Is it time to stop trying to recruit 20-40 year olds?
It was a tweet from the UK charity Women in Sport that really got me thinking about female golf participation.
— Women in Sport (@Womeninsport_uk) October 13, 2017
I instinctively felt the need to respond and mention the perceived barriers that could be stopping women from participating in golf.
Golf – perceived to be too expensive, takes too long to play, old & stuffy image – all of which isn't the case for those starting out.
— Emma Ballard (@Medi8Emma) October 13, 2017
However, it wasn’t until a few days later that I really reflected on the initial statement.
I realised that lack of participation is not the same as lack of interest.
A lightbulb moment.
The real issue facing those driving women’s golf participation is the fact that there is a lack of interest. The majority of women just do not have a drive to take part in golf.
Now I have no research to back up my thinking, but if I were to approach any of my female friends and family members who don’t play golf and ask them what they would like to do to be more active, I would guess that golf wouldn’t even feature in their top five.
Gym, yoga, running, cycling, swimming, tennis and netball, just to name a few, would all feature ahead of golf.
We live in a world where women feel like their free time is ever decreasing, where more juggle work with motherhood. And with the ever increasing pressures from social media to look great and be healthy, is it any surprise that women want quick fixes to keep fit and stay active? The Body Coach’s bank balance certainly supports this. But seriously, why would golf even be thought of in this instance?
We often talk about the perceived view of golf as a male-dominated rich man’s sport. That’s elitist and sexist. But we have to come to terms with the fact that issues like the Muirfield vote aren’t even on most women’s radar. They are simply just not being sold a sports package which suits their lifestyle.
All of this comes after years of golf organisations and clubs going through a number of changes to make themselves more inclusive.
Golf facilities in most areas are better than ever. With more indoor simulators, format changes and flexible memberships, getting into golf has never been easier or cheaper.
I am not saying that the 20-40-year-old market is impenetrable, but maybe we have to accept that it has already been taken. It will take a huge amount of time and resources to keep on targeting these women in order to boost female participation figures.
I’m also not suggesting that we don’t engage with these women, but rather than continually throwing money at the problem perhaps it would be better to work with what is already available.
The biggest asset any club has is the women who are already associated with it. So why don’t we use their enthusiasm for golf to promote it to other women? We could tailor events for members who can bring along a non-playing friend, or market Get into Golf sessions to friends and families of these members.
It’s actually not all doom and gloom when it comes to the future of female participation. In fact, we need to look no further than the grass roots.
There has been a real increase in junior golf programmes over the last five years. These initiatives are producing potential golfers for life who, no matter what their hectic lives throw at them, will always find time to take part in the sport that they love.
Even if they have to take a break whilst they have careers and start a family, they will already have the skills and inclination to get back into the sport when the time is right.
It’s time we set the bar a little differently. We need to accept that female participation is stagnant because for change to take place, there is no quick fix.
With the ever changing landscape of female sport we’re going to have to accept that golf isn’t currently on women’s agendas. We just need to find ways to ensure that this isn’t the case for future generations.
About the author
Since graduating from university, Emma Ballard has spent the last 11 years working within the golf industry. She is currently the marketing manager at Medi8 Limited.
On a day-to-day basis Emma works with golf brands, companies, and clubs to grow their presence and increase their exposure through online marketing and social media.
She is also part of the England Golf’s Women & Girls Advisory Group and she volunteered as an Ambassador for Women’s Golf Day. She is very passionate about getting more women in golf. Follow Emma on Twitter at @Medi8Emma