Mickey Walker: Encouraging women and girls to play

The Scoop

Mickey Walker talks about the ways we might be able to attract more women and girls to golf by adapting European methods.

Over my career I have visited golf clubs all over the UK, and indeed the world, to play golf and in recent years to speak to both women and mixed audiences.

One of the most frequently asked questions when I’m speaking exclusively to women is: “How can we encourage more girls to play golf?”

There isn’t a simple answer to that, but I see some general differences to how golf is run in continental Europe compared to the UK, which might go some way to explaining why females make up a far greater proportion of golfer in many European countries compared to the UK.

Golf tends to be much more of a family affair in European countries than in Britain, with no separate sections for male and female golfers.

The message that most private golf clubs give out is that women and their opinions don’t matter, apart from maybe being expected to do the flower arrangements or helping to choose the décor.

Of course things are changing in the UK – but slowly.

With golf fighting for survival in a leisure market that nowadays has a vast amount of options compared to when I was growing up, only the golf clubs which are welcoming to outsiders, women and juniors, as well as innovative in terms of offering attractive membership packages for families, juniors and students, will survive.

Personally, if I owned my own golf club, I would allow any type of attire including jeans, which are welcomed at the majority of continental golf clubs.

Whenever the Ricoh Women’s British Open is being played, the BBC gets hundreds of calls from women golfers across the UK asking how come Paula Creamer or Natalie Gulbis are allowed to wear a sleeveless top or such short shorts.

I might be accused of being sexist, but I know for a fact from talking to male golfers around the country that the way a lot of the women professionals dress and look is one of the reasons why they enjoy women’s golf.

Likewise, I’ve heard from lots of women about how so-and-so on the PGA Tour is great eye candy.

The amalgamation and hence reduction of golf’s administrative bodies in the UK can only help matters, as will the R&A’s stance on not taking championships to clubs that discriminate against women.

British Open in numbersI’d welcome there being only one stroke index on our scorecards and only a club captain rather than a women’s and men’s captain, or perhaps only a club president, who could be male or female.

So, golf is changing, but the UK’s 600-year-plus golf history makes it harder to adapt and change things than in the countries where golf is a relatively new sport.

This month at Lady Golfer we’re excited to have an interview with Amy Alcott. The American Hall of Famer is one of the greats of the modern game and I’ve been fortunate to know Amy throughout my professional career. Amy and I qualified together for the LPGA Tour in 1974.

Back then as now, Amy was a real character and has always had her distinctive, short punchy swing.

In 1988, Amy, who is always quick to laugh and has a great sense of fun, was the first winner of the then Colgate Dinah Shore Championship – nowadays the ANA Inspirational – to jump into Poppie’s Pond after winning the championship.

Last year, along with Gil Hanse, Amy was responsible for co- designing the golf course in Rio for the Olympics.

I hope that you enjoy this month’s magazine and I look forward to hearing your views on what can be done to encourage more girls and women to take up golf.

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