'Not being able to play in weekend competitions is the biggest barrier for young women'
I really enjoyed the article by GolfPeach about getting young women into golf.
My own experience is that daughters (or sons for that matter!) often take an interest in what their dad is doing, and as my 14-year-old daughter Emily is an only child, I think that added an extra intensity.
Emily’s interest started when we were on a family holiday in Devon when she was just seven years old. My father and I (both golfers) took her to a family pitch and putt and she really enjoyed the fun, non-pressurised holiday element of the game.
After that I would continue to play ‘proper’ golf games with friends and colleagues and Emily would insist on coming along to play too. However, I wouldn’t allow it. Not through embarrassment or selfishness but because, as the article touched on, I didn’t want my seven-year-old girl to get tutted or scoffed at for having a go on a big course. This would have only turned her right off the game.
Instead, I took her to the range where we would do things at our own pace and play however we wanted to play. It remained fun. I would give her my wedge and just let her hit the ball with no coaching. She watched me and I waited for her to say “how can I hit it further, straighter etc?”
I didn’t want to introduce her to a proper golf course or equipment until I felt she was ready and so we carried on having fun just whacking balls.
The range we went to at that time had a junior passport programme – which I think is an England golf initiative – and I enrolled her onto five one-hour weekly coaching sessions with a PGA pro for just £30.
There was a good mix of girls and boys aged from about four to nine years old and it was fantastic! At this point I had still only bought her a ladies 7 iron for about £25 so if she didn’t want to continue, there was no great expense lost.
We went on to do a further two blocks of lessons and by the end of it, she was ready to play casually. For passing her primary school exams, I treated her to a full set of ‘off the shelf’ clubs for only £200. It was still an outlay but as she had developed a real interest in golf I wanted to encourage her.
Since then, the ladies game has got bigger, gained more coverage and become far more trendy than it once was. I took Emily to Woburn a couple of years ago to watch the British Open and meet the stars like Charley Hull, Lydia Ko and so on. We are going again this year to Lytham.
Unfortunately, she is practically the only junior girl at her club but the ladies are so good with her and they involve her in everything.
I also enrolled her with the Lancashire County Girls so she could mix and play with girls of her own age, again her club membership is £0 and county membership is only £6 per year. We just have to pay for competition entries which are never more than £10.
Our experience so far has been pretty good and not overly expensive. For help with junior girls, I would advise getting in touch with your county. Lancashire for example will take girls in even if they are not a member of a club for £12.
2017 was Emily’s first season as a club member and during her first competition with the county girls she recorded a hole in one on the 1st tee and went on to win the event.
She’s been training hard this winter and having individual lessons from Pete Styles, director of golf at Trafford Golf Centre and I’m sure that all this hard work will pay dividends for her 2018 season.
However, the biggest challenge we face for inspiring young girls or women into playing golf is that it is difficult for the majority to really get the chance to compete and chip away at their handicap because women’s competitions are generally held during the week, while the men’s are on a Saturday.
This makes it really difficult for many females to progress in the sport when they are in full-time education or work.
Emily wasn’t eligible to play in club competitions last year as she hadn’t yet got her club handicap.
She has a starting handicap now but it will still be a struggle to try and get that down because the card has to be marked in official competitions – which are only played on Thursdays for ladies.
She can play the odd competition in school holidays, but women who work from Monday to Friday will be even more restricted.
The ladies at Emily’s golf club have been pushing hard to try and get the ladies competitions split over two days so that the girls and ladies who can’t make Thursdays can play in a competition on Sunday.
Thankfully, Lancs county have all their junior competitions at the weekend.
They also run ‘card marking’ days which mean that junior girls who don’t yet have a CONGU handicap have the opportunity to play in a competition which is strictly officiated and their score goes towards their handicap. Emily played in one of these last year at Royal Lytham & St Anne’s and came 3rd.
14-year-old Emily says…
“I really like golf because it’s a never ending game of improvement and unlike most other sports, each shot produces a different outcome every time and new challenges.
You don’t need to get a team together to play – you are often competing with yourself, and your game can be different each time because of weather conditions and the variety of courses you can play all over the world.
There are lots of ranges where I can practice and I can even work on my putting indoors at home. I like the fact that there is still some etiquette attached to the game. Although that includes what you can wear, I love the fact that I can choose what colour and designs I want and don’t have to play in a uniformed kit.”
“Mick has highlighted a barrier to female progress that I had never considered.
Some clubs make no provisions for ladies playing competition golf at weekends, so girls in full-time education and working women are denied the chance to lower their handicaps and win prizes. That can’t be right and needs to be addressed straight away.
My own club, Bearwood Lakes GC, does have a weekly ‘ladies’ morning’ and a full calendar of female competitions, but women are allowed to enter all of the weekend roll-ups and many of the club’s most prestigious weekend events. It is a 21st century example that needs to become the rule not the exception if golfers like Emily, and her dad, are to be heard and accommodated.”