With so many old-fashioned rules and traditions, golf is often accused of being unwelcoming and behind the times.
The most recent example of this came when Cottrell Park member Lowri Roberts spoke out about the club refusing to let female members compete in Saturday morning competitions.
This started a heated discussion on Twitter, where many called for separate competitions to be scrapped completely.
Among those to weigh in on the debate was Sky Sports Golf presenter Henni Goya, who has long been passionate about getting more people into the game.
LG caught up with the former Ladies European Tour player to discuss the mental benefits of golf, how female golfers should be supporting each other, and why clubs need to be open to change…
A lot of people have been criticising golf recently, but clubs have a lot of positive aspects…
Playing golf is an amazing way of spending time with people. Golf clubs can also be brilliant places because they make you feel like part of a community, where everyone has a particular sport in common.
Golf is a great way for young people to develop conversational skills and focus. In today’s fast-paced society, people are crying out to do things like golf on a weekend. It just needs to be a lot more open and accessible to everyone.
It shouldn’t only be available to the same clique of middle aged or retired people who have a high income. The days when they were the only ones who could enjoy golf need to be over.
I want more young people and women to take it up, because it has taught me so much and I’ve got so much from it.
Not in terms of my career or anything, but I just remember being a young girl and having to make conversations with other people, and spending long periods of time with different people who were from all walks of life.
We all know that golf is such a mentally challenging game, and anyone will benefit from that.
What did you make to the vote at Cottrell Park?
It was just outrageous, but at the same time it was great that the issue was given so much attention. Lowri has really got the conversation going. It was a chat that needed to be had and it’s one that will happen in the future as well. It’s a big problem in clubs across the country and it isn’t talked about that much.
I’ve genuinely been overwhelmed by the support on Twitter. Some people have been defending the club by saying that the women can play in the women’s competitions on a different day. But I couldn’t be bothered to reply and say that that’s not actually the point we are trying to make. The point is that there shouldn’t be women-only or men-only competitions at all.
Change has to start with the golf clubs. While they remain unapproachable places with all these rules about who can and who cannot play in competitions, it’s not helping us to grow the game.
This is DISGRACEFUL!!!!!!
REALLY??!! @CottrellParkLtd you should be ashamed. You are completely out of touch with modern times, you are damaging the game we love and stopping people from participating because of gender!
Damn! It’s 2018 not 1918! You’re embarrassing yourselves. https://t.co/oJdD5nUuB0
— Henni Goya (@hennigoya) January 20, 2018
Do you think that scrapping separate competitions is the way forward?
Absolutely. At the moment many clubs aren’t being accommodating towards women who work from Monday to Friday.
We can’t just exclude people who work full time. If we want to grow golf, it can’t be an elitist sport.
They don’t have a women’s section in clubs in Germany, just handicap competitions. That’s the way we need to go as well.
I just think that time has moved on and women work now; not everyone has free time on a Tuesday to go and play in a competition. It’s completely unfeasible.
I want golf to be more accessible for women and young people, for everyone really.
Do think some clubs are just trying to keep all their male members happy? As they make up most of the membership?
It’s important to keep your members happy, but by doing that they are stopping the membership from growing.
So much has been made recently about how we can grow the game, but it just goes against the idea of this completely.
At the end of the day a golf club is a business, whether it is privately owned or not they still need to make money through their memberships. So when this current clique of golfers, sorry to say it, passes on, there needs to be another generation to replace them.
They need to think to the future and stop being stuck in their old ways, because it is exhausting.
Do you think that people are sometimes too quick to criticise golf?
I think in this case it was fair enough, because having separate competitions restricts when the men can play as well. I don’t think it’s OK for women to have ladies’ days either.
There needs to be equality and for everyone to come together and just enjoy the sport.
That’s where I’m coming from and I think it’s the attitude that most of us have.
I think people get so caught up in their way of life and the politics at their golf club that they forget to think of the sport as a hole and about how we can welcome in the next generation.
It’s just easy to jump on golf and shine a light on it because there are so many ridiculous things to pick up on!
Do you think that some ladies are quite happy playing on a Tuesday and don’t want things to change?
Definitely. In my experience, it’s often the women in golf clubs who are stopping change from happening, not just the men.
One theory is that perhaps they find younger, more dynamic and athletic women to be a bit of a threat. But I think we are so far past seeing other women as competition. We all need to work together to empower each other. I find it really frustrating that this isn’t happening in many golf clubs.
Maybe golf is just so far behind the times that they haven’t even seen that this is a movement in the media now; that women do actually like to help other women.
That’s definitely something we need to embrace in golf clubs, until then they will just continue to attack each other.
Do you think some people just like having a ladies’ section because it’s tradition?
I absolutely hate the idea that people are doing things just because that is the way it has always been done. Unfortunately, that is just golf’s answer to most things, and that needs to change.
Do you think the new 54 handicap will encourage more people to take it up?
I’ve seen a few tweets saying things like, ‘Oh I don’t want to get stuck playing with a high handicapper.’ But I just think that is such an arrogant thing to say, who do they think they are?
A lot of people in golf don’t have much patience and they need to remember that everyone has to start somewhere.
You should always want to play with people of different levels. When I play in a pro-am I could be with anyone. It doesn’t matter to me.
What matters is that you are taking part in a sport. That is what the handicap system is there for, so that everyone can play together and have a good time out on the course hitting a ball.
And eventually that 54 handicapper might turn into a 5 or 10 handicapper or they might not, which is fine. But I am all for anything that includes more people in the sport and gets them going.
Not wanting to play with high handicappers is just another arrogant golfing thing and another reason why people need to take a look at themselves.
Have you started playing golf more?
I have! I’ve finally got to the stage where I can just play or go to the range and enjoy it. Without expecting too much, which is nice.
Everyone told me I would get to this point after retiring. It’s taken three years, so I’m happy that I’m finally there.
I’m not a member anywhere and I’m not that fussy about going to a club because I don’t really want to have to get dressed properly! I normally just go to a driving range so I can wear trainers and sweatpants.
A Henni come back?? pic.twitter.com/4BC9cBf7Gg
— Henni Goya (@hennigoya) December 7, 2017
Do you think 2018 will be better than last year for the Ladies European Tour?
It’s hard to tell because from what I understand they haven’t actually released a schedule. They are just announcing events as and when. So it has made it 10 times harder to work out what is going on. I feel sorry for the girls who are still trying to play because they can’t plan their year at all. If I was a player I would be disheartened and frustrated.
So many girls I know are either going over to the states or having to leave golf and get a full time job.
What else will you be working on this year?
My next event is in Qatar, where I will be doing on-course commentary for Sky. I did that for the first time last year at the Solheim Cup and in Prague for the European Tour. So I’m looking forward to doing more of that type of work.
I love seeing women’s golf on TV, because when I was younger we just didn’t have the opportunity to watch it.
Last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open was the first on-site event that I’ve done for the women’s game. It was brilliant to meet everyone and see so many young girls coming to watch their heroes.