, plus winning Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley. Our #GirlsGetGolfing marketing campaign is focused on the health and wellbeing benefits of playing golf for women of all ages.
A key element of the campaign is to ensure that we position golf as a game that can, and is, modernising. To do that, we have to address concerns that golf is a male-dominated sport and broaden the appeal among families and mixed groups. Promoting the unique social aspects of golf (one of the few games in which mixed groups can take part together) are core to our approach to getting more women people active. In areas where sports such as skiing have found success, finding innovative ways to position the sport as a family activity, or something you can enjoy with your partner, is something we should not ignore.
Doug Poole is the Project Director of the British Golf Industry Association's National Golf Month Campaign - #GirlsGetGolfing. Clubs, centres and pros have posted exclusive taster sessions for women to booking during May on nationalgolfmonth.com.