Several local clubs I know are finding that their female members are increasingly reluctant to take on the role of lady captain. I predict that the issue will only get worse.

Why is this you ask? Well there are several problems…

1) There aren’t enough women playing golf

First of all, there are too few women taking up the game in the first place. The average age of your typical female section is likely to be 55 years plus. Most of the membership are likely to have been lady captain already, possibly more than once.

Sadly, many ladies’ sections are diminishing. So the first issue emerges; when you are seeking a leader from the group, you are likely to be fishing in an ever-reducing pool. Tackling this problem requires a long-term, visionary and pro-active strategy to attract more women into the sport.

Let’s state it like it is: most clubs are male-dominated and many men prefer it that way. Sadly, many seem to take the view that a woman’s place is very definitely not on the golf course. We have to challenge this.

A comprehensive strategy to attract women into golf requires having women in decision-making positions on club boards and management committees, not just on the traditional separate ladies’ committee.

Women understand the barriers to female participation better than men do, so why not get us involved? Ask us what is needed to attract younger women into the sport. You might be surprised. Working women are skilled at juggling home, family, and leisure. We have to make it as accessible as possible for those who are inclined to try golf-special membership deals, family deals, 9-hole membership deals, 9-hole competitions, access to the course at weekends and so on. We need to create an inclusive atmosphere in the clubhouse that welcomes families and women.

2) Sexism still dominates the game

Above all, we have to tackle the sexism that still dominates the game. I agree with Vivien Saunders, writing in Newsweek, USA (May, 2016) when she claimed that ‘the game is in a mess’.

Women now have the opportunity to take up full membership and pay equal fees. But despite this, at many clubs women simply can’t get on the course at weekends until after the men have finished playing. Men simply don’t realise that they still discriminate.

Vivien Saunders is completely right when she says that:  ‘For a club to have a club captain and a lady captain is putting the woman in her place’.

Some clubs still regard their lady captain as a second-class citizen compared to her male counterpart. These politics of inequality will inevitably put some women off the role. Who can blame them? Their status in the club is often very different. That this level of inequality remains evident in many golf clubs today simply appals me. It should be challenged and sorted out once and for all; it has no place in 2017.

3) It takes up too much time

But it’s not just the barriers posed by some male golfers that we have to overcome.

Unfortunately, we can be our own worst enemies. Many ladies’ sections have created a monster and for some strange reason are reluctant to let traditions go.

You can spend a huge amount of time at the club, running yourself ragged, trying to be all things to all people, desperately trying to perform the traditional role that many ladies’ sections still seem to expect from you. And of course, many previous incumbents have their own views on how the job should be done!

Change is often unsettling but we need to get real with our expectations of the modern captaincy role. Most women today are working; life is increasingly busy and even if retired, many women are frequently still juggling tasks either at work or in the home.

Golf is an enjoyable pastime and should be a pleasure, but the demands on many lady captains are too often unreasonable, expensive and hugely all-consuming. Why does it need to be like this? Our expectations of an effective captain could be redefined. Or the role could be shared between two or three people, with many of the lesser tasks delegated. A good, well-organised team of volunteers would mean that the workload could be shared out much more sensibly.

So come on ladies, let’s get real. It’s important that we continue to challenge the underlying issues, but we also need to re-define our expectations of the role.

That said, I did enjoy my year as lady captain in 2016. However there’s definitely room for improvement!




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