f ever there were a true expert in the field of Women and Golf, Carol Mann would fit the bill. As an LPGA Hall of Famer, major championship winner and top teaching professional, Mann has seen women fight for acceptance, inclusion, and then ultimately prosper in the golf world. But the battle is far from over. As the industry makes efforts to open its doors even wider for women to get involved, Mann is asking that women take a more proactive position in gaining a foothold in the golf world. For PGA.com, she dispels some of the long standing fears and reasons why women have been slow to embrace golf and concludes with one solid directive for women everywhere: Get out and play!
There are few things that I enjoy more in life than introducing a new person to the world of golf -- and if that new person happens to be a woman, my joy increases a little bit more. Golf needs women to be a larger part of the game and today's woman should make golf a part of their personal and professional life. So it's a win-win deal, right? You'd think so, but due to a number of varying factors, there is still a significant ways to go until women are properly represented on the course.
I recently read where about a quarter of all women who take up golf remain in the game after five years. That's sad and not near good enough. I understand there are many reasons why women either quit or never take golf up, but I find very few to be persuasive. I'd like to address some of the most commonly repeated reasons I hear why women can't, or won't, tee it up and then add some further encouragement as to why they should. Remember, it's a two-way street. The golf industry has to do more to make women feel welcome. But women have to take steps to be a part of the game.
Before we get to that though, I'd like to add one disclaimer. No matter what you read in an article, see on television or hear in conversation, as a woman takes her first steps into golf, keep in mind that those steps have to be guided by the right people and the right fundamentals. That is the most important message I'd make to women who are entering golf, or are trying to improve their game. It is critical that you find a good instructor to help you learn and understand and get comfortable in what can already be an intimidating game. Without the right guidance, golf can move from intimidating to near impossible.
So why aren't more women playing golf?
"It's too hard:"
Golf can be difficult, if not impossible, to master but it's actually very easy to enjoy. Practically anyone can learn the physical skills necessary to play golf. But there is no skill requirement to go and sign up for lessons. That's what instruction is for. Really, what you -- as a woman -- need to have more than anything else, is a desire and willingness to learn. There are going to be so many new experiences for you to take in, from not only swinging a golf club but to where do you check in, how to make a tee time or even how to drive a golf cart. But everyone, even the men, had to learn those skills at some point. Ask questions when you don't understand something. Again, whether it's with the mechanics of your swing or where you park the cart after a round, dont' feel uncomfortable in asking. Remember that adage, there are no stupid questions, especially for newcomers to this game. I've had a lifetime of golf and I'm still asking questions.
"I don't have the time:"
That's a fair point, golf can be time intensive. Many women, due to family or career obligations, legitimately cannot spend the five or six hours that a full round of golf, including travel to and from the course. But there's no rule that you have to play 18 holes of golf. Yes, playing a full round is fun -- but so is playing nine holes, or six holes. Even spending time at the practice range can be gratifying. You can find time to make golf fit into your busy life as long as you commit to playing what you can play.
"I can't afford it:"
Golf takes some investment. But if you are willing to look around, you can find some great deals in apparel, equipment and in what golf courses you play. Consider, there are basically four types of courses. There are municipal, non-resort daily fee courses, resort daily fee courses, and private. Those who worry that golf might be cost prohibitive should look into the first two types, you can find some great values at those types of facilities. Even more, depending on the time of week and even the time of day, you can save that much more with early bird specials or twilight rates. I understand that golf requires money more than certain activities, but the return on that investment is worth it, and with some conscientious shopping, you can save more than you think.
"I'm too slow on the course:"
As you learn the game, you may want to set a maximum stroke limit while on the course. I'd suggest maybe five shots from off the green and then once those are done, move to the putting surface and institute a four stroke maximum. You'll still feel all the great satisfaction of playing golf but without the stress and pressure of feeling that you are holding up any play. Of course, as you get more confident in your abilities, those numbers should allow for a truer representation of your score. It's very important to be mindful of others when you are on the course, but it's also important to be out on the course to start with.
"I don't know the etiquette of the game:"
Etiquette is teachable and learnable. Even more, it is a fundamental cornerstone in the instruction of the game in my opinion. When I conduct teaching clinics or seminars, I give my students four areas of instruction. The Full Swing, Putting, Chipping and 'Rules, Etiquette & Pace of Play.' To me, all four comprise what we know and love of golf. Women want to be comfortable in their relationship with others. Knowing the expected norms of behavior facilitates that comfort. So if you aren't presented with instruction on knowing the etiquette of the game, be sure to ask. You don't want to step foot on the course until you know you are not hurting someone else's experience.
I don't want to be the only woman at the course:
Easy, bring a friend. Get a small group together or better yet, join a golf league. The Executive Women's Golf Association is an excellent way to learn and play the game as well as make some important social and business relationships. Practically every municipal course has a women's golf league.
"I don't feel welcome at the course:"
Unfortunately, this is too familiar problem that many women face. Some courses, and that number is shrinking, but some courses just don't' understand that the women's market is where they should be focusing a great deal of attention. Our money spends just as well as men's money and just as importantly, can just as easily stay away. I encourage you to look around, do some research, ask your friends and colleagues what golf courses they might recommend as being "woman friendly" courses. Such lists do exist in many media outlets. And nowadays, many courses are being very proactive in recruiting women players. Look for them!
"I don't care about beating others or being hyper-competitive:"
What you see on television or even from your spouse can be misleading. The ultra competitive atmosphere of golf is one aspect of it, and some people do insist on having some stakes on the outcome of a game. But many women don't want to play for dollars or even nickels, they want to play and enjoy the companionship of friends, the beauty of the course or the exercise it provides. There is nothing wrong with that at all!
I know that entering what has traditionally been such an intimidating arena can cause some anxiety. That's totally understandable. But I want to emphasize that you will benefit greatly from embracing golf. There is so much reward in the game. My life is a testament to the joy and fulfillment that golf can bring. As a woman, you do face some challenges but you also have great opportunities. Dismiss the excuses and get a club in your hands. Ultimately, you will be glad you did. There is a place in golf for women. There is a place in golf for you.