Levelling the paying field: Dissecting golf's gender pay gap
Here’s some food for thought – each of the four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis offer the same prize money for men and women. Wimbledon came on board in 2007, the year after the French Open, while the US Open got on level terms as long ago as 1973.
So all is rosy in the tennis world. Well done tennis.
What about golf? Well, here are the purses for this year’s majors, with the winners’ prize in brackets:
- The Masters: $10m ($1.98m)
- US Open: $12m ($2.16m)
- The Open: $10.25m ($1.85m)
- PGA Championship: $10.5m ($1,89m)
And, in comparison, here are the breakdowns for this year’s women’s golf majors:
- ANA Inspiration: $2.7m ($405,000)
- Women’s PGA Championship: $3.5m ($525,000)
- US Open $5m: ($900,000)
- Women’s British Open: $3.25m ($504,821)
- Evian Championship: $3.65m ($547,500)
In short the two aren’t even comparable given the huge amounts of money in the men’s game thanks to sponsorship, interest levels, and the TV revenues available.
A recent survey has taken a deeper dive into the earning powers of the PGA and LPGA Tours and their findings are similarly gloomy for the women given that we are now in 2017.
It should be noted that had they also carried this out in Europe their findings would be even more lopsided. Tommy Fleetwood topped the men’s money list with earnings of €5.4m from 24 starts, while Georgia Hall won €368,934 from 10 starts.
Drop down to 10th on the money lists and the picture becomes even more skewed – Branden Grace earned €2.25m compared to Camille Chevalier’s €64,000.
We have outlined the main findings of the survey and our resident Lady Golfer writer Harriet Shephard gives her take on what are some fairly squirmy discoveries about the sport we all love.
Where are we up to with total earnings?
For the combined top 10 players on the PGA Tour the earnings were $69.3m compared to $16.3m on the LPGA. So the men earned more than four times what the women did.
The men will point to the obvious fact that they hit the ball further – the top 10 hit it further by an average of 40 yards – 301.88 to 260.11.
They also hole more putts – the top 10 averaged 28.62 putts per round compared to 29.57 on the LPGA.
So they are worthy of earning bigger numbers?
Lady Golfer says…
Yes the men hit it further but the women are more accurate. They only hit it about an extra 40 yards more than the women; does that really mean they deserve to earn four times the amount? I don’t think so. That’s just embarrassing.
The extra distance is mainly down to the fact that the men are physically stronger genetically, which is not something that the women can really do anything about.
Plus, while the men may hit it further and hole more putts, the women are actually hitting more fairways.
The top 10 have an average driving accuracy of 74.87%, while the top 10 men only manage 59.75%.
The top 10 women also have a higher percentage of Greens In Regulation – an average of 74.7% compared to just 67.2% for the men.
Now if golf was just about having big guns then maybe the men do deserve to be paid that much more.
However, surely golf is more about skill and accuracy then it is about strength?
Sure, driving is fun to watch and an important part of the game but I don’t think it justifies such an enormous pay gap.
The statistics speak for themselves. If anything, the women have demonstrated that they have more skill than the men so it’s upsetting that their pay doesn’t reflect that.
What about their earnings per shot played?
The men’s average earnings for every time they stepped up to the ball was $1,141, the women a relatively paltry $274.
Career-wise Jordan Spieth has trousered a ridiculous $1,104 for every shot he has played on tour. In 2015, when he won two majors and nearly won another two, he picked up $1,897 for every shot he played.
Lady Golfer says…
A survey conducted by BBC Sport earlier in the year showed that 83% of sports now reward men and women equal prize money. So why is golf yet again still so far behind? Why do we still seem to be in denial that 2017 has actually happened?
Unless you are one of the top players, many female golfers have to work part-time jobs while also playing on tour. These extra jobs mean that instead of spending the time between competitions working on their game and fitness, they have to do long shifts working physically-tiring jobs at their local golf club or on corporate golf days.
This will only hinder their game. It’s unfair that because they are not paid enough, they are not able to dedicate all their time to furthering their careers in golf. Careers that they will have dreamed of having since they were children.
Earlier this year one unnamed player told The Times: “We do fear the financial collapse of the tour, especially when you look at the accounts. There are so few events now that earning a living is becoming impossible for many of the players. It is much worse than it used to be.
“Apart from the very top players we are like seasonal workers, earning a bit on the main tour and then having to play mini tours, which don’t make any money and corporate days. We can’t commit to other work as the cancelling of events comes so late in the day. There were all sorts of noises that having golf in the Olympics was going to transform the scene for women’s golf in Europe but that has not happened.”
Seeing statistics like the above will only discourage other young women from wanting to become professional golfers. Why would they want to go into a career where the women earn such a depressing amount compared to the men?
It also sends out the wrong message in general. That even if you are more accurate when you hit the ball – which you could argue suggests you are better at golf – you can still only hope to earn four times less than the men.
You could suggest that even though golf would never discriminate against race or sexuality, it still quite hasn’t got the hang of gender equality.
Who is Austin Johnson?
He’s Dustin Johnson’s brother and, according to Forbes, he earned $1.6m in 2017 as the World No. 1’s caddie. JP Fitzgerald parted company with Rory McIlroy at the end of July yet he was reported to have picked up $1.6m this year.
These figures would put the pair of them in 4th and 5th place on the LPGA money list.
Without question they are skilled bagmen but, if anything demonstrates, the disparity between the two sexes it is this.
Lady Golfer says…
Of course caddies are important but surely they shouldn’t be paid more than the people who are actually playing the game. Especially when those players are some of the best female golfers in the world.
LPGA player Anna Nordqvist hit 82% of fairways in 2017. She is ranked 3rd on the LPGA in Greens In Regulation with 77.39% and she won this year’s Evian Championship and the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. But with her year’s earnings standing at $1.33m, she still earns less than the two caddies mentioned above.
That is unbelievable.
Who is Mackenzie Hughes?
Sung Hyun Park is the World No. 2 in the ladies’ game and was the top earner on the 2017 LPGA Tour, winning $2.34m.
Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes is the World No. 143 and the 41st highest earner on the PGA Tour with $2.36m.
Yes. He won more money than the highest earner in the ladies’ game.
Seventeen women topped the $1m mark in 2017, 102 men did likewise.
Lady Golfer says…
This again just shows how much easier it is to earn a decent career on the PGA Tour compared to the LPGA. If you compared it to the LET it would be even worse.
The women will work just as hard, yet they are only getting a fraction of the reward that the men get.
The fact that the World No. 2 earns the same as the World No. 143 on the PGA Tour shows how much of a serious problem we have. This is sadly not something that can be rectified quickly.
It’s true that, on average, the top 10 men have a lower score per round than the women. However, this difference is barely anything. The men have an average score of 69.6 compared to 69.8 for the women.
Somehow it has got to the stage where that 0.2 of a shot and extra 40 yards driving distance means you deserve four times the pay.
This just isn’t proportionate; it isn’t that much of a triumph.
Tennis is more popular than golf is amongst young women. Is it any wonder why? One reason is certainly that it’s one sport where the women are deemed equal to the men.
With statistics like this, more and more women will choose to take up and watch other sports.
If we want to get more women playing golf the professional game needs to act as an aspirational example.
But figures like this just portray golf as a male-dominated game with a horrifying gender pay gap.