Safe spaces aid female game yet work remains
With numbers of female golfers – especially beginners – soaring worldwide throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s little surprise initiatives are springing up everywhere to retain this interest.
The UK Women’s Golf Community has sprouted through the work of women’s golf campaigner The Jazzy Golfer and will be launched on Facebook.
In-person events will also be held across England initially before the community spreads its wings throughout the UK.
The Ladies Golf Lounge is another UK community, set up by Yvonne Brooke in May 2020 the Facebook group has grown to more than 7,000 members.
An example event hosted by Brooke was when she asked Gemma Hunter at England Golf to explain the sport’s rules on Facebook Live.
Meanwhile in the USA, Facebook community Women Who Golf was set up by Tuscany Williams and now has a following of 43,000, reaching beyond American borders after a few months.
“What’s happened during the pandemic, which is really interesting, is women have actively gone to find out more about golf,” Women & Golf editor Emma Ballard told Syngenta.
“I’ve seen a lot of women setting up Instagram accounts to document their beginner’s golfing journey, you hear of more people saying ‘Do you know what? I’m just going to give it a go’ and when I speak to my local pro he gets enquiries from single women who aren’t coming with a friend and have never played golf before.
“That’s a real shift in the mindset of women when it comes to golf.”
Ballard added that online platforms for women have become a safe space to discuss golf – rather than female golfers feeling ridiculed.
Findings from The R&A published last year showed a quarter of Britain’s female golfers played for the first time since Covid drastically changed the landscape.
Moreover 5.2million adult golfers were playing either nine or 18 holes, the highest number this century, owing to a colossal 2.1m increase.
'Work to be done'
There are more alarming figures however when it comes to diversifying and growing golf, according to the 2021 European Golf Participation Report.
Around a quarter (26%) of the 10.6million golfers continent wide are female, with juniors making up 8%.
"There is still work to be done to attract women and juniors into golf, and we look forward to contributing to this endeavour however possible," said European Golf Assocation General Secretary Michael Thannhäuser.
The findings make for tough reading particularly in England, where female golf growth lags well behind European leaders Germany, Austria and Latvia.
Germany top the market for number of registered adult female adult golfers (221,865 - 36% of the country's adult golfing population) compared to England's 90,607 (14%).
Austria (38%) and Liechtenstein (37%) top the market for European countries with the highest percentage of female golfers, with the aforementioned Germany in third (36%).
In fact there are 13 markets where female golfers account for 30% or more of the registered adults, 26 markets where that number is 20-29% and 10 markets less than 20%.
With a 22% growth, Latvia lead European figures ahead of Azerbaijan (18%), Belarus (12%), Ukraine (11%) and Andorra (5%).
"I'm not sure that these online groups lead to retention. We just don't know," added Ballard.
"Is there a pathway from joining a group and attending a meetup to being a golf club member? I might play a bit, but will I ever become a member? And what happens if the membership setup there doesn't have a flexible membership?
"There's a disconnect - people will make friends which is great but will it really grow the game or retain participants?
"I hope so and I hope people can work together and collaborate on ideas to grow women's golf."