Where are the ladies?

Posted by Inga Abed on

As discussed in a previous blog of mine, in the UK there is a stark dominance of men in golf which continues to strike me. In fact the UK has one of the worst ratios in the world for the proportion of women who play golf compared to men.
I am wondering why women are not taking up the sport more, especially since the Equality Act was introduced 6 years ago to address discrimination in social settings such as golf clubs which were known for their long history of gender-based discrimination.

It is true that women have always played golf. Already Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, who reigned over Scotland from 1542 to 1567 was known for her fondness of golf and was also known as the mother of golf. However, golf clubs were very often reserved for men only and women had a hard time playing golf.

Even in clubs where women could play restrictions were in place. In 1902, Scottish judge Lord Moncrieff suggested that women should drive the ball no further than "70 or 80 yards" because "the posture and gestures required for a full swing are not particularly graceful when the player is clad in female dress". Although women have been free to swing their golfclub as they wish for a while, they continued to face other restrictions such as the times they could play with men- only tee-off times being very common. Often women were even blocked from becoming club captain. This was in stark contrast to the continent where golf is being considered a family sport and women have never faced any kind of restrictions.

I am wondering, 6 years on from the act has equality been achieved in golf clubs in the UK? And are women happy with the changes?

It is true that since the introduction of the equality act, ladies are allowed to play on whatever day and time they want, and the post of club captain has been scrapped in favour of separate ladies’ and men’s captains. Equality however came with a price tag and the ability to play 7 days a week meant that women have seen an increase in their membership fees. Not all women are happy about this. Some people say that the equality act has backfired and women membership has actually decreased since the introduction of the act.
In addition, although equality has been achieved in terms of access to the course, the sport is still very much male dominated and women or girls are not encouraged to take the sport up in the first place. Even if on the face women have equal rights on the golf course, attitudes have not changed much. In fact the steeped traditions aligned to a male-dominated game are still engrained. One just has to have a look at some of the online forums where men are complaining that women are slow, terrible and have poor etiquette. Or that they play golf to have a good old chat primarily and the game is secondary.

In fact a poll carried out by Golf Business reveals that only a quarter of male golfers, ‘are interested or very interested in playing casual golf with female golfers’. The same research also finds that the vast majority of men (78 percent) who play golf have female partners who do not play the game. More than one in two male golfers who have sons say their sons play golf, but just 12 percent of male golfers who have daughters say their daughters play golf.

Unless attitudes and mindsets of men towards women in golf change and women are actively encouraged to take up the sport golf will not become attractive to women. To start with, male golfers should get their female partners interested in the sport. Introducing flexible membership would also be a good idea to make the sport more accessible, for women but also for men.


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